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The relationship between science and politics, gender bias in academia, and much more! (Good reads, July 2018)

The relationship between science and politics, gender bias in academia, and much more! (Good reads, July 2018)

Hasn’t July been a busy month on the scholarly communication and academic publishing front? We know it may not have been easy to catch up with all the happenings. From discussions about gender disparity in the field of academia to the relationship between science and politics, a lot has transpired! But don’t worry; we have you all covered. Let’s plunge straight into the some of the most interesting conversations of this month! Happy reading!

1. To use or not to use your institutional email address in publications: In this article, Ronald Rousseau, the former president of the International Society for Scientometrics and Informetrics and a researcher at the universities of Leuven and Antwerp in Belgium, offers insights based on his study on the use of non-institutional email addresses in scholarly circles. Several cases have emerged in the past where reviews submitted under the names of real researchers used non-institutional emails that were fake. According to Rousseau, “between 2008 and 2012, 13% of corresponding authors used a non-institutional email address, with the annual percentage during that period increasing from 10% (2008) to 16% (2012)." Geographically, Sweden and Switzerland, followed by BRIK countries had the highest ratio of institutional versus non-institutional email addresses. Rousseau points out that articles associated with an institutional address receive more citations. Discussing the reason behind the popularity of commercial email address usage despite the lower citations, he says that researchers from Indian and China report various technical issues with institutional email addresses. Rousseau concludes that he favors the use of institutional email addresses over commercial ones. 

2. Gender bias in academia: This interesting article discusses why hiring bias exists in biomedical science and fewer women are chosen to review scientific papers. It is a known fact that women face gender discrimination but as per a new study, female scientists who secure major research grants could stay funded and head their labs just as long as men. The main challenge is for women to climb the academic ladder and apply for grants. Judith Greenberg, the deputy director of the National Institute of General Medical Science in Bethesda, Md. states that, […] women are getting approximately 50 percent or more of the biomedical Ph.D.s, but when the time comes to apply for grants, the number drops precipitously.” She and her colleagues studied the grant renewal behavior of female scientists and learnt that “women submitted fewer applications per person than men, and tried to renew their successful grants less often.” Moreover, compared to men, they were less successful in renewing those grants. The article also points out that “men are evaluated based on their potential whereas women are evaluated based on their accomplishments,” which adds more pressure on women. Needhi Bhalla, a cell biologist at the University of California, Santa Cruz, agrees that, “women’s applications have to bulletproof as they are rarely ever given the benefit of the doubt.”

3. How to improve interdisciplinary collaborations: In this article, Suzi Spitzer, a PhD student from the University of Maryland, shares her learnings about improving interdisciplinary collaborations at the International Science of Team Science Conference in Galveston, Texas. Of the tips she shares, some of the most noteworthy ones include teaming up with diverse people with whom you are willing to exchange ideas, being aware of one’s strengths and weaknesses as a leader, being a responsible team player who allows for smooth exchange of knowledge and advice. Collaborations should be thought of as a virtuous “scientific friendship,” Spitzer states. She adds that, “Team scientists have an “interest in ‘science-ing’ with others because it contributes to science excellence” and should pride themselves on their determination to “work with other scientists because it makes everyone’s science more awesome.”

4. Why governments should seek scientific advice: This interesting article written by Jim Woodgett, Director of Research at University of Toronto, highlights the relationship between science and politics. Referring to the dismissal of Ontario’s first chief scientist Molly Shoichet, after she’d been in the job for only six months, Woodgett raises the question: “What is the role of a “chief scientist” within government?" Governments around the world acknowledge the importance of science in various ways, one of which is appointing scientific advisory bodies. The author cites examples of countries such as the U.K, Canada, and New Zealand that give precedence to scientific advice. He also brings into question the current absence of a science advisor in the U.S. government and argues that this may signal that a science adviser’s position is political. While science and politics may not always go hand-in-hand, the pace at which science and technology are making progress makes science advice more pertinent than ever to manage the adverse effects of this advancement. There is a need for appointing qualified and responsible science advisers and giving them independence, he concludes.

5. Academics' advice to their younger selves: If you could go back and tell your younger academic self one thing you’ve learned about academia, what would you say? Nathan Hall, associate professor of educational and counselling psychology, McGill University, Montreal, started a twitter phenomenon when he posed this question that attracted over 900 responses. While some responses acknowledged the existence of discrimination and biases in academia, others pertained to advice on submission of dissertation and mental health care. According to Hall, the main reason behind posting his tweet was the fact that he did not know what advice he would give to his young self as an experienced researcher now. The tweets that Hall said he could identify with the most pertained to mental health and self-care.

Also, browse through our previous Scholarly Communications Good Reads collections where we have featured more such interesting discussions from the scholarly publishing world. 

And if you’d like to stay tuned to important happenings in the journal publishing industry, visit our Industry News section.

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