Women in science

Posted in Research on March 8th, 2019 by steve

Ireland“A chara, – Dick Ahlstrom’s informative and interesting article on Ireland’s scientists finishes with the exhortation to ‘… have a few more more names for the next table quiz’ (‘Ireland’s stellar contributions go under the radar’, Science Analysis, March 7th). I suggest, on this International Women’s Day, that we also remember Ireland’s female scientists …” (more)

[Bróna Ní Mhuirí, Irish Times, 8 March]

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‘Changing demographics of scientific careers: The rise of the temporary workforce’

Posted in Research on December 11th, 2018 by steve

Abstract: Contemporary science has been characterized by an exponential growth in publications and a rise of team science. At the same time, there has been an increase in the number of awarded PhD degrees, which has not been accompanied by a similar expansion in the number of academic positions. In such a competitive environment, an important measure of academic success is the ability to maintain a long active career in science. In this paper, we study workforce trends in three scientific disciplines over half a century. We find dramatic shortening of careers of scientists across all three disciplines. The time over which half of the cohort has left the field has shortened from 35y in the 1960s to only 5y in the 2010s. In addition, we find a rapid rise (from 25 to 60% since the 1960s) of a group of scientists who spend their entire career only as supporting authors without having led a publication. Altogether, the fraction of entering researchers who achieve full careers has diminished, while the class of temporary scientists has escalated. We provide an interpretation of our empirical results in terms of a survival model from which we infer potential factors of success in scientific career survivability. Cohort attrition can be successfully modeled by a relatively simple hazard probability function. Although we find statistically significant trends between survivability and an author’s early productivity, neither productivity nor the citation impact of early work or the level of initial collaboration can serve as a reliable predictor of ultimate survivability.

Changing demographics of scientific careers: The rise of the temporary workforce, Staša Milojević, Filippo Radicchi, and John P Walsh. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA published ahead of print December 10, 2018, https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1800478115.

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Are men just better at science than women?

Posted in Research on November 14th, 2018 by steve

Ireland“Talk about bad timing. The day after the Government announces that it is creating dozens of ‘woman-only’ professorships in science and engineering a report appears in a respected scientific journal apparently telling us that men are simply better at science …” (more)

[John McManus, Irish Times, 14 November]

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A Sign of Progress

Posted in Teaching on September 1st, 2018 by steve

Ireland“The other day I saw this sign on my way into work the other day. It has been put up near the Science Building on Maynooth University campus, and is a planning notice that hopefully will start the process of constructing extra buildings for science in Maynooth. Among the facilities the new buildings will provide are new teaching laboratories …” (more)

[In the Dark, 1 September]

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Yes, Being a Woman in Science Is Hard. That’s Why We’re Trying to Change It.

Posted in Life on April 7th, 2018 by steve

“Whenever I find myself on a science panel, I brace myself for the inevitable question: ‘Can you talk about your experience with discrimination or abuse as a woman in science?’ It doesn’t matter if I’m on a panel to talk about my expertise as a molecular biologist or one focused specifically on women and minorities in STEM. In both cases, I’m almost always asked to relive my worst experiences as a scientist in front of an audience …” (more)

[Maryam Zaringhalam, Slate, 6 April]

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On quotas in Academia – do we need them?

Posted in Governance and administration on March 25th, 2018 by steve

“As a graduate student I was asked to participate in a ‘women in science’ group. I refused. I was an old(er) grad student compared to my cohort, my goal was to get in and get out as fast as practically possible, so that I could be gainfully employed. I’d spent years working very low-paying jobs and I was over it, anything optional that was going to delay me from finishing my PhD quickly …” (more)

[Sylvia McLainn, Girl, Interrupting, 24 March]

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We must drop the ‘arts’ vs ‘science’ narrative

Posted in Governance and administration on February 28th, 2018 by steve

“Education for the creative industries has been rapidly growing for many years. New and innovative further and higher education courses, such as creative coding and technology and creative business management, have been introduced to keep ahead of the exploding demands of the world we live in …” (more)

[Bashir Makhoul, Times Higher Education, 27 February]

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Universities resist quotas on teacher-training courses

Posted in Fees, access and admissions, Governance and administration on February 12th, 2018 by steve

Ireland“Third-level colleges are resisting plans by Minister for Education Richard Bruton to introduce quotas on the number of teachers they train in specific subjects. As part of a series of measures to boost the supply of teachers in key subjects such as science, maths and languages, Mr Bruton has announced plans to introduce subject quotas for postgraduate teacher education programmes at second level …” (more)

[Carl O’Brien, Irish Times, 12 February]

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Comments on the new STEM policy document of the DES

