Friday, September 15, 2006

The Professor News

Thanks to Maxine for reminding me about the letters to Nature (Aug. 24) re. the Barres' commentary. The statistics on the number of women who have received some major awards is shocking in an unsurprising kind of way. Also very interesting was the letter about how changing the wording in an NIH proposal announcement and instructions - and changing the make-up of the panel - seems to have 'fixed' the problem they had both with getting women to write proposals for the young investigator grants and how the grants were awarded. For example, removing the description that "high risk" proposals were encouraged may have been one factor in increasing the number of women who applied.

That interested me in part because I don't think that the "high risk" wording, or the other descriptions mentioned, would have stopped me from writing a proposal. In fact, I find the concept appealing. I've long assumed (with some evidence from observations when serving on panels) that women's proposals are in some cases deemed to be "too risky" (for a woman?) whereas men are given the benefit of the doubt for similar proposals. So, a proposal that was not going to be undermined by a high risk factor might actually work for women IF the reviewers and panels apply fair criteria when evaluating them. In other words, I guess I'm a hurl-myself-at-the-castle-wall type (apply and see what happens).

Random note about Nature letters, which all start with "SIR-". If the editor-in-chief were a woman, would these all say "MADAM-"? (Maxine?)

In other professor news: I temporarily set aside my reluctance to read yet another barrage of New York Times articles about Harvard, and read about the demise of early admissions. If it helps those who are socioeconomically disadvantaged with their chances of admissions, that's great. I am too cynical to believe that this will happen, but will keep an open mind and see what happens. Speaking entirely selfishly as someone who applied early to one college, got in, and was done with the process in a low-stress and efficient way, I very much appreciated a process that defanged my father's obsession with the application/admittance process.


Ms.PhD said...

It's funny, I wanted to apply for one of these high-risk young investigator grants, because my previous attempt at a K-grant was criticized for being 'too risky.'

I asked a friend who got one of these for advice on how to apply.

I was told that for the young investigator grants, the recommendation letters matter a lot more than the proposal, and that although the description says it's open to anyone to apply, that really only the established, internationally known people would get them.

So I didn't apply.

I'm tired of castle walls. I'd like, at the very least, a lemonade stand somewhere along the endless garden path.

Maxine said...

Hi Prof, thanks for a fascinating post. The answer to your question is that the Editor of Nature is a man, so letters to the Editor start with Sir --. When the happy day arrives when that personage is a woman, the letters will start Madam -- (I trust)!

Female Science Professor said...

I'm tired of castle walls too, but so far, I'd rather keep hurling myself at them than not. I sometimes wonder if someday I won't want to do that anymore. Ideally, it won't matter anymore because they won't exist, but I don't really believe that will happen in my lifetime.

Anonymous said...

Just curious: did you have any thoughts on the new NAS report on bias towards women in academia (it was covered in the NYT a few days ago). I suspect your reaction would be a big "Duh!", but I thought I'd ask :)