Hofstra, B., Kulkarni, V. V., Munoz-Najar Galvez, S., He, B., Jurafsky, D., & McFarland, D. A. (2020). The Diversity–Innovation Paradox in Science. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 117(17), 9284–9291. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1915378117
Significance: By analyzing data from nearly all US PhD recipients and their dissertations across three decades, this paper finds demographically underrepresented students innovate at higher rates than majority students, but their novel contributions are discounted and less likely to earn them academic positions. The discounting of minorities’ innovations may partly explain their underrepresentation in influential positions of academia.
Abstract: Prior work finds a diversity paradox: Diversity breeds innovation, yet underrepresented groups that diversify organizations have less successful careers within them. Does the diversity paradox hold for scientists as well? We study this by utilizing a near-complete population of ∼1.2 million US doctoral recipients from 1977 to 2015 and following their careers into publishing and faculty positions. We use text analysis and machine learning to answer a series of questions: How do we detect scientific innovations? Are underrepresented groups more likely to generate scientific innovations? And are the innovations of underrepresented groups adopted and rewarded? Our analyses show that underrepresented groups produce higher rates of scientific novelty. However, their novel contributions are devalued and discounted: For example, novel contributions by gender and racial minorities are taken up by other scholars at lower rates than novel contributions by gender and racial majorities, and equally impactful contributions of gender and racial minorities are less likely to result in successful scientific careers than for majority groups. These results suggest there may be unwarranted reproduction of stratification in academic careers that discounts diversity’s role in innovation and partly explains the underrepresentation of some groups in academia.
Nathan B Alexander, Douglas Knutson, Leslie K Morrow, Isaac Klimasmith, Emmett M Smith, Madeleine Spellman, Michael Rivera, Maxine Scherz, Kae Fountain, Lucas T Allen-Custodio, Loren Lynch, Thea E Clarkberg, Jaime J Coon (2023). “Disparities, Concerns, and Recommendations for LGBTQ+ Data Collection within the Biological Sciences.” BioScience, biad011 https://doi.org/10.1093/biosci/biad011
Abstract: The omission of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, intersex, and expansive minoritized sexual and gender identities (hereafter, LGBTQ+) from demographic data collection in science is a critical issue. Ignoring these identities perpetuates practices that drive people out of science, erase experiences, and discount systemic barriers navigated by LGBTQ+ scientists (Freeman 2020). Adding gender diversity and sexual orientation to surveys is one step toward increasing inclusion of LGBTQ+ researchers. Recently, scientific societies have increased collecting demographic data; however, there is still a need for longitudinal studies (Rushworth et al. 2021). LGBTQ+ demographic data allow institutions, educators, and employers to identify systemic barriers, pinpoint key policy changes, and track efforts to improve equity (Freeman 2020, Rushworth et al. 2021, Guyan 2022). However, groups that collect demographic data, such as state and federal agencies, granting agencies (i.e., the National Science Foundation), and universities do not collect data on LGBTQ+ identities, prohibiting evidence-based efforts to increase inclusion and further limiting interpretation of professional society and small-scale surveys (Rushworth et al. 2021). Although there are inherent risks in collecting data on LGBTQ+ people, improvements in data collection are imperative if we are to understand and address diversity, equity, and inclusion issues within the sciences (Aramati Casper et al. 2022).
Balloons regularly carry physics experiments, collect atmospheric data, and test new pieces of scientific equipment. It remains to be seen whether that research will be disrupted following the Chinese balloon furor, but many scientists involved with the work are bracing for change.
From climate change to global pandemics, the world is facing major environmental and health-related challenges that are driving life science research institutions to pool their data and digital resources in search of solutions.
However, a lot of the data generated by biological and medical research is sensitive, either stemming from their personal nature or due to intellectual property considerations, biohazard concerns or the Nagoya Protocol.
The EOSC-Life project is bringing together research infrastructures to create an open, digital and collaborative space for life science research in which data, tools and analysis workflows are more findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable (FAIR).
With the Ukraine war, international collaborations with Russia on Arctic research and oversight have been strained or broken off. This loss of critical cooperation is compromising efforts to confront mounting environmental risks in the Arctic, from shrinking sea ice to pollution.
Researchers in the Virginia Tech College of Agriculture and Life Sciences received a $2.4 million USDA grant to create affordable bioplastics and reduce plastic waste remaining both on land and in the sea.
By Tiffany Jolley (Prairie Research Institute) and Kim Gudeman (Grainger College of Engineering)
The Prairie Research Institute (PRI) and The Grainger College of Engineering are embarking on a new partnership to create a Joint Initiative on Sustainability Engineering beginning in Spring 2023. This collaboration will further the University of Illinois’ reputation as a nexus of engineering and science that fosters novel solutions for societal challenges, and will broadly include aspects of engineering, energy, health, and sustainability research.
