Tag Archives: biology babes

Gender bias in how a scientist’s work is evaluated? Yep. It comes mostly from women.

8 Apr



First, the good news! We found the hamster and he’s alive!




Saturday, around 2 o’clock in the morning, Mr. JB heard our big orange kitty jump off his perch in our bedroom (he’s a fat little fucker, so it’s hard to miss) and go creeping stealthily down the stairs. So Mr. JB got up and followed him down, and sure enough, our little hamster friend, Butterscotch, had crawled out of the ductwork and was huddled in the hallway.




As soon as Butterscotch laid eyes on BooBoo the cat, he fled back into the ducts. So Mr. JB chucked BooBoo outside (kitty was not impressed) and then spent an hour coaxing Butterscotch out of the ducts with some celery. Poor little guy was starving! He ate the celery, two baby carrots, a strawberry and about 30 pumpkin seeds. And then went to sleep.


Mr. JB finally got back to bed around 3 AM, and his alarm went off at 4:15, and he had to get up and get ready for his flight and an 8AM meeting. What a great guy! Crawling around the house with a piece of celery for an hour even though he had a crazy busy day ahead of him.




I got up at four with him and checked my email to see that several different people had send me this link (Which I appreciate! Keep ‘em coming!):




Gender Bias Found in How Scholars Review Scientific Studies

Study Abstracts Rated as Higher Quality with Male Authors


COLUMBUS, Ohio – A scientist’s gender can have a big impact on how other researchers perceive his or her work, according to a new study.


Young scholars rated publications supposedly written by male scientists as higher quality than identical work identified with female authors.


The research found that graduate students in communication — both men and women — showed significant bias against study abstracts they read whose authors had female names like “Brenda Collins” or “Melissa Jordan.”


These students gave higher ratings to the exact same abstracts when the authors were identified with male names like “Andrew Stone” or “Matthew Webb.”




Well, that’s interesting, isn’t it? I wonder what the sample size was?

n = 243

Not bad.

Oh, now this is interesting: the 243 “scholars” were grad students in Communications, and 70% of them were women.


Let’s let that sink in for a second.


Now, if you’re like me, your first thought was “what the fuck is a graduate program in communications and how does this qualify anyone to evaluate scientific abstracts?” What do you DO with a master’s in communications?




Public Relations


Corporate Communications




Basically, a bullshit liberal arts designation. Most of the “scholars” will end up writing press releases for the new and improved Tampax, if they’re lucky. Most of them will be…..




Oh hello, Starbucks barista!


Hey, at least with that master’s degree, you can work at McDonalds.



So this is the pack of completely unqualified nitwits we’re going to have evaluating scientific papers. It’s highly unlikely any of them could possibly evaluate the work on merits alone, so obviously, they’re going to use some unconscious bias as a yardstick. It’s called a confirmation bias, and yay for the brilliant researchers who set up the experiment in the first place.


Rookie mistake.


You’d shit all over a grad student making such an obvious error, and here are two lady researchers, Silvia and Caroll, creating an experiment specifically designed to confirm what they no doubt already believe. In order for this study to be valid, the individuals evaluating the abstracts need to be able to do so on MERIT alone, and THEN if you see men’s work being given higher evaluations, you have evidence of gendered bias.


Asking communications students to evaluate science abstracts would be exactly like asking biologists to evaluate the effectiveness of marketing campaigns. On what basis are they supposed to make their judgement calls?


scratch head


Completely ridiculous.


But thought-provoking, for some very different reasons than the researchers intended.


The full paper hasn’t been published yet, but it will be interesting to see if they track the gender breakdown in terms of WHO was the most biased. Obviously, since 70% of the evaluations came from women, there is a whole lot of bias coming FROM women.


Why is it that women are willing to rank men higher than women? No doubt, the authors will put forth the suggestion that the fragile little cupcakes have been brainwashed by the patriarchy into believing that women aren’t as good at science as men, ignoring the fact that WOMEN AREN’T AS GOOD AT SCIENCE AS MEN.


I mean really, what standards do you want to use?


Nobel Prizes?

98% awarded to men.




The National Medal of Science?

90% awarded to men from 1996 – 2005





The Fields Medal in mathematics?

100% awarded to men.


When you come across a scientific article by a woman, it is reasonable to assume that it won’t be as good as an article by a man, on AVERAGE. All that means is that you need to look carefully at the actual work. The assumption is neither here nor there. On average, all the cars will stop at a red light. That doesn’t mean they all will, and you still need to check and make sure the intersection is clear.


There ARE some brilliant women scientists. I just wrote about one:




When you ask communications students to evaluate scientific articles, they CAN’T react to the quality of the work or the merits of the study. They have zero qualifications to do so. All they will do is react to their biases, which actually DO have some basis in fact.


What irritates the shit out of me when it comes to studies like this is that the group most affected by the idea that there is some kind of conspiracy keeping women from achieving their full potential in science is actual, real life, lady scientists.




Women who succeed in STEM fields, who are gifted at those kinds of things, are special. They are DIFFERENT from other women, and they deserve to be applauded and recognized and acknowledged as being special. The argument that ALL women could take on sequencing the genome or hunting for the Higg’s Boson if only it weren’t for that pesky patriarchy keeping them out of the collider denies how extraordinary lady scientists really are.




Why can’t we hold up women scientists as brilliant individuals, in and of their own right? Sure, they’re great role models, for OTHER lady scientists, but the majority of women are not interested in science, nor are they particularly good at it.


So what?


We can cheer for women who succeed in traditionally masculine areas of achievement without needing to create some mythical force that keeps all the rest of us out. There isn’t one. Just like we can cheer for men who succeed in traditionally feminine occupations! Hooray for male nurses!




If there really IS a gender bias against women carrying out and publishing the results of research in science, then let’s keep in mind that A) there is some evidence to support that bias; and B) a lot of that bias comes from OTHER women.


Ultimately, asking a whole bunch of women completing some sort of arty-farty bullshit master’s degree, looking forward to an astonishing career making lattes while trying to pay down the debt they took on to get that degree, what they think of women who do REAL work might just come down to one thing:


Sour fucking grapes.


Nobody rips women down quite like other women.


Only one thing to do:




Fabiola, you’re fabulous! Go find that particle for us. That’s a study we’ll read! Even if it was written by a girl.




Lots of love,


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