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February 29, 2012

Black History Month (one day late)

FairerScience friend Andrea at PhD for Life posted Diversity in Science Carnival #13: Black History Month--Celebrating Black Scientists Past, Present and Future last night. It's a good read with lots if interesting information and resources. Go check it out.

February 28, 2012

You Didn’t Thank Me For Punching You in the Face

I know I don't use what grandson Seth calls "swears" here and I know I don't steal or share (depending on your point of view) other people's blogs, but this is way too important to FairerScience friends to just include a link.
Queen of the couch wrote an incredibly powerful post about well being sure that

every girl can recall, at least once as a child, coming home and telling their parents, uncle, aunt or grandparent about a boy who had pulled her hair, hit her, teased her, pushed her or committed some other playground crime. I will bet money that most of those, if not all, will tell you that they were told “Oh, that just means he likes you”.
I'm quoting the whole post here because it is so important:
On a somewhat serious note today because of a conversation the other day:

I am sure every girl can recall, at least once as a child, coming home and telling their parents, uncle, aunt or grandparent about a boy who had pulled her hair, hit her, teased her, pushed her or committed some other playground crime. I will bet money that most of those, if not all, will tell you that they were told “Oh, that just means he likes you”. I never really thought much about it before having a daughter of my own. I find it appalling that this line of bullshit is still being fed to young children. Look, if you want to tell your child that being verbally and/or physically abused is an acceptable sign of affection, i urge you to rethink your parenting strategy. If you try and feed MY daughter that crap, you better bring protective gear because I am going to shower you with the brand of “affection” you are endorsing.

When the fuck was it decided that we should start teaching our daughters to accept being belittled, disrespected and abused as endearing treatment? And we have the audacity to wonder why women stay in abusive relationships? How did society become so oblivious to the fact that we were conditioning our daughters to endure abusive treatment, much less view it as romantic overtures? Is this where the phrase “hitting on girls” comes from? Well, here is a tip: Save the “it’s so cute when he gets hateful/physical with her because it means he loves her” asshattery for your own kids, not mine. While you’re at it, keep them away from my kids until you decide to teach them respect and boundaries.

My daughter is `10 years old and has come home on more than one occasion recounting an incident at school in which she was teased or harassed by a male classmate. There has been several times when someone that she was retelling the story to responded with the old, “that just means he likes you” line. Wrong. I want my daughter to know that being disrespected is NEVER acceptable. I want my daughter to know that if someone likes her and respects her, much less LOVES her, they don’t hurt her and they don’t put her down. I want my daughter to know that the boy called her ugly or pushed her or pulled her hair didn’t do it because he admires her, it is because he is a little asshole and assholes are an occurrence of society that will have to be dealt with for the rest of her life. I want my daughter to know how to deal with assholes she will encounter throughout her life. For now, I want my daughter to know that if someone is verbally harassing her, she should tell the teacher and if the teacher does nothing, she should tell me. If someone physically touches her, tell the teacher then, if it continues, to yell, “STOP TOUCHING/PUNCHING/PUSHING ME” in the middle of class or the hallway, then tell me. Last year, one little boy stole her silly bandz from her. He just grabbed her and yanked a handful of them off of her wrist. When I went to the school to address the incident, the teacher smiled and explained it away to her, in front of me, “he probably has a crush on you”. Okay, the boy walked up to my daughter, grabbed and held her by the arm and forcibly removed her bracelets from her as she struggled and you want to convince her that she should be flattered? Fuck off. I am going to punch you in the face but I hope you realize it is just my way of thanking you for the great advice you gave my daughter. If these same advice givers’ sons came home crying because another male classmate was pushing them, pulling their hair, hitting them or calling them names, I would bet dollars to donuts they would tell him to defend themselves and kick the kid’s ass, if necessary. They sure as shit wouldn’t say, “he probably just wants a play date”.

I will teach my daughter to accept nothing less than respect. Anyone who hurts her physically or emotionally doesn’t deserve her respect, friendship or love. I will teach my boys the same thing as well as the fact that hitting on girls doesn’t involve hitting girls. I can’t teach my daughter to respect herself if I am teaching her that no one else has to respect her. I can’t raise sons that respect women, if I teach them that bullying is a valid expression of affection.

The next time that someone offers up that little “secret” to my daughter, I am going to slap the person across the face and yell, “I LOVE YOU”.

February 14, 2012

Andrea and Pat

Andrea over at PhD for Life and I have been having a series of semi-structured conversations about academia and about race. Periodically we're planning to cross post on what we've been thinking and talking about. The following is our first effort:

Who Benefits?

