Science Policy For All

Because science policy affects everyone.

Archive for February 2012

Science Policy Around the Web – February 22, 2012

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By: Rebecca Cerio

Our weekly linkpost, bringing you interesting and informative links on science policy issues buzzing about the internet.

To Ease Shortage, F.D.A. Lets 2 Cancer Drugs Be Imported –   Tight economic times are encouraging even tighter delivery and production margins, as well as fewer US companies making generic drugs.  One factory shut-down can be catastrophic for the US supply of vital medications.  This issue branches into several areas, including the US stance on importing drugs from other countries, the budget troubles of the FDA, and the harsh realities that crop up when drug-making is a profit-driven business. (by Gardiner Harris via the New York Times)

Occupy Science? – “…some citizen science projects, […] stand or fall on the strength of the social networks that underlie them.  Though far from perfect, these projects begin to sketch the outlines of an altered social contract between science and society—one that is open, participatory, and dependent on the collective energy of the community.”  Well-said.  (by Krishanu Saha and J. Benjamin Hurlbut via The Scientist online)

Celebrities Pushing Drugs? –  “These ads don’t just sell us products. They sell us ways to think about disease.” An interesting piece on the psychology of having celebrity spokespeople for pharmaceutical brands.  Opinionated, but an interesting take on the issue.  What do you think?  (by Howard Brody via The Scientist online)

Have an interesting science policy link to share?  Let us know in the comments!

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Written by sciencepolicyforall

February 22, 2012 at 1:53 pm

Science Policy Around the Web – February 15, 2012

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Photo by lisafanucchi on Morguefile.com

By: Rebecca Cerio

Our weekly linkpost, bringing you interesting and informative links on science policy issues buzzing about the internet.

When Scientists Choose Motherhood – As suggested in one of our recent posts, the next big challenge for gender equality in STEM careers may not be at the interview or tenure committee table, but in the conflicts between a successful academic career and raising a family. (by Wendy Williams and Stephen Ceci in American Scientist).

White House Touts NSF’s New Family-Friendly Policies – An older article on some of the concrete measures being taken to combat the above issues by the NSF, such as 1-year grant delays, reduced travel requirements, and supplemental awards to keep labs running during family leave. (by Jeffrey Mervis via ScienceInsider)

Their So-Called Journalism – A freelance science journalist describes her frustrating exploits trying to write good science for popular women’s magazines.  (by Hillary Rosner via Tooth and Claw on the PLoS Blogs network)

 

Have an interesting science policy link to share?  Let us know in the comments!

Written by sciencepolicyforall

February 15, 2012 at 3:41 pm

The New Landscape of Gender Imbalance in the STEM Fields

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By: Danielle Daee

Although women represent a little more than fifty percent of the U.S. population, they are traditionally underrepresented in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) fields.  Although the imbalance has significantly improved in the last 20 years1, women continue to be significantly underrepresented (compared to the number of advanced degrees awarded) in most STEM academic positions.  According to the National Science Foundation these discrepancies boil down to four key factors, which provide the foundation for their ADVANCE funding program2:  (1) organizational constraints of academic institutions, (2) work-life balance demands, (3) implicit or explicit bias, and (4) an underrepresentation of women in academic leadership and decision-making positions.

In an article published last year in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences3, Ceci and Williams call for a redistribution of the gender funding away from the historic causes of gender imbalance, namely bias.  After reviewing 20 years worth of data, the authors reveal that recent analyses supporting a gender bias do not hold up to statistical scrutiny when properly controlled.  These findings suggest that biased practices in interviewing, hiring, and reviewing are problems of the past and have been largely eliminated by gender equality campaigns.  The authors further suggest that women are underrepresented in STEM academic positions largely due to their own constrained and free choices.  These choices (which include deferral of careers to raise children, career moves/job searches affected by two-body problems, elderly parent care, enhancing work-home balance, etc.) can be both freely made and/or constrained by society, institutional hindrances (i.e. the tenure clock), or biology (fertility timelines and child-bearing responsibilities).

The family-based choices highlighted by Ceci and Williams ring true for many female academics and are in-line with two of the ADVANCE funding principles (organizational constraints and work-life balance).  Ceci and Williams make a compelling argument for a shift in gender bias funding to address these constrained choices.  Taking this argument a step further, funding for innovative approaches to make academic institutions and the tenure process more family friendly for both sexes could lead to a more positive transformation of the academic climate.  Unfortunately for many tenure-track investigators, the tenure clock often coincides with the enhanced responsibility of caring for young children.  Because women often assume caregiver roles, these challenges disproportionately affect women.  Academic institutions are already implementing tenure extension policies for family formation, but encouraging both men and women to partake in these extensions could relieve the stigma associated with such policies and balance the caregiving responsibilities between the sexes.  Additional innovative, flexible, and gender-neutral career options (e.g. part-time tenure-track jobs, lab shares, family-induced grant extensions) should be developed to challenge the historically linear career path of successful academics.  Such policies could combat the STEM imbalance and fuel a new wave of successful male and female academics with the perfect work-life balance.

  1. http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/women/, NSF’s 2011 Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering report
  2. www.nsf.gov/advance,  The ADVANCE program was developed to increase the representation and advancement of women in academic science and engineering careers.
  3. Ceci, S.J., and W.M. Williams.  2011.  Understanding current causes of women’s underrepresentation in science.  PNAS. 108 (8):  3157-62.

Written by danidaee

February 14, 2012 at 9:34 am

Posted in Essays

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Science Policy Around the Web – February 7, 2012

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By: Science Policy For All contributors

Our weekly linkpost, bringing you interesting and informative links on science policy issues buzzing about the internet.

Thousands of Scientists Vow to Boycott Elsevier to Protest Journal Prices  – Their petition at thecostofknowledge.com is in response to Elsevier’s high journal cost (up to $20,000 a year, with a 36% 2010 profit margin) and to Elsevier’s support of the Research Works Act.  The RWA would restrict the open access policies of publicly funded institutions (see our post here). (by Jop de Vrieze via ScienceInsider)

NIH grant-funding success rate reaches all-time low in 2011 – “…overall success rates for research project grants … fell to an all-time low of only 18 percent in FY11, 3 percentage points lower than that for FY10.”  Sobering news for those in academia.  The decline is fueled by more grant applications, increased award amounts per grant, and (of course) a 1% cut in NIH funding.  (by Julie McClure via the ASBMB Policy Blotter)

Researchers feel pressure to cite superfluous papers – “One in five academics in a variety of social science and business fields say they have been asked to pad their papers with superfluous references in order to get published.  The figures, from a survey published … in Science, also suggest that journal editors strategically target junior faculty….”  Another piece of the tangled web woven by the peer review system.  (by Richard Van Noorden via the Nature website)

Have an interesting science policy link to share?  Let us know in the comments!

Written by sciencepolicyforall

February 7, 2012 at 10:25 am