Friday, January 16, 2009

Discussing Diversity in Science - online and offline

What do scientists look like?
If you weren't told about the identity of the scientist, what image comes to mind? For many people, school children to adult, the image of an older European male comes to mind. However, there are scientists who are young, female and represent every nationality and ethnicity known. So why does this perception persist that field of science is so homogenous? Is it? Or is it a misperception based on sampling of scientists at meetings.

Is this a representative sampling of science bloggers and scientists in the real world?

I don't know. But that's one of the things I and AcmeGirl will be discussing with other science bloggers at the ScienceOnline09 conference during the Race and Science Workshop. I am definitely not the only person of color participating in the conference. It is truly an international conference with peope from every corner of the globe in town - UK, Serbia, Canada, Australia, The Phillipenes, Italy, Brazil, Finland and all regions of the USA. Yay! But so far, I'm the only one of two several African-Americans in attendance.
Does that sound about right? Maybe. African-Americans make up less than 3% of the Ph.D. Biologists and Chemists in the US.
But that few? Really.
Surely there's something we can do about that. We'll see what we come up with at the workshop.
Here's What we'll be discussing.
What can be done to promote minorities to science blog and/or pursue science?
- Science Blogging -- Pros. I'm cataloging the science blogs written by persons of color. Cross-reference, blogroll, etc some or allof these blogs, particularly if you blog about similar topics/issues.
- Science Blogging -- Cons. Blogs can be a liability for faculty members and even for post-docs and grad students. Senior faculty and administrators percieveblogs as a distraction from 'real' work. This may be especially problematic for a person from a minority group.

How can blogs by minorities be used to attract kids into science careers?
- open to discussion, but this is why I blog.

How to get and make allies? What allies can and should be doing?
1. Reach beyond comfort zones (yours and your institution's)
Leverage relationships scientists of colors you know or have access to, eg. speak at newarby HBCUs or ask faculty from nearby institutions to speak at your department.
Host public events and use target advertising to reach under-represented audiences.

2. Be inclusive. Talk, introduce yourself, introduce them to others.

3. Proactively engage students in extra-curricular science activity.
Cultivate science interests in undergraduate and pre-college students.

4. It's okay to mentor students that do not look like you

How the Web provides new methods and means for action and effecting positive change.

1. Profiling science discovery and scientists
2. Opportunities for netwoking, research, interviewing scientists of color
3. Promoting science and diversity initiatives e.g. Year of Science, DNA Day; Decades of Blacks in Science, Black History Month, Latino History Month, Chinese New Year

Growing catalogue of Science Blogs written/contributed by persons of color
Asymptopia (perhaps the longest running science blog) Urban Science Adventures! (c)
49 Percent
Reconciliation Biology
Scientist Mother
The Urban Birder
SES: Science, Education & Society
Not Exactly Rocket Science
Thesis With Children
Physics for Girls
Life's A Lab Science Chicago (w/ the Chicago's Museum of Science & Industry

add more in the comments


Oh, I leave you all with a picture of my 'sister' P. Lee, because I'm obviously an Asian-American female because of my last name. I bumped into her at the Women in Science Networking Event.


Up Welng said...

this is fascinating!
but why just limit to people of color? i might argue that there's an under-representation of out, self-identifying sexual minorities in the science blogosphere...

if a young, struggling glbt child/student with a yearning for science wants to find exemplars of those who "made it" despite the obstacles, they might count on one hand (if that)...

DNLee said...

Rick - you're right. Sexual orientation is often addressed at an institutional level, but you're right 'we' haven't talked about it as an under-represented group. The evolution of inclusion programs include 1) women, 2) ethnic minorities, and 3) persons with disabilities. category number hasn't made it to the big stage.

But I will offer this, I am personally acquianted with SEVERAL amazing biologist who are lesbian and gay and there is at least one very out transgendered scientist - Jane Roughgarden, so there are role models out ther

Cilantro said...

Hi, there! I happened to stumble across your blog, but I like what I'm reading.
Important questions on how to attract folks to science. It seems that it's something so foreign to most-very "out there." When in fact, it's very "in here"-who we are and where we live!

I hope the conference goes well.

Anonymous said...

I was at the NEMO Science Center in Amsterdam this past fall and I did see something uplifting regarding gender in science.

In the 1990's, researchers had school children draw pictures of science and research. None of the depicted scientists were women. In 2005, the Research Council of Norway once again asked school children to draw pictures of scientists. This time 30 percent of the drawings included female scientists.

And... according to some of the drawings (example), female scientists are quite the lookers as well! :)

Betül said...

I agree. The limitation could not be made to color. Science is (or was) a world for men, that is changing now. Yet they better get used to this :)
I had a post on the image of scientists, too. I would like to share:

It is our responsibility to change the image of scientists.

Anonymous said...

Hey Danielle!

It was so nice meeting you at the conference. BTW, I checked out your AAAS video :)

I really wanted to take part in your "Race in Science" session. There were just too many interesting ones to choose from; that was the most frustrating part of the conference.

I second Rick's comments, but even with our common threads it's kind of hard to cover the range of topics with so many "different" groups. Maybe there will be a LGBT session next year, who knows?

Were you in the "Transitions" session? A big issue is a boss might not take someone seriously if they find out that they write a blog. The way people were talking about the fears of their boss sounded a ot like coming out of the closet issues! The parallel was somewhat amusing to me.

Bora Zivkovic said...

Well, there has been a bunch of you doing the sessions about gender/race/minority issues last year and this year. Stay in touch and let me know what you want/need. If a 3-session series is needed, we'll make sure it happens.

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