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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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".
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.
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.)
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 more....how 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.
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 sexinthepublicsquare.org. To follow along the Twitt stream today use the #boobquake hashtag.
And keep your eye on the US Geological Survey Earthquake page...
BikeMonkey Guest PostI 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.
Female Science Professor's recent post on the detrimental effects of a constant drip of micro-inequities as been receiving a great deal of appreciation. As well it should. It is brilliant because it jumps straight into the throat of the "you are just oversensitive" and "wah, wah, Political Correctness, wah" and "you are calling me an -ist over nothing" nonsense that is the battle cry of the NiceGuy who does not enjoy examining his privilege*.
What really drew my eye, however was this comment:
Among many points in Gladwell's book is that the number of small advantages given to Canadian boys with certain birthdays in the hockey league leads to a professional hockey roster almost exclusively made up of men who have birthdays in certain months. He points this phenomenon out over and over again, in many different contexts - consistent small advantages, over time, lead to great advantages, perhaps even to great people, or "outliers". Why, then, would the same not be true for any discriminated against group, in any field? I don't understand why people are not open to this line of thinking, and are not open to asking themselves what they can do to try to help remedy these situations when they arise.
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Internet random walk had me returning to this post for some reason recently. It wasn't Abel Pharmboy's excellent post on the women in his life, although that is clearly related. I did have the thought "I've only written one post tagged with methamphetamine? Really?" at one point along the stroll. Anyway.....
This was originally posted on January 28, 2008.
It is not news to observe that child issues cause women scientists some considerable career anxiety. When to tell the lab or the PI that you are pregnant? Should you wait to start "trying" until after the job interviews? Until after tenure so as to be taken as a "serious" scientist? How many children are "allowable"? How many pictures of the little darlin's can go over the bench? Should the "balance" of lab and child rearing be kept as opaque as possible from one's lab?
In contrast men have a much greater ability to conceal their "dad"-ness from their labs. They should not do so.
The father/PI who is seriously concerned about gender equity in science will go out of his way to exhibit his status. If you agree, there is no need to read below the fold.
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It was spectacularly bad timing. We were trying to wrap up the end of the first month of the Silence is the Enemy campaign, spearheaded by Isis the Scientist and Sheril Kirshenbaum, to focus on raising awareness of sexual violence against women. Then we managed to send what amounts to a mixed message.
In recent days some of you may have noticed an ad for Russian Mail-Order bride services on the righthand sidebar around and about on ScienceBlogs. I certainly noticed it. My mental process went a little something like this:
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