A Tweet which captures the problem with NIH's "pipeline" response to Ginther

Jun 29 2015 Published by under NIH, NIH Careerism

14 responses so far

  • Zee says:

    OMG this, a million times THIS

  • becca says:

    "we're focused on the pipeline" can sometimes mean "we've looked at the situation in Computer Science, and think that we really need to get more girls to start doing this if we're gonna make a dent" in broad STEM discussions. In biology-specific discussions, it's pretty much always "we refuse to confront how we chase women and URM away".

  • SidVic says:

    URM? Why is the man unsuccessful at chasing the ORM away?

  • Ola says:

    Common factor between "pipelines" of Silicon Valley and U.S. BioMedSci Academia: A lot of immigrants (myself included), who are not representative of their home culture at large. Both systems are geared to those who can afford the price of entry. If you think Chinese/Indian grad students are coming from farming villages without TV, no - they're the kids of the Shanghai/Hyderabad 1%ers, raised on a steady diet of western culture piped in straight from Hollywood. Any subsaharan African student who can afford a laptop to do a Skype interview is not representative of their country.

    So the funny thing is, even when we think we're driving "diversity" by pulling non-white grad students into the pipeline from overseas, we're really just selecting for the subset that are already attuned to the white male mindset they've been raised on since birth. When he entire system is built around "come here and be one of us", the image we project as "us" is kind of important, in deciding who we want to attract.

    The solution, if we want more diversity in our pipeline, is to educate the rest of the world (where the pipeline originates) that the U.S. is not the fuck-yeah Caucasian testosterone-fest that Hollywood wants them to believe it is.

    If we don't do this, we're destined to continue having "diverse" pipelines that are actually nothing more than people from other places seeking the values we wish to see become obsolete.

    [dons flamesuit]

  • Anonymous says:

    "So the funny thing is, even when we think we're driving "diversity" by pulling non-white grad students into the pipeline from overseas, we're really just selecting for the subset that are already attuned to the white male mindset they've been raised on since birth."

    Yup. Totally agree with this.

    "The solution, if we want more diversity in our pipeline, is to educate the rest of the world (where the pipeline originates) that the U.S. is not the fuck-yeah Caucasian testosterone-fest that Hollywood wants them to believe it is."

    Not this, however. It's not an image problem, it's a money problem/educational opportunity problem.

  • SidVic says:

    Why is racial and gender diversity in science and math desirable? In literature and art a case can certainly be made.

    Would not your logic about white mindset argue against domestic minorities being given a break since they are steeped in the white dominant culture.

  • UCProf says:

    "Why is racial and gender diversity in science and math desirable? "

    You might think, we just want the best people in science and math, so let's just give everyone a test and we'll let the best scorers into science. That's fair.

    The problem is that any test you come up with will have inherent biases to it. The SAT is a great example. You have a privileged kid at some high school who has spent years preparing for the SAT. He studies vocabulary words, does practice SAT math problems. His parents pay for private SAT prep courses. He has taken dozens of practice SAT tests before he ever takes the real one. The date of the test he is prepared and well rested.

    Then, you get an immigrant kid at an inner city high school. Most of his friends never heard of the test. His parents never finished high school, they work manual labor. They would prefer that he get a job and start supporting the family full time as soon as possible. The morning of the test, he gets up early to help his dad unload a truck. Then he goes and takes the SAT.

    The privileged kid scores a 2000. The immigrant kid scores 1900.

    Who scored better?

  • jmz4gtu says:

    In terms of scientific endeavor, there are lots of reasons you'd want diversity. One, a diverse scientific community would be perceived as more welcoming to minorities, which could lead a higher percentage of exceptional minorities choosing to enter science, which would benefit the enterprise as a whole.

    Chiefly, however, we tend to study things that interest us not only scientifically, but personally. Maybe someone's experience with mental illness or addiction drives them to study those questions, for example. In the US, at least, personal experience regarding issues of social relevance are often stratified along gender and racial lines, so getting a research workforce asking the broadest, most diverse set of questions will require a proportionately broad and diverse representation in science.

  • qaz says:

    Diversity helps science for two reasons.

