Archive for the 'Gender' category

A belated realization on the media coverage of the MDMA/PTSD paper

Jul 24 2010 Published by under Gender, MDMA, Science Communication

The following is a more casual description of a stream of thought I had about these posts I've been writing on the MDMA/PTSD paper.

ok, so there's this paper that has finally come out. I've been bashing away at the project itself on the blog since, oh, forever. I finally had a chance to get around to blogging the paper. no biggie.
takehome message, MDMA is good for treating PTSD if given in the therapy session.
one of the features of such a study is that it is going to get media attention. I was ignoring that all week so that I could blog the paper unmolested.
Trolling around the media coverage I started on a slow burn.
Going through Google hits, there was a great deal of emphasis on PTSD caused by combat stress. Angles on the story which suggested we have a big ol' problem looming (true dat) and won't it be great to have some new hope (true dat) and then doing a less than complete cockup of the facts of the paper.
Problem is that it is a small study as it is, 12 MDMA-treated, 8 placebo controls, but only ONE had combat trauma as the index trauma. ONE. The rest were mostly sexual assault, crime (not further specified) and childhood trauma (sexual assault and physical neglect). Me, I was happily bashing away at the overselling of the single combat PTSD case in my draft.
On the way home it hit me.

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6 responses so far

Sex Matters. As does dedicated grant funding.

"Sex matters. Sex, that is, being female or male, is an important basic human variable that should be considered when designing and analyzing studies in all areas and levels of biomedical and health-related research. "

Quite some time ago Dr. Isis reviewed the complications associated with doing sex comparisons in scientific research.

This is a particular issue that Dr. Isis, as a vascular physiologist and a woman, is painfully aware of and, yet, the difficulties associated with including women in clinical research can be more pragmatic than simple gender discrimination.

I chimed in (reposted) with an observation about the practical realities of scientists engaging in sex-comparison research. I concluded that:

Promoting special funding opportunities are the only way to tip the equation even slightly more favorable to the sex-differences side. The lure of the RFA is enough to persuade the experienced PI to write in the female groups. To convince the new PI that she might just risk it this one time.

Today I noticed (h/t: @KateClancy) a Program Announcement (with Set-aside funds) from the NIH. PAS-10-226 is titled "Advancing Novel Science in Women's Health Research (ANSWHR)".

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9 responses so far

In which I am called on the carpet

An interesting discussion about the balance of home / work effort on the part of men and women in science blew up recently. Our good blog friend Dr. Isis responded to observations from Jim Austen Austin at ScienceCareers who wrote on Women, Men, Housework, and Science. A vibrant conversation emerged (mostly at Dr. Isis' blog) and there were followup entries from Janet Stemwedel and Jim Austen.
In the course of the discussion ScientistMother wondered:

Do we ever get a post from DrugMonkey about how he does it? He has kids and a wife (who I think is a scientist) but he rarely talks about balance issues. I'm sure its been an issue. Until the MEN start talking about its not going to change.

to which I responded:

wait..why am *I* getting dragged into this discussion exactly?

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23 responses so far

Repost: The funding is the science II, "Why do they always drop the females?"

Jun 09 2010 Published by under Gender, Grant Review, NIH, Public Health

An Editorial in Nature this week highlights three studies of a sex bias in biomedical research.

And yet, despite the obvious relevance of these sex differences to experimental outcomes, three articles in this issue (see pages 688, 689 and 690) document that male research subjects continue to dominate biomedical studies. Some 5.5 male animal models are used for every female in neuroscience, for example. And apart from a few large, all-female projects, such as the Women's Health Study on how aspirin and vitamin E affect cardiovascular disease and cancer, women subjects remain seriously under-represented in clinical cohorts. This is despite reforms undertaken in the 1990s, when sex discrimination in human trials was first widely recognized as a problem.

This reminded me of something I wrote a little while back to explore part of the reason for this bias in research models. The post originally appeared December 2, 2008.

The titular quote came from one of my early, and highly formative, experiences on study section. In the course of discussing a revised application it emerged that the prior version of the application had included a sex comparison. The PI had chosen to delete that part of the design in the revised application, prompting one of the experienced members of the panel to ask, quite rhetorically, "Why do they always drop the females?"
I was reminded of this when reading over Dr. Isis' excellent post on the, shall we say less pernicious, ways that the course of science is slanted toward doing male-based research. Really, go read that post before you continue here, it is a fantastic description.

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7 responses so far

A ballsy play indeed

May 24 2010 Published by under #FWDAOTI, Ethics, Gender, Underrepresented Groups

From Female Science Professor we learn:

In an article on May 18 in The Globe & Mail, the results of the program are described, including the fact that Canada was able to "poach" leading researchers from other countries and lure them to Canada with the millions of research $$ associated with these Chairs. The article effuses about the aggressive program of luring top researchers:
For Ottawa, it was one of the biggest bets on scientific research in a generation. But for the man at the centre of Canada's worldwide drive to recruit top scientists, it was a "ballsy" play that at times resembled a bidding war for NHL free agents.
These CERC chairs are referred to by the following terms: star researchers, renowned scientists, foreign researchers, and, more generically, as "individuals", or simply "these people".
Two days later, The Globe & Mail realizes that it might want to mention that "these people" are all men.

