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January 29, 2009

Bits and pieces

I tend not to like bits and pieces posts, but since I have some bits and pieces, here goes:

I've been updating the Free Resources section of FairerScience, and found a couple of things I thought you would be interested in:

Diversity in the College Classroom: A Guidebook written by FairerScience friend Alice Pawley and Christine Pfund. This 160 page guide is intended to encourage and support faculty and others in teaching a course that challenges science and engineering instructors to think about diversity differently. It includes week by week plans, course handouts and assessment and evaluation activities.
How to Create a Woman's Initiative This website is designed to be a resource for beginning and maintaining a women's initiative (WI) outreach program like the ones at the University of Washington and MIT. It includes an Introduction section to get familiar with the program and how to use the website, a First Year of the Program section which covers all the ideas necessary to get your program up and running, a section on Maintaining your program. It also includes a section of Materials and links to existing women's initiatives across the country.

FairerScience friend David Mortman introduced us to She’s Geeky! "She’s Geeky events are neutral, face-to-face gathering spaces for women who like to geek out. Attendees include women involved in all aspects of technology, including those who like to use geeky tools, not just coders, programmers and engineers. You don’t even have to be from the computer industry. You just have to be a woman who identifies as a geek." Unfortunately for the rest of us it is in the Bay area, but maybe we could convince them to do some things in other parts of the country.

January 24, 2009

Who Owns Our Cells and Our Stories?

In an earlier post, I promised to write about the keynote speech, Rebecca Skloot did at the Women and Science Networking Event at ScienceOnline09. The speech was on “Women, science, and storytelling: The immortal life of Henrietta Lacks (a.k.a. HeLa), and one woman’s journey from scientist to writer “.

It was an interesting and disturbing presentation and I've been thinking about it a lot. Henrietta Lacks was a poor, African American woman who, in 1951, was dying of cervical cancer. Before she was treated with radiation, a sample of her cancer cells was taken. These cells, called the HeLa cells, continue to be used in labs the world over. Neither Mrs. Lacks, who died soon after, nor her family knew the cells were taken and nor did they know the huge impact those cells had on medicine.

Quoting from Skloot's 2000 article in the Johns Hopkins Magazine:

There are at least two issues that cases like Mrs. Lacks's raise," says Ruth Faden, executive director of the Johns Hopkins Bioethics Institute and the Philip Franklin Wagley Professor of Biomedical Ethics. "One is the question of consent, and the other is what, if anything, is morally or legally due to a person if something of commercial value is developed from their cells.

Faden went on to say

In terms of public policy, we're real clear that you can't buy and sell organs, that's illegal. But you can sell blood. You can sell human eggs and sperm. But you can't sell your kidney. And apparently, you can't sell your cells, you give those away.

So unlike Mrs. Lacks, you own your cells but like Mrs. Lacks you can't sell them. If you give them away, then they can be sold but you don't get any of the money and unless you've signed a very unusual contract, you have no say as to how those cells are used or who uses them. So today we sort of own our own cells; but if we want to try to make money off of them, we had better be scientists with a lot of equipment or have the money to hire others to do it.

But what about our stories? For the Lacks' family, history does seem to be repeating itself. Mrs. Lacks' daughter, Skloot explained, worked intensively with Skloot to tell her mother's story. Citing journalistic ethics, Skloot chose not to pay the family. From an ethnical, journalistic perspective, you can give your story away but they can't pay you for it. So today, like the cells, we sort of own our own stories; but if we want to try to make money off of them, we had better be writers with a lot of contacts or have the money to hire others to do it.

For both our cells and our stories there has to be a better way.

January 20, 2009

Allies Post: Not Yet

I haven’t forgotten I owe you a post from the ScienceOnline09 sessions about allies but I’ve been so excited about the inauguration… Years ago I was one of those “outside agitators” who registered voters in Mississippi. (Ok I did register voters but once Charles Evers’ team found out what my skills were, I spent more time writing proposals and checking the legitimacy of vote counting software but that counts too doesn’t it?). As have so many others, I worked to try to make things better, yet I was one of those people who really felt “never in my lifetime”. I’ve spent much of today getting teary eyed at inappropriate times.

Or maybe they were appropriate times. I also spent much of today with “preGED students”. These are, too often, our throw away kids-- young people, almost all minority with hard lives, who’ve left, or been pushed out of school, with reading levels low enough (below 8th grade) that they can’t qualify for programs to help them get a GED (general equivalency diploma).

Today I listened to them speak about President Obama—including a wise young woman said she was “scared; everyone’s excited. There is so much hope on one person; it’s so easy to be let down—he will make mistakes, we should all relax and give him some time.” You know I think she has a point.

PS to add a bit of science to the post—or more accurately add a bit of “no science” to the post, these are young people badly in need of science knowledge and skills and there is basically nothing available for them. Any ideas or volunteers are very welcome.

What a day

What a day for science:

We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology's wonders to raise health care's quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories.

What a day for education:

we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age.