    First, simply and most important. Without diversity, you are leaving talent behind. That's wasteful and inefficient.

    Second, the practice of science is a lot more like art and literature than the philosophers of science would have you believe. There's a lot of intuition that goes into deciding what the right next experiment is, a lot of intuition that goes into realizing what the target of your examination is, and a lot of intuition that goes into identifying the next step in that proof. Yes, you need to do quantifiable things to fill in those intuitions, but a breadth of diversity of experience is often key to success in science. The best scientists I know have both scientific and artistic lives that tend to bleed over into each other. Just as a diversity of views, opinions, and backgrounds helps art and literature, a diversity of views, opinions, and backgrounds helps science.

  • Anonymous says:

    "First, simply and most important. Without diversity, you are leaving talent behind. That's wasteful and inefficient."

    This is really the only reason for diversity in science. As a physicist, my gender, ethnicity, and socio-economic background have little to do with what I study and how I study it. You might be able to make that case for some fields, but then what about the others? We don't need diversity in physics or math?

    The justification for diversity in science is that in a just society, people should not be kept from doing science for reasons that have nothing to do with their ability to do science.

  • qaz says:

    "As a physicist, my gender, ethnicity, and socio-economic background have little to do with what I study and how I study it. "

    This is not actually true. Hopefully, it will have little to do with how you study it. But I strongly suspect that your gender, ethnicity, and socio-economic background will have probabilistic influence on what gets studied.

    Does this mean that only women study women's diseases? Only poor people study poverty? Of course not. But how much of the assumption that the male is the typical case in biology is due to a historical dominance of males in medicine? I don't know. It is well known that there is a preponderance of interest in affluent diseases and dysfunctions. People study the problems that they are aware of and the problems that they find interesting. Carl Hart's discussion of the difference between drug use problems in middle-class worlds (primarily due to addiction because there are lots of other options available) and in underclass worlds (including a large addiction component, but also including a lack of alternative options component) is a good example of this. Having his voice in the mix of addiction researchers is extremely important. It's a hypothesis, but I bet if we had more people with more experiences in more scientific fields, we'd have a broader range of interesting topics being studied.

    In my experience, the more diverse the background of people involved, the more ideas, variety, and range of options are put on the table.

  • Anonymous says:

    @qaz: I'm a Hispanic woman who grew up in a low- to middle-class neighborhood. Mom did not go to college; neither parent is a scientist. I study particle physics -- that's what I find interesting! Again, I fail to see how your "probabilistic influence" hypothesis applies to certain fields like math and physics.

  • jmz4gtu says:

    @Anonymous:
    Abstract topics in particle physics are often understood through metaphors, right? Metaphors are culturally grounded, so it might be that a diverse set of viewpoints would come up with more universally understood and/or accurate metaphors.
    For instance, I saw/heard a great metaphor which equated the interior of the cell with a crowded public pool for the purpose of understanding the relative density of proteins in the cytoplasm. It's a chaotic, dense mess. Someone with a more affluent background (or that lived near a lake), might not have come up with that comparison, which I've found useful for both visualization and instructive purposes.

  • Anonymous says:

    @jmz4gtu: I can't speak for all particle physicists, o.c., but though I might employ a metaphor to explain my work to a non-specialist or, on occasion, to a colleague, what drives understanding in my field are concepts from math. Really, I've been doing this for 20+ yrs, and I've yet to think to myself, "you know, that's something a white man would not have thought of!"

    Also, I will say that as someone who brings her work home with her quite a bit, I don't believe that my gender, ethnicity, etc., influences every little corner of my world all of the time. I other words, there are times when I'm just a scientist, and whatever else I may be (mother, wife, Hispanic), don't matter.

    Are the ways of math and physics the white man's way? Well, these subjects were certainly taught to me by a preponderance of white men. And I've internalized these ways of thinking, which have been very successful. This is what shapes my intuition when it comes to research. I don't think I'm an exception in this sense. Nevertheless, Science is lucky to have me! 😉 Because I'm damn good at what I do, even if I never contribute a thought that a white man could not have come up with.

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