Cripes. I was just drafting up something responding to Bob O'Hara on spousal hire policy and wrote an aside that fits much better here.
In discussing affirmative action hiring (a thing Bob called discrimination-and-therefore-unethical in a comment), he admits that he is okay with "discrimination" to deal with existing "disparity" which is a result of "past discrimination".
Nice framing.
I mean seriously dude, c'mon. Read how you framed that stinker. Try it this way- Affirmative action hiring policies exist to make current discriminatory hiring policies that favor white guys slightly more fair, equitable and ethical for candidates who are more meritorious but have lost out to undeserving white guys.
This CERC thing that FSP pointed to is totally past-tense, right?
Go read her post, especially those of you who frame this nonsense the way Bob O'Hara does in your own mind.

19 responses so far

" baseball players who've taken steroids."

May 18 2010 Published by under Careerism, Gender, Humor, Tribe of Science

There's really nothing else to say but "Discuss" for this comment.

I think people with a stay at home spouse should have an asterisk next to their name on their CVs and tenure documents, like baseball players who've taken steroids.

(You might want to also register a vote in Female Science Professor's stay-at-home-spouse poll.)

11 responses so far

That grabass nonsense doesn't happen at my meetings....oh, wait

May 05 2010 Published by under Diversity in Science, Gender, Tribe of Science

When recently made aware of a situation along the lines of what Isis described in a recent post:

You see, I travel to a couple of scientific meetings a year and it seems like, for the last couple of years, I have been touched, or groped, or hit on at every meeting. Experimental Biology was no different, except that this time it came with an added twist. After the offending groping had occurred

I had the following smug reaction.
"Damn, that shit doesn't go on at my meetings! WTF is wrong with those [Society of -ology] douchehounds anyway? "
but after reading Isis' post, the comments following and thinking about it a little the fuck would I know? It may very well be going on and I just don't know about it.
Maybe just like some other Society meetings, the women all tell each other to watch out for grabby ol' Professor Richard Swanger at the social events at my meetings.
UPDATE: I just saw this topic-related post from Damn Good Technician.

38 responses so far

A Global Tectonic Experiment

Apr 26 2010 Published by under #FWDAOTI, Gender

A scientist tempts fate
(h/t: Isis)
I think a quote from the organizer Jen McCreight says it best.

"I'm a firm believer that when someone says something so stupid and hateful, serious discourse isn't going to accomplish anything - sometimes light-hearted mockery is worthwhile."

Me too. But it is even more delicious that this is an opportunity to test an interesting hypothesis on a global scale. Some Iranian cleric has expressed a thought not dissimilar to ones coming from the direction of US TeeVee ministers such as Pat Robertson and Jerry Fallwell. Earthquakes, dude. Earthquakes.

"Many women who do not dress modestly ... lead young men astray, corrupt their chastity and spread adultery in society, which (consequently) increases earthquakes," Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi was quoted as saying by Iranian media. Sedighi is Tehran's acting Friday prayer leader.

Oh yes, there will be science. More from McCreight:

don't worry, I fully plan on doing some statistics after the event. I know many earthquakes happen on a daily basis, so we're looking to see if Boobquake significantly increases the number or severity of earthquakes. Or if an earthquake strikes West Lafayette, IN and only kills me, that may be good evidence of God's wrath as well

For fuller background see the post by Anne Jefferson at Highly Allochthonous. Context, see Stephanie Zvan's thoughts at To follow along the Twitt stream today use the #boobquake hashtag.
And keep your eye on the US Geological Survey Earthquake page...

8 responses so far

The Ball Brothers' Lament

Apr 12 2010 Published by under #FWDAOTI, Education, Gender


Here, here, here (photo credit)

18 responses so far

Indoctrinating innocent children with librul valuez: DFH edition

BikeMonkey Guest Post
I was emailing drdrA the other day about a song I queued up for her blog party. What I was realizing is that I probably first heard this song when I was maybe 7 or 8 years old. For whatever reason it stuck with me. I don't know that I'd heard it in decades before I ran across a link or reference to it on some physical science / engineer-type blog (Sciencewomen, maybe?). I just don't tend to chat about old mouldy folksongs with people, go figure. Anyway, I had a bit of a head-smacking moment, "duh, of course this is still an anthem for women in the engineering fields".
This is the one:

In my recent convo with drdrA, though, I came to the realization that it is pretty likely that memorable songs with evocative stories like this are just as likely to be a cause as a symptom of my political development. Impossible to disentangle of course, it was no accident that certain folksongs were actually available in my environment. Many factors shape a young mind but hey, song lyrics are one of those factors.
So what the heck, if you haven't heard this song before, I hope you like it. Maybe play it for your mini-STEM-in-trainings at home a couple of times.
I totally love dredging up all these old dirty fucking hippy songs on YouTube...I think I'll start annoying my kids with them.

5 responses so far

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