Competition for the “best” REU applicants is outrageous

“Do you have a a high quality REU program? Do you know that your mentorship and research opportunities can put your REU students on a path towards success in STEM? Then how about you stop fighting with other REU programs over the students with the most amazing applications, and instead invest your time and effort into students who might not have another opportunity? Know that you’re actually making a difference.”

In another awesome piece at Small Pond Science, Terry McGlynn writes about the pressure for Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) programs to get the “best” students. Getting an REU is not the same as getting an early career grant, but it does put on you the path to future success. And I agree, looking for the most competitive students might be further disadvantaging under represented students.

Read the full piece here.undergrad.jpeg.

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Science editors wanted to debate #scicomm. But they attacked the messenger instead.

This is a signal boost post. Read the original medium post here, but the full letter is replicated below.

500 Women Scientists’ Leadership team sent the following Letter to the Editor to Science magazine following their recent Working Life column “Why I don’t use Instagram for outreach.”

Dear Science Editorial Board,

We’re writing to express our disappointment at poor judgment that led to the publication of publishing “Why I don’t use Instagram for outreach,” which singled out and criticized a successful woman science communicator for her Instagram presence promoting and celebrating science. Science is one of the most highly esteemed journals, yet this article reads like a smear piece worthy of a tabloid. The job of an editor is to ensure the best possible argument comes through, and there is certainly an argument to be made here. For instance, women and underrepresented minorities take on a great deal of science communication, mentorship, and outreach work without recognition or professional reward from their institutions. Though there’s an increasing institutional pressure to communicate about science — whether to increase a university’s public profile or meet NSF’s Broader Impact requirements — many institutions expect that work to be done on personal time without compensation or additional resources. While the piece hinted at these systemic issues, those arguments were undermined when the work of another woman was criticized with an unabashed tone of condescension and without an opportunity to respond.

Rather than address the roadblocks facing women and underrepresented groups in STEM or grapple with the author’s personal misgivings around science communication, the piece was framed as an attack. The tone implied that anything beyond basic research is a frivolous waste of time, belittling meaningful approaches to science communication and public engagement. It offered a false choice between an authentic and relatable social media presence and effective advocacy for institutional change. The kindest interpretation for running this article is a lack of thoughtfulness on the editor’s part. At worst, Science made the choice to run an inflammatory article for the sake of increased website traffic.

The pages of Science are meant to mark advances in scientific discovery. But pinning one woman scientist against another is destructive, irresponsible, and perpetuates unreasonable standards for women and underrepresented groups in STEM. It is antithetical to the open, accessible, and inclusive future that we at 500 Women Scientists envision for the future of science.

— 500 Women Scientists Leadership Team

Trying to Fix the Gender Imbalance in Science Press

Women in science face a gauntlet of well-documented systemic biases. They face long-standing stereotypes about their intelligence and scientific acumenThey need better college grades to get the same prestige as equally skilled men, they receive less mentoring, they’re rated as less competent and less employable than equally qualified men, they’re less likely to be invited to give talks, they earn less than their male peers, and they have to deal with significant levels of harassment and abuse.

Additionally, women are literally being written out of science stories.

Read about Ed Yong’s desire to combat this pattern, and what he learned in the process, here.

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Free Posters Celebrating Mighty Women in Science

Designer Amanda Phingbodhipakkiya has created a series of incredible posters celebrating women in science. They are perfect for displaying in a classroom, in a kid’s bedroom, or on the wall of your office! Also great for lab spaces and communal break rooms.

The six posters featured here, were created by Amanda, a science-trained designer, to connect the Women’s March to the March for Science as part of her Beyond Curie design project focused on women in science.

Over at A Might Girl, they included an introduction to each of the featured scientists as well as recommended reading for both kids and adults. Find the posters here! Download and enjoy.

Katherine Johnson

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Rosalind Franklin

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Maryam Mirzakhani

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May Britt Moser

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Chien Shiung Wu

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Mae Jemison

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Shelf Life: 33 Million Things

@GrrlScientist wrote an excellent article over at Medium (written for the Guardian).

“Natural history museums are many things but they are not the exclusive domain of dry, dusty old white men, rooting around in dry, dusty old drawers, examining dry, dusty old dead things. In fact, most natural history museums are modern research institutions filled with a vast diversity of items and people whose lives revolve around them. They are collections of almost anything you can name or imagine, from centuries-old specimens to more recently collected frozen tissues and digitised genomic data. These collections are essential catalogues to the sciences of taxonomy, phylogeny and biogeography, disciplines that provide a firm footing for evolution, natural history, ecology, behaviour, conservation and anthropology as well as insights into more recent processes like human-created climate change.”

Want more? Read about it here!

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2017 year-ender: What I’ve learned from reading health news every morning

Each morning, Jill U. Adams (health journalist and an associate editor at HealthNewsReview.org) scans 26 news sites for stories that report on some claim of a health benefit by a specific intervention.

From this practice (for work it must be noted) she’s come up with a list of things that are becoming clear in health reporting this year (read the full article here):

 

Coffee. It’s neither terribly good nor terribly bad for you.

CelebritiesA study about the most attractive female lips offered up a chance for news outlets to post photos of Angelina Jolie. We’ve seen the same thing with many other celeb-focused health stories. New treatment for morning sickness? Kim Kardashian.  Wacky health claims? Gwenyth Paltrow. A “struggle” with chronic dry eyes? Marisa Tomei. It’s clickbait.

Headlines. Beware the hyped-up headline. Nothing makes me skeptical faster than a headline telling me how to live longer. And it’s hard not do a second roll of eyes when I scan ahead to see the article describing findings from an association study. I also watch for any of publisher Gary Schwitzer’s seven words you shouldn’t use.

Headlines, head-spinning version. Talk about different framings to a story! In April we blogged about seemingly opposite headlines on stories covering the same study. One news outlet’s story on colonoscopy warned readers that delaying the procedure was risky; another proclaimed waiting was okay.

Healthy foods. Please no. You can have healthy diets — such as a healthy pattern of eating that is rich in vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. But there is no one food that will prevent cancer or make you sleep better or make you heart healthy despite what headlines may tell you. Why? Because there is no evidence for such things. Most of the studies on individual foods are association studies that rely on participants’ self-report of what they eat. They are not clinical trials that randomly put participants into an “eat blueberries” group and an “avoid blueberries” group and test the intervention for long enough in enough people to show causation.

Ill-defined interventions. Exercise is a prime example. Everyone knows by now that “exercise” is good for you. A health news story looking at exercise as an intervention should be specific  — how often, how long, and how intensely the physical fitness was measured. In December, we called out the lack of specificity in this HealthDay story review.

Proxy outcomes. Another HealthDay story, Can Coffee Perk Up Heart Health, Too?, reports on a study that measured the activation of particular gene clusters involved in inflammation. It’s quite a jump from these molecules to inflammation in general to inflammation that leads to pathology, much less to actual health outcomes. A New York Times story from the same month, Running may be good for your knees, reported on a study that found different inflammatory mediators in the knee’s synovial fluid after running or sitting for 30 minutes–which is a proxy, or a surrogate marker, for knee health.

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