When words fail: women, science, and women-in-science

The Contemplative Mammoth

I don’t want to write about women in science today. I want to write about glaciers, or passenger pigeons, or the way the tilt of the earth is making the squirrels outside my window stash acorns, or about how sharks have been on this planet longer than trees, or why sometimes, the public doesn’t trust scientists.

You don’t get those posts today, because I’m a woman in science. Being a woman in science comes with expectations, you see. It comes with my own expectations for a fulfilling career, for having it all, for defining what that even means, and for doing it under my own terms, but those aren’t relevant.

Being a woman in science comes with the expectations others have for me, too, including that I not only must talk and act and dress in certain ways, but also that I work hard enough to justify investing in me even though I’m a pre-baby-incubator. Meanwhile…

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What do Darwin, penguins, poop, fire, and sheep have in common? A crowd-funding quest(ion)

The Contemplative Mammoth

It’s no secret that science funding rates are, in a word, abysmal*. As a pre-tenure faculty member, this has been weighing heavily on my mind, and I’ve devoted a substantial portion of my year to grant writing (fingers crossed!). There’s a running joke that you typically get funded to do the work you did already, and in a way, it’s true; “preliminary” data is an important component of a strong grant proposal.

Rockhopper penguin, Kidney Island. The Falklands are home to the largest rockhopper rookery in the world. Photo by the author. Rockhopper penguin, Kidney Island. The Falklands are home to the largest rockhopper rookery in the world. Photo by the author.

But how do you get that data? There’s a critical gap in opportunities to fund promising, early-stage, and potentially risky work. This becomes especially true when you’ve got graduate students, like I do, that came with their own funding (in my case, an IGERT student and a university fellowship). They’re not on a grant, which means while they’re funded…

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To tweet or not to tweet…at conferences

The Contemplative Mammoth

Live-tweeting, whether a department seminar or a conference talk, is one of the most powerful aspects of academic Twitter I’ve witnessed. It’s not an easy skill, but it’s worth cultivating, because it has tremendous value in bringing exciting research to a broad audience. Instead of the twenty to two hundred people in the room, you have the potential to reach thousands, and generate exciting conversations — what I often refer to as the “meeting within the meeting” that only takes place in the ether.

Live-tweeting also helps me focus more — I personally get more out of talks I tweet than ones I don’t. I sometimes refer to it as my superpower, because I have a special knack for distilling a talk into 140-character sound bites, and a high WPM to match. Live-tweeting usually gets me a handful of new followers, too, which is a good indication that folks are finding the…

View original post 1,079 more words

What do Darwin, penguins, poop, fire, and sheep have in common? A crowd-funding quest(ion)

The Contemplative Mammoth

It’s no secret that science funding rates are, in a word, abysmal*. As a pre-tenure faculty member, this has been weighing heavily on my mind, and I’ve devoted a substantial portion of my year to grant writing (fingers crossed!). There’s a running joke that you typically get funded to do the work you did already, and in a way, it’s true; “preliminary” data is an important component of a strong grant proposal.

Rockhopper penguin, Kidney Island. The Falklands are home to the largest rockhopper rookery in the world. Photo by the author. Rockhopper penguin, Kidney Island. The Falklands are home to the largest rockhopper rookery in the world. Photo by the author.

But how do you get that data? There’s a critical gap in opportunities to fund promising, early-stage, and potentially risky work. This becomes especially true when you’ve got graduate students, like I do, that came with their own funding (in my case, an IGERT student and a university fellowship). They’re not on a grant, which means while they’re funded…

View original post 1,037 more words

To tweet or not to tweet…at conferences

The Contemplative Mammoth

Live-tweeting, whether a department seminar or a conference talk, is one of the most powerful aspects of academic Twitter I’ve witnessed. It’s not an easy skill, but it’s worth cultivating, because it has tremendous value in bringing exciting research to a broad audience. Instead of the twenty to two hundred people in the room, you have the potential to reach thousands, and generate exciting conversations — what I often refer to as the “meeting within the meeting” that only takes place in the ether.

Live-tweeting also helps me focus more — I personally get more out of talks I tweet than ones I don’t. I sometimes refer to it as my superpower, because I have a special knack for distilling a talk into 140-character sound bites, and a high WPM to match. Live-tweeting usually gets me a handful of new followers, too, which is a good indication that folks are finding the…

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What is #scishirt?

The Contemplative Mammoth

Ada Lovelace was a very fashionable scientist, and I'm sure she'd have appreciated the geeky clothing of #scishirt week. Ada Lovelace was a very fashionable scientist, and I’m sure she’d have appreciated the geeky clothing of #scishirt week.

For those of you following along at home, there’s been a big kerfuffle on the internet about #ThatShirt (or #ShirtGate, #ShirtStorm). Lots of really smart folks have posted great commentary on the situation, and so I’m not going to do that here. What I will say, is that I understand what Matt Taylor was trying to do (though not how he did it!). I get the urge to portray scientists as hip, cool, fun, and creative.

So in that spirit, I started #scishirt. This is the opportunity to do what Taylor was trying to do, but in an inclusive way. All week long, folks are tweeting pictures of themselves wearing their favorite fun, creative, geeky, or even everyday, non-sexist outfits. I see this as an opportunity to help start a conversation about…

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One shirt, two shirt, red shirt, #scishirt! Or, when life hands you sexism in science, make a hashtag.

The Contemplative Mammoth

First, some backstory: On November 12, the Rosetta space probe’s Philae lander was the first spacecraft to land on a comet. During a televised broadcast of the event, ESA project scientist Matt Taylor wore #thatshirt, creating an internet #shirtstorm. I was sympathetic in that I get what Taylor was trying to accomplish in wearing the shirt, though I desperately wish he’d picked a different one. By the time I got around to saying anything about the shirt, Taylor had publicly apologized, and trolls had started harassing women on the internet in full force (for me, it was about 72 hours of nonstop nastiness, though there were some who’ve gotten it much worse than me). I was pretty desperate by the weekend for something positive to come out of this, and in a Twitter discussion with @WhySharksMatter, came up with the idea to have scientists show themselves at work in professionally appropriate, geeky…

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