Posted in Teaching on December 18th, 2017 by steve

Ireland“The STEM Policy Document produced by the Department of Education and Skills was recently launched. It follows on from the report produced by an advisory group chaired by DCU President, Brian McCraith. That report was generally sensible and made some good suggestions about how science and technology education could be improved in schools …” (more)

[educationandstuff, 18 December]

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Teaching science in schools

Posted in Teaching on December 4th, 2017 by steve

Ireland“Sir, – Chris Shepherd’s article on how to recruit specialist teachers should be read, learned and inwardly digested by the Cabinet (‘Intervention key to getting critical mass of physics teachers’, November 30th). And then acted on in full by the Department of Education, line by line, to help in the recruitment of qualified teachers of maths, physics and chemistry …” (more)

[David McConnell, Irish Times, 4 December]


Engineering in the Leaving Cert

Posted in Teaching on November 29th, 2017 by steve

Ireland“About 6% of those studying Engineering for the Leaving Cert are female. Why is this? First, Engineering is probably not offered in many all-girl schools. Second, the Leaving Cert engineering syllabus is bloody awful. I’m an engineer and I find it boring …” (more)

[educationandstuff, 29 November]

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Shortage of science and maths teachers threatens Stem strategy

Posted in Teaching on November 27th, 2017 by steve

Ireland“An acute shortage of teachers in key subject areas such as maths and science threatens to undermine ambitious Government plans to boost uptake of Stem subjects such as science, technology and maths. Minister for Education Richard Bruton is due to launch a policy strategy on Monday aimed at making Ireland a ‘European leader’ in Stem education by 2026 …” (more)

[Carl O’Brien, Irish Times, 27 November]

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Many junior scientists need to take a hard look at their job prospects

Posted in Research on October 26th, 2017 by steve

“For his 2012 PhD thesis, the sociologist Chris Platts surveyed and interviewed more than 300 young footballers — aged 17 and 18 — at UK club academies who were hoping to pursue a career in the game. He told the newspaper The Guardian this month that just four of them currently have gained a professional contract. That’s a drop-out rate of 99% …” (more)

[Editorial, Nature, 25 October]

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The peer review system has flaws. But it’s still a barrier to bad science

Posted in Research on September 20th, 2017 by steve

International“Democracy and scientific peer review have something in common: it’s a ‘system full of problems but the least worst we have’. That’s the view of Richard Smith, a medical doctor and former editor of the illustrious British Medical Journal …” (more)

[Brenda Wingfield, The Conversation, 20 September]

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Why Men Don’t Believe the Data on Gender Bias in Science

Posted in Research on August 29th, 2017 by steve

“Earlier this summer Google engineer James Damore posted a treatise about gender differences on an internal company message board and was subsequently fired. The memo ignited a firestorm of debate about sex discrimination in Silicon Valley …” (more)

[Alison Coil, Wired, 25 August]

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More girls take up higher-level STEM subjects

Posted in Fees, access and admissions, Teaching on August 18th, 2017 by steve

Ireland“Girls studying science subjects took greater advantage than boys of changes to the college entry system that rewards average students for sitting higher level exams. Latest State Examinations Commission figures reveal proportionately more girls moved up to higher level in the three main science subjects …” (more)

[Niall Murray, Irish Examiner, 18 August]

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Are school-leavers rejecting science?

Posted in Fees, access and admissions on July 19th, 2017 by steve

Ireland“They are according to this article in the Examiner. However, let’s look at the data. The table below gives the number of first preferences for each ‘discipline’ after the February and July deadline. The % change is based on the February …” (more)

[educationandstuff, 19 July]

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Why we need to get rid of STEM

Posted in Research, Teaching on June 23rd, 2017 by steve

Ireland“On the surface, ‘STEM’ is a harmless acronym, a handy and catchy way of promoting disciplines that, let’s face it, are pretty important in this technological age. But, to an engineer like me who has worked in a science faculty for my whole career, the idea of lumping science and engineering together, along with maths and ‘technology’, seems a bit … simplistic …” (more)

[educationandstuff, 23 June]

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It’s ‘too difficult’: Why 40% of students say they didn’t study science in college

Posted in Fees, access and admissions on April 26th, 2017 by steve

Ireland“A survey has indicated that 40% of students didn’t choose to study science at college because they found it too difficult. The independent survey was commissioned as part of the launch of the 54th BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition today …” (more)

[TheJournal.ie, 26 April]


Why I didn’t march for science

Posted in Research on April 24th, 2017 by steve

Ireland“This is the age of Science Communication. Science communication used to conjure up images of the BBC’s Horizon programme (when it used to be good) or of Carl Sagan talking about ‘billions and billions of suns’ or, if we go back far enough, of Jacob Bronowski talking about the Ascent of Man. These days, though, science communication has become big business …” (more)

[educationandstuff, 23 April]