What a day for flat out honesty:

That we are in the midst of crisis is now well understood. Our nation is at war, against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred. Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age. Homes have been lost; jobs shed; businesses shuttered. Our health care is too costly; our schools fail too many; and each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our plane

What a day for us all

January 17, 2009

Gender, Race and Oversized Postcards

Lots to report from ScienceOnline09 and not just that I ate way too many incredible good steamed oysters at the 42nd Street Oyster Bar last night..

I had a really good time at the Firday night's Women's Networking meeting. You know how often at these events, you either speak with your friends or if you don't know anyone, stand around wishing you had someone to talk to. Well not Friday night. The Duke Women in Science and Engineering (WiSE) made up oversized baseball cards of women in science bloggers with pictures and descriptions of the women on the front and a screen shot of the blog on the back. As you registered you got four cards of the same woman. Your task was to trade off cards until you had four different women. Those who did it were eligible for a drawing for a gift certificate. I was very excited that FairerScience and I were one of the cards joining such great bloggers as Alice from ScienceWomen, Peggy from Women in Science and Janet from Adventures in Ethnics and Science.

The keynote speaker, Rebecca Skloot, spoke on “Women, science, and storytelling: The immortal life of Henrietta Lacks (a.k.a. HeLa), and one woman’s journey from scientist to writer “:

It was an interesting and disturbing presentation. I will post on it and even have a title, "Who Owns Our Cells and Our Stories?" but it is going to take me a bit to get my thoughts together

Am off to more sessions. Rather than live blogging I'm a day behind blogging. I promise I will post about the gender and race sessions late today

January 16, 2009

First Wines

Thanks to Wine Authority we are comparing two wines from Chardonnay grapes. one French Burgundy and the other a California Chardonnay. Much discussion and much disagreement including between me and tom. I'm going with the French--it's smoother and more delicate (I know I know that's not like me) while Tom is going for the California- much hardier. Both by the way very good.

French: Rully Premier Cur 2005
California: Lynnar Russian River 2005.

Update: we also tasted two pinot noirs- one from CA (Alma Rosa) and one from Oregon (Lemelson). Unlike the whites there was little disagreement-- the Lemelson was the hands down winner and not just because the winemaker's father was Jerome Lemelson was one of the most prolific inventors ever.

Thanks Able for doing this; it was much fun!

Waiting for the wine tasting

Tom and I are at ScienceOnline09 and about to start Abel's wine tasting. Lots of great folks here, we miss Isis but since she sent a shoe, she is here in spirit. Stay tuned for comments on the wine.

January 14, 2009

Off to ScienceOnline09

Tom and I are off to ScienceOnline 09 and looking forward to it for many reasons-- not just because the next few days are supposed to the coldest in Massachusetts for years (North Carolina has to be warmer right?).

There are lots of cool things (hmm let's call them "hot things") scheduled including the Women's Networking Event (with a keynote address by Rebecca Skloot) and sessions on everything from "Open Access publishing: present and future" to "Gender in science — online and offline" moderated by FairerScience friends Suzanne Franks, Abel and Alice Pawley.

I'll be livebloging, hanging out and learning much. Hope I see you there:

January 09, 2009

Blog on AdaLovelaceDay March 24th

March 24th is Ada Lovelace Day and I'm asking you to take the pledge. Here it is::

"I will publish a blog post on Tuesday 24th March about a woman in technology whom I admire but only if 1,000 other people will do the same."

842 people have signed up (including me), 158 more are needed. You can sign up here or follow the blog here.

All this is in honor of Ada Lovelace. Ah I've always had a soft spot in my heart for her. Her mother steered her toward mathematics, so she would be as different as possible from her father (Lord Byron). Always interested in mathematics, it was after she had three children that she did advanced study and produced her most famous work, writing what many consider to be the first ever computer program. She was a brilliant woman whose life reads like a soap opera who challenged society in many ways.

So in honor of Ada on March 24th I'll be posting about a woman in technology; hope you will too.

January 07, 2009

Toward a better more equitable world

Yesterday I posted the following at Scientiae about hosting this month's Carnival:

What do you think a better, more equitable society should look like? What are your dreams for your life? For the lives of others? How close are you to living the life of your dreams? What would make you able to live that life?

It's 2009 – a year of hope and change and the next Scientiae Carnival is about hope and change—the hopes we have and the changes we would like. I've been reading ScienceWoman, Dr. Isis and even the 1841 Lowell Offering and their ideas have really gotten me thinking. Our dreams as to what society can and should be may not happen; but if we don't dream it, it surely won't happen. My hope is that the Carnival will get us all into the discussion, help us learn from each other and move us forward. Please tell us your dreams.

And today I read at Think Progress that the language of US House of Representatives has become gender neutral.

In its new package of rule changes, the House has finally decided to make its official language gender neutral, recognizing the growing representation of women in Congress (including as Speaker of the House). Gone are references to “he,” “chairman,” and phrases such as “his duties.”

Yes it's a small step, but hey it's a step!

January 02, 2009

Doors, Doors, Doors

AcmeGirl over at Thesis With Children (BTW is that not one of the best WISE blog names ever?) has posted the January Scientiae Carnival . AcmeGirl challenged us to think about all the doors that we had opened and closed this year. The results, as you would expect, are fascinating. Surf on over and check for yourself. And thank you AcmeGirl!