“This partnership will open up new opportunities for research development on our campus and allow scientists from PRI and faculty from the GCOE to work together to find innovative solutions for important societal challenges. Students and postdoctoral researchers will greatly benefit from combining basic research with real-world problems,” said Praveen Kumar, Executive Director of PRI.
Together, PRI and Grainger Engineering aim to encompass joint research and development activity, sponsored funding, private sector partnerships, workforce development and training, and service to the State of Illinois and beyond. This partnership is expected to lead to growth in funding opportunities, and to support successful faculty, research staff, and student recruitment.
“To make significant advancements in some of the most important challenges of our time, it will take a collaboration of interdisciplinary scientists and engineers working together to solve systems-level problems,” said Grainger Engineering Dean Rashid Bashir. “We are proud to partner with our colleagues across the university as we together pursue science that transforms our health and our world.”
PRI scientists and Grainger Engineering faculty who are doing research in the areas of engineering, energy, health, and sustainability, will jointly advise and mentor engineering graduate students and postdocs. Collaborating PRI scientists and Grainger Engineering faculty will serve as co-advisors of thesis/dissertation and research.
To achieve these goals, PRI and Grainger Engineering will work to create collaborative opportunities through shared research environments and facilities and jointly secure resources to enhance their national and international research and educational reputation, and share their successful collaborations.
Isaac Newton wrote to fellow scientist Robert Hooke in a 1675, saying, “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants.” Centuries later, it remains generally understood that innovation builds on past science. So in this era of unprecedented research volume, breakthroughs should be increasingly common, right? Wrong, according to a new study finding that “disruptive” science is on the decline.
This trend downward “represents a substantive shift in science and technology, one that reinforces concerns about slowing innovative activity,” says the analysis, published this month in Nature.
Finding that the decline likely isn’t driven by changes in the quality of published science, citation practices or field-specific factors, the authors attribute this shift “in part to scientists’ and inventors’ reliance on a narrower set of existing knowledge.”
In these research positions, professors agree to ensure all of their writing is distributed via open access — and they release all of their intellectual property in the public domain or under appropriate open-source licences.
But many academics want to see their research fully accessible — free for everyone. My research with colleagues has found the majority of American and Canadian academics want to see universities establish open-source endowed chairs.
How academics use intellectual property
Intellectual property (IP) refers to mind creations like patents and copyrights. Academics use all kind of IP. For example, professors publish their work as articles in peer-reviewed journals, the majority of which are under copyright.
If you have ever tried to read an academic paper, you probably couldn’t. Most academic papers are behind paywalls.
To gain access through the paywalls costs an enormous amount of money for a library (even Harvard’s library balked at having to pay more than US$1 million per year to access articles from a single publisher).
Accessible research in science matters because the more scientists that can read the relevant literature, the more scientists can help push innovations forward and the faster we are able to find solutions.
Many universities brag about the number of patents their professors write. Patents are supposed to encourage innovation because they give the inventor a 20-year monopoly to profit from an invention and this provides a financial incentive.
The basic idea is a professor would patent an invention that could be mass manufactured and then reap licence revenue for 20 years.
This is because most innovation builds on other ideas and there is no “fair use” for patents.
It is illegal to even experiment on a patented idea without a licence. If you need to wait 20 years to build on a good idea, it obviously takes a lot of time to innovate. Historically innovation moved rather slowly, now the rate of innovation is fast. Consider now how ancient a 20-year-old phone would be in your pocket.
Some academics like science and engineering professors do make money on patents for their universities. But the patent revenue they keep tends to be meager, because the costs to get the patent must first be recovered before the inventors get anything.
Open source is a better way
Open source is the answer to speeding up innovation. Open source originally was developed in the software industry as inventors would share the source code of computer programs to innovate faster.
Open source works amazingly well because having a lot of people work on a problem together tends to get a much better solution than a few.
In both these studies, we presented participants with information about open-source endowed professorships to provide context and clarity for the subsequent multiple-choice and open-ended questions.
We looked at professors in every stage of their career (assistant to emeritus), tenured and non-tenured, at all types of universities (colleges to institutions with very high research activity), and in all disciplines including professional programs.
We analyzed results for three core disciplines of engineering/technology, natural sciences and social sciences to assess if there are differences in preferred compensation types among scholars of various disciplines.
The will to share was robust across all variables. Professors as a whole would be willing to make all of their IP freely available in exchange for the open-source endowed chair.
I currently hold the John M. Thompson Chair in Information Technology and Innovation, and am one of the first endowed chairs to make an open-source commitment.
It is clear, even from my own work that has been sped along by many others freely contributing to my open-source projects, that science will move faster with open-source methods.
There is a clear willingness of academics to leave behind antiquated IP models for the good of science and society. It is time to provide incentives to accelerate innovation using open science to hasten scientific progress while also making science more just and inclusive.
All research funders — governments, foundations, private companies, donors and universities — should start funding open-source endowed chairs to maximize the impact of their resources.
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