The recent press about the billion-dollar lawsuit brought by the Abramson Family Cancer Center at the University of Pennsylvania against Craig Thompson, the current president of Memorial Sloan Kettering once again brings up the troubling issue of who owns research results. Is it the investigator, the university or is it the funding organization? When the research is funded privately this is a matter to be decided by contract.

In the Abramson case, the suit declares that the contract between Abramson Foundation and Thompson mandated co-ownership of discoveries and developments in order that monetary profits are shared and the Foundation can reinvest in its mission and “fund untold advancements in cancer treatment for generations to come.”

When the research is funded by public funds, no such agreement exists. The United States has purposefully entered into a social contract whereby the government lays no claim to results obtained and products developed through the research that it funds. Under this scheme, researchers and their universities are able to operate and staff laboratories in the development and pursuit of creditable ideas. Whatismore, they are able to do this without putting the money out up front. And that is fine.

There are great benefits to this agreement as federal funds enable progress and innovation on a scale that would not, without this magnitude of support, be realizable. However, there are downsides as well. Money made based on the research is shared between the researcher and the institution but not with the public who funded the work.

It does seem, however, that including the public as a shared beneficiary of monetary gain is warranted. As in the Abramson case, if the research pays off big time (we think a billion dollars is big time!) something should be reinvested directly in the American people (and generations to come) who helped make the discovery possible.

Yes I know that this one wasn't about race (and it's even Black History Month. Next one will be.

OMG did you see this?

The National Institutes of Health (NIH), (well actually NIH's National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) now has a strategic plan for biomedical and behavioral research training and a blueprint for implementing it.

They have two underlying principles:
NIGMS Aims and Expectations for Research Training
Societal Benefits of a Diverse Workforce

You gotta read their statement about "Societal Benefits of a Diverse Workforce". Read the whole thing (it's not that long).

Action: Champion and articulate the societal benefits of a diverse biomedical and behavioral workforce that mirrors the diversity of the U.S. population.

NIGMS has a long-standing commitment to the precept that our nation is best served by a biomedical and behavioral research workforce that is diverse and inclusive. The Institute recognizes that for our society to benefit from its investment in biomedical and behavioral research, all segments must be actively involved. This includes being engaged in the research and in the establishment of the priorities for which research should be supported by government funding.

As biomedical research becomes more interdisciplinary and more of a team endeavor, excellent training will utilize the diversity in the trainee pool and develop the skills and abilities needed for working with people of different scientific, social and cultural backgrounds. Research has shown that diversity in teams fosters innovation and contributes to greater creativity. Diversity balances biases, providing alternative perspectives and experiences for exploring new problems. In these ways, diversity contributes to the scientific advances that improve our nation’s health and maintain its global competitiveness.

By its nature, diversity is an institutional rather than an individual quality. Therefore, NIGMS encourages grantee institutions to find more effective ways to attract trainees from diverse backgrounds and develop the talent of all trainees in order to eliminate the disparities in educational and research training outcomes currently associated with gender, race/ethnicity or other factors. Through its support, NIGMS will encourage efforts to improve the quality of training in skills that enable and utilize diverse perspectives and expertise. NIGMS will also encourage institutions to set their own ambitious objectives for achieving diversity, and it will assess how they are progressing toward meeting those objectives.

Go NIH! And thanks to FarierScience friend Rick McGee for letting us know about this.

February 12, 2012

It's Darwin Day

Happy International Darwin Day everyone and thanks to FairerScience friend Ethan Vishniac for reminding me.

February 02, 2012

It's a contest

The Equal Pay App Challenge wants developers to use publicly available data and resources to create innovative, easy-to-use apps that educate users about the pay gap and provide tools to combat it. The apps should improve the accessibility of pay data broken down by gender, race and ethnicity, and provide coaching on early career pay, pay negotiation or career mentorship.

As does any contest, it has rules. One is that you keep your intellectual property rights but you do give the Department of Labor an "irrevocable, nonexclusive, royalty-free license"

There are prizes (what's a contest without prizes?), actually eight of them but they only tell us about one of them "scholarships to attend an eight-week immersive program on digital product innovation and entrepreneurship hosted by General Assembly, a campus for technology, design and entrepreneurship." Ok that one might not be hugely motivational but I'll bet the other prizes are better. Oh wait- it's the government-- forget the bet. But it's a good idea, so you do it and you win, let me know and I'll send you cookies and I won't require an "irrevocable, nonexclusive, royalty-free license."