Sexual Harassment of Women during Scientific Field Research


As undergraduate research is emphasized more and more in colleges and universities in the US, it is high-time to engage an issue that is all to familiar for female students — sexual harassment of women while conducting field work as well as in laboratory settings. This unresolved issue is far older than our commentary today, of course, but it comes on the heels our recent discussions about keeping women in science through undergraduate research opportunities, recognition that these gender and race-based inequalities pre-date graduate school training, as well as discussion regarding how undergraduate research experiences might be utilized to better serve underserved students in academia.

A piece in the New York Times recently discusses sexual harassment while scholars are out in the field conducting research.

A topic worth of discussion in its own right, I can see this being a solid introductory read for undergraduate students interested in how gender and science meet. As a science and technology studies professor, I notice that a lot of the literature in that area of research centers of feminist technology, seeing the underlying sexism in scientific depictions (i.e., the sperm is active while the egg lays in waiting, and so on), and, of course, access to and participation in science and engineering broken-down by gender (sort of like a version of the Matthew Effect, only with women falling out of the pipeline to professional scientist/engineer, perhaps it should be called the Molly Effect or something like that).

At any rate, the piece covers a number of important issues such as power/gender dynamics while in the field, the issue of “sleeping arrangements” while conducting research at non-local venues, as well as the reality that when sexual harassment looms in university-based research activities the matters are often settled internally (rather than in a public forum).

These are matters worth of more public discuss, especially on college campuses, and, to my mind, the sooner the better (perhaps, even in high school). Also, if higher education wants to expand access to undergraduate research across the nation, then it is time to fully engage this particular issue and open dialog about how not to just repeat this tiresome and terrible practice. Let’s not let another generation of female scientists inherit this issue. 

grade inflation experiment

On Taking Notes By Hand


Take your notes by hand, students; profs, think about asking your students to take notes by hand (and maybe even write papers by hand)…

Originally posted on Installing (Social) Order:


Evidence that writing notes by hand on paper results in greater learning (as compared to taking notes by laptop keyboard). Check out “The Pen is Mightier Than the Keyboard” by Mueller and Oppenheimer in Psychological Science.

CLAIM: In effect, quickly typing copious lecture notes by computer fails to (at least in the experiment) generate the sorts of conceptualization techniques that promote learning (the way that slow handwriting requires students to think about what to selectively write).

Obviously, as any educator will tell you, based on his/her experience, this is an imperfect explanation. Seeing this, the authors also conducted a content analysis, which shows that students writing longhand have to summarize in their own words and draw on conceptual mapping to digest the information.

PROBLEMS: Interestingly, nothing about in-class discussion is mentioned and very little is said about on-line learning. I am reluctant to draw too many…

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Sex and Race Discrimination in Academia Starts Even Before Grad School


Sex and Race Discrimination in Academia Starts Even Before Grad School Article

This was an excellent (although depressing) article my mentor shared with me yesterday, and I decided I couldn’t ignore the findings.Because I am a testament to the power and success of undergraduate research and mentoring, the idea that women and minorities are not only disadvantaged once they arrive at graduate school, but also before they even get the opportunity is disheartening and enraging simultaneously.

This article is based on a study (currently under review) titled: <em>”What Happens Before? A Field Experiment Exploring How Pay and Representation Differentially Shape Bias on the Pathway into Organizations” </em>written by Katherine Milkman, Modupe Akinola, and Dolly Chugh. Their main findings are based on an experiment in which 6,500 faculty members were emailed by a “student” asking to set-up a meeting to discuss potential research opportunities. The emails were identical except the name of the student, and the time they would be on campus. Their full study (including the actual email sent) can be found here.

They found that white males (using the name Steven Smith or Brad Anderson) were over 20% more likely to receive a response as compared to females and minorities. Given the rising number of students applying to graduate school and the increasing expectations of applicants, the lack of research opportunities and quality mentoring can be highly detrimental for future success in academia. Similar to the research finding that early childhood social conditions have a lasting impact on adult socialization, success, and health; early academic mentoring, training, and opportunities shape an individuals academic future career, identity, and success.  The academic world is challenging enough for women and minorities, and this set-back is the first step along this turbulent path.

