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

Science, the gender gap, and how to make it worse

Of late, some people have really hit it out of the park when it comes to articulating the obstacles women face in science. In what seems to be an effort to restore symmetry to the universe, the Guardian’s Emma G. Keller recently did her best to hit it right back in. The piece is a reagent-grade mixture of bad science, just-so stories, and unvarnished sexism.

The backlash has been swift and forceful, as documented on our Storify. Of particular note was this rebuttal from Dean Burnett.

What’s most striking to me about Keller’s piece is that she didn’t ask any female scientists about their early experiences with science. It seems to me that if we want to know what makes it harder for young women to get into science, and what keeps them going despite the difficulties, that would be an obvious place to start. Not that you’d get easy answers that way—but it might give a good indication of which direction to take with future research.

Teachers would also probably be a good group to ask. Have they observed any patterns in the way that girls in grade school and high

This just in: Twitter users like cats (#MyParasite poll)

A couple of days ago we posted the first of a series we’re going to call “treasures”: stories about random things in science that we think are beautiful, surprising, amazing or just plain cool. They’re going to be paired with the little circular image icons on our homepage, which we’ll begin rotating, so over time visitors to our site will see a changing set of discoveries. Tuesday’s treasure was the tongue-eating sea louse, a parasitic crustacean that lives inside the mouths of fish—and does exactly what its name says.

Toxoplasma gondii. Photo © Ke Hu and John Murray, under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Generic license.Once we tweeted the post, a flurry of folks started tweeting back naming their favourite parasites, so we decided to start a poll, using the hashtag #myparasite, for favourite parasite. We’ve storified the discussion here.

The results were, perhaps, predictable: people on the Internet like cats. Or, as one responder said, our parasitic overlords tell us to like cats. And by