Claims of gender bias in Canada's Science Hall of Fame nomination process

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in science on (#75J7)
The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reports that two researchers have stepped down from the Science Hall of Fame selection panel over claims that cultural bias is limiting the number of female researchers nominated for the honour. No female researchers have been nominated for two years running and former panelists Judy Illes and Catherine Anderson argue in their resignation statements that the lack of nominations reflects a cultural bias that fails to reflect the contributions women make to science nationally and globally.

Anecdotally, the gender bias claims echo how the work of Rosalind Franklin was rewarded in her lifetime following the discovery of the structure of DNA. As a Wikipedia summary notes: "Franklin is best known for her work on the X-ray diffraction images of DNA while at King's College, London, which led to the discovery of the DNA double helix. According to Francis Crick, her data and research were key in determining the structure. Watson confirmed this opinion in his own statement at the opening of the King's College London Franklin–Wilkins building in 2000 and formulating Crick and James Watson's 1953 model regarding the structure of DNA. Franklin's images of X-ray diffraction, confirming the helical structure of DNA, were imprudently shown to Watson by Wilkins without her permission. Her work was published third, in the series of three DNA Nature articles, led by the paper of Watson and Crick. Watson, Crick and Wilkins shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1962. Watson suggested that Franklin would have ideally been awarded a Nobel Prize in Chemistry, along with Wilkins."

Re: A couple years ago (Score: 3, Interesting)

by rocks@pipedot.org on 2015-04-16 14:25 (#76BD)

Thanks for this... it's a good reminder...

I believe that I am pretty skeptical about media output, but maybe I'm not, in fact. I am conscious that I am the easiest one to fool in the case of self-perception. I really appreciate your comment as it provides an outside perspective for me.

In any case, my motivation to submit the story was that I thought it provided an opportunity to discuss an issue that I believe is important -- i.e., how we recognize and reward scientists for their contributions to knowledge (with jobs, tenure, salary, grants, awards, or, in this case, a nomination to a Canadian Science Hall of Fame). One of the ways to evaluate how we reward scientists is to look at what is actually happening. I was prepared to trust the CBC article -- without further research -- in its claim that no women have been nominated for the Canadian Science Hall of Fame in the last two years. Maybe I am naive, but I didn't think the article would fake this fact. If true, on its own it is an interesting observation with two end-member implications that either: (1) women's contributions haven't warranted a nomination when compared to the competing nominations of male scientists, or (2) the nomination process is biased in regards to gender. I was hoping Pipedot readers would have some views on this, either from direct observation of women's worthy contributions or the lack thereof. Maybe there is no way to sort that kind of thing out on an internet forum, however, and the article and story ends up just being clickbait. I suppose I could have looked up the statistics independently from the Science Hall of Fame site itself and linked to that, if I had found anything noteworthy, and maybe that's the lesson for me here.
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