Category: Workplace issues in STEM

What climate science loses without enough Black researchers

Read the full story at Bloomberg Green.

With calls to address racism echoing around the profession, scientists are remaking institutions that have excluded people of color.

Just because your early career was hell doesn’t mean others’ has to be

Read the full story at Culture Study.

When Dr. Auriel Fournier was an undergraduate ecology student, her mentors would tell her about research opportunities that she should absolutely, no question, take — it’s how they’d advanced in their careers, and it’s how she should advance, too.

“Everyone told me, you need to pay your dues, you need to get your foot in the door, you need to demonstrate how passionate you are,” Fournier, now a conservation ecologist, said. “And I was like, I am really passionate! I work really really hard! But I also have to pay rent, and eat!” 

Today, Fournier is the director of the Forbes Biological Station near Havana, Illinois — and she’s become an outspoken advocate against unpaid STEM labor. Her appeal is straightforward: “We’re only hearing from the people who made it,” she tells audiences of various professional associations at conferences. “We’re not hearing from everyone else. It’s survival bias. And as scientists, we should find that really alarming.” 

New research may explain shortages in STEM careers

Read the full story from the University of Georgia.

A new study revealed that more college students change majors within the STEM pipeline than leave the career path of science, technology, engineering and mathematics altogether.

To enhance creativity, keep your research team fresh

Read the full story from Bar-Ilan University.

Network scientists address the effect of team freshness on the originality and multidisciplinary impact of produced work, by systematically investigating prior collaboration relations between team members. Among other things, their study reveals that papers of fresher teams are significantly more effective than those of older teams in creating studies of higher originality and greater multidisciplinary impact.

STEM jobs see uneven progress in increasing gender, racial and ethnic diversity

Read the full story from the Pew Research Center.

Chart showing detailed data of representation of Black, Hispanic, Asian, other, and White workers in STEM workforce

Black and Hispanic workers remain underrepresented in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) workforce compared with their share of all workers, including in computing jobs, which have seen considerable growth in recent years.

The representation of women varies widely across STEM occupations. Women make up a large majority of all workers in health-related jobs, but remain underrepresented in other job clusters, such as the physical sciences, computing and engineering.

Current trends in STEM degree attainment appear unlikely to substantially narrow these gaps, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of federal employment and education data. Black and Hispanic adults are less likely to earn degrees in STEM than other degree fields, and they continue to make up a lower share of STEM graduates relative to their share of the adult population. And while women now earn a majority of all undergraduate and advanced degrees, they remain a small share of degree earners in fields like engineering and computer science – areas where they are significantly underrepresented in the work force.

How new principal investigators tackled a tumultuous year

Read the full story in Nature.

Transitioning from being a postdoctoral researcher to a laboratory leader comes with a suite of challenges. Not only do new principal investigators often have to relocate to a new city or country, but they also have to acquire funding, recruit lab members, teach, launch research programmes, develop outreach initiatives and complete administrative duties. These pressures have been amplified by the pandemic. Five new principal investigators share their experiences and advice for other rookie lab leaders.

Six lessons from a pandemic PhD student

Read the full story in Nature.

If you’re starting a doctoral programme later this year, particularly if your institution is still facing COVID-19 restrictions, Ciara O’Brien has some advice.

How the pandemic is reshaping undergraduate research

Read the full story in Nature.

Undergraduates often find research opportunities through university labs and government programmes. The experience can boost their confidence and develop their interest in pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. But when the COVID-19 pandemic started, many of these programmes were cancelled, and others restricted the number of participants.

Students adapted by seeking out opportunities through university alumni networks or conducting scientific projects at home. Nature asked five undergraduates about their experiences of doing research as competition for places increased during the pandemic, and about their advice for other early-career scientists.

The 100 memes that immortalize my PhD defence

Read the full story in Nature.

Sophie Dufour-Beauséjour chose an unusual way to capture an academic rite of passage, with a little help from her friends.

Academic bullying is too often ignored. Here are some targets’ stories

Read the full story in Science.

“I frequently vomit before going to the lab.”

“I wanted to become a professor, but after the treatment and behavior of my PI [principal investigator] and department, I do not want to ever be involved with academia again.”

“It was ~ 1 year before I realized that being told by my PI that I had 45 seconds to go to the toilet was inappropriate and an invasion of my privacy.”

These are just a few of the 1904 anonymous responses that poured in when Sherry Moss and Morteza Mahmoudi invited scientists to describe their experiences with academic bullying. The vast majority—71%—of respondents who experienced bullying did not report the behavior to their institution, mostly for fear of retaliation. Of those who did report, only 8% found the process to be fair and unbiased, according to a preprint posted online this week.

The findings lay bare the inadequacy of the reporting process at many institutions, says Mahmoudi, an assistant professor at Michigan State University who experienced bullying earlier in his career and co-founded an antibullying nonprofit called the Academic Parity Movement. “All of the investigations happen inside the institutions—there’s no accountability.” He notes that institutions may want to protect top-performing academics, especially those who bring in a lot of money, and have a vested interest in preventing complaints from becoming public. One possible solution, he adds, would be to establish a national or global committee on academic behavior ethics, which could investigate allegations of abuse more impartially. 

Many of the survey responses were hard to read, say Mahmoudi and Moss, a professor at Wake Forest University—especially those that described serious mental health challenges. But sharing them is an important step toward changing culture. To that end, Science Careers compiled a sample of responses from the survey, with a focus on those who reported or confronted bullying behavior—sometimes resulting in positive outcomes, but more frequently not.

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