Confronting sexism in the world of science communication

Beginning in October 2013, the science communications community has been dealing with issues of personal behaviour, inherent misogyny, betrayal, speaking out, doubt and professional worth. Much has been written, tweeted and posted; the paragraphs below are an attempt to collect the resources together for future reference. Our intent here is to capture both the key events and the remarkable commentary, analysis and (we hope) change that have come out of it. The stream of amazing articles and blog posts is too much to stay caught up on, so if you think there’s something missing that should be here, tweet them to @afmaxwell or @everickert.

The main points and chronology of the timeline can be found in this Storify, with further relevant content linked under the headings below.

#standingwithDNLee 10 October – 14 October 2013

Scientific American blogger and researcher Dr. Danielle N. Lee posted details of an email exchange with a Biology-Online editor, who labeled her a whore for declining to guest blog on the network. Lee’s post was removed within an hour by Scientific American.

  • Lee’s original blog post on Urban Scientist
  • Scientific American Editor-in-Chief Mariette DiChristina

The chimaera with the wheel of teeth

This is a majorly cool piece by Becky Crew on the Scientific American blog network. It details the slow, incremental progress toward a scientific consensus on a truly weird anatomical feature exhibited by some prehistoric chimaeras (fish that share a relatively recent common ancestor with the modern shark). It’s a great scientific problem. “We’ve discovered what looks like a wheel of teeth, and we’re not sure where it goes.” Most scholars chose to locate it in the fish’s mouth, but a few were a little more adventurous.

Helicoprion dental spiral. (Photo © Citron / CC-BY-SA-3.0. From Wikimedia Commons.)

The post eventually delivers the latest evidence—still inconclusive, but persuasive. But I love that it takes the time to trace out the slow progression of scientific thinking about this gloriously weird discovery. It’s a good reminder that science is full of strange things like this, where the best the experts can do is make educated guesses while they try to find evidence indicating who (if anyone) is on the right track.

Point being, it’s not a requirement of science that researchers get the answer right the first time: Only that they constantly look