Roberto Unger: Sociology is Bunk


Wait, sociology is bunk? Since when?

Originally posted on Installing (Social) Order:


Interview, just one of many, with Roberto Unger, which indicates that sociology — along with all the other social sciences (psychology, economics, law, and perhaps even political science) — is bunk as well as pseudo science.

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What are you supposed do with unfair criticism?


What do you do with unfair criticisms of your academic work?

Originally posted on Installing (Social) Order:


What do you do with unfair or less than constructive criticism of your academic work?

We all know, some people are jerks, many academics among them, and that some folks use the anonymous system of peer-review in order to act however they like without the responsibility or accountability that goes with face-to-face or self-identifying criticism.

To me, this is just part of the job, or, at least, I tell myself that. However, while it is most certainly just part of the contemporary academic landscape, it still irks me — every time.

It is the worst when your realize that the reviewer simply does not “get” the point. Slightly less bad, but no less forgivable: the reviewer has not looked closely enough at your work, and, as they gloss over the details, you realize from their comments that their “this is unclear” or “this is inappropriate” is really just a…

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What do professors do all day?


What are professors up to all day?

Originally posted on Installing (Social) Order:


The answer is here; Anthropologist John Ziker studied “non-random sample of 16 professors at Boise State University and scheduled interviews with them every other day for 14 days.  In each interview, they reported how they spent their time the previous day.  In total, he collected data for 166 days.”

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New article published by Knapp, Rowland, and Charles


Nicholas Rowland, Eric Charles, and I recently had an article published in References Services Review, a Library Science journal. In it, we argue that the intersection of the embedded librarian movement with undergraduate research offers great opportunities to increase student retention and engagement, which benefit not only librarians, but colleges and universities as well.


Knapp, J. A., Rowland, N. J., & Charles, E. P. (2014). Retaining students by embedding librarians into undergraduate research experiences. Reference Services Review, 42(1), 129–147. doi:10.1108/RSR-02-2013-0012

If your institution does not subscribe to this journal, you can read a pre-pub copy here.


The Myth Of Meritocracy In Academia


Academic meritocracy still good?

Originally posted on Conditionally Accepted:

Many sociologists, as well as scholars in other disciplines, talk about the “myth of meritocracy” in their classes.  They inform their students that many in the US believe good ol’ hard work is the primary determinant of one’s successes, opportunities, and wealth — BUT nothing could be further from the truth to explain pervasive inequality.  Not only is this an inaccurate explanation, hence referring to it as a myth, it is also dangerous because it masks all of the other factors beyond one’s control that produce and maintain disparities.  Hopefully, we push our students one more step to see inequality as the product of individual and structural factors, not merely a few bad apples who lie, cheat, and steal, or discriminate and hinder others’ success.

Ironically, academics — including many sociologists — fail to apply this perspective to assess how status, wealth, resources, and opportunities are distributed within…

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Pedigree and the Philosophy Job Market


Students wishing to join the ranks of your faculty by doing undergraduate research, consider this …

Originally posted on Plastic Bodies:

Way to go, academic philosophers, you’re successfully (still!) reproducing the means of knowledge production!

Helen De Cruz has initiated a very important discussion of the academic job market in philosophy, focusing on the numbers for the 2014-15 hiring season. Her post raises important questions about race, class, and elitism in hiring. The takeaway data:

On the basis of this year’s partial hiring data, Marcus Arvan notes that the majority of tenure track hires (a whopping 88%) are from people of Leiter-ranked programs. Only 12% of hires are from people of unranked programs. Also, 37% of all tenure track hires come from just 5 schools, the Leiter top 5 list – this is amazing if one ponders it, and one may wonder at the direction philosophy is going to, if most of its future tenured workforce comes from just a few select programs.

I’ve been tempted to write a post about…

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