Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Data They Are a'Changin'

It recently dawned on me that a lot of time had passed since I had surveyed the general categories of my blog posts. I last did this in January 2010, using data from all 2009 blog posts. So, even though 2011 is well underway, last weekend I decided to go back and categorize the 2010 posts and see if there had been any changes from 2008 or 2009.

As before, I used very general bins for classifying post topics. I first went through this exercise a few years ago because I kept getting comments to the effect of "You only talk about sexism/feminism/women". Well, even if I did, so what? But I knew that "only" was an exaggeration, and I was curious what the data were.

It turns out that in each of the years 2008 and 2009, about 20% of my posts were on the broad topic of women-in-science, sexism, feminism etc. The majority of posts were about general academic issues, and a small number were about cats or miscellaneous subjects.

As in my previous attempts at categorizing posts, I encountered some posts that were difficult to classify. Examples from 2010: Are posts about two-career couples 'general academia' or 'women/feminism'? I would say 'general academia', but what if I focused mostly on the issue of women as 'trailing spouses'? And what about a post in which I criticized tenure-track professors who blame their lack of productivity on their male grad students or postdocs whose wives have babies and therefore imperil the career of the advisor/mentor? Was that a femalecentric post? Not really.. but even so, as I have did in my previous surveys, I classified all of these under 'women/feminism/etc.'

Even with that felxible definition of femalecentric posts, my 2010 data are:

general academia: 83%
women: 10%
cats/misc: 7%

I was surprised by this. I thought the proportion of posts about women-in-science, sexism etc. would be higher. Perhaps I overestimated because the femalecentric posts tend to attract the most vicious and bizarre comments, so they loom larger in my mind? Or perhaps the last few years are all a blur to me, and, since I don't remember what I wrote about last week, why should I expect that I'd have a good idea for what I wrote about in 2010?

I don't know. I obviously don't have any particular Plan when it comes to topics. I write about whatever I feel like at a particular time/place, heeding some requests from readers. Part of the explanation may relate to the fact that I write about once/week as Science Professor in the Scientopia blog collective, but at least some of these posts are femalecentric (and I included all the SciProf/Scientopia posts in my accounting), so I don't think that is a sufficient explanation. Perhaps there is no meaningful explanation.

Or: Perhaps the decline in femalecentric posts is related to my advancing age?

Tune in tomorrow, when I answer the question: At what age did most people start taking you seriously (as a science professor)?


Guy without borders said...

My feeling is most of the topics that focused on sexism or feminism, had some deep personal perspectives or insightful writing (more than 3 paragraphs) whereas other topics written on especially cats, come with just a picture or two, not insightful how cat can be catty or how smooth their furs are or how long they tend to sleep. This discrepancy might make our last impression of your blog or how FSP blog is recognized?

Anonymous said...

The real concern, of course, is small percentage of cat-related posts.

Anonymous said...

I agree with nicoleandmaggie.

Anonymous said...

But how do you categorize *this* post? :)

Female Science Professor said...


Anonymous said...

Your characterization of posts should be scrutinized. For me, the current top three posts are about females. The first two are straightforward cases. The third one on quietness not equalling dumbness, I want to note that you have implicitly assumed the protagonist to be a female.

Female Science Professor said...

Yes, I would classify the 3 most recent posts under 'women etc.' as well. That is consistent with how I tallied the data for 2010 and earlier years. I consider the post on quietness to be one of the ambiguous ones, but it would end up in the 'women' bin, even though I made no assumptions, implicit or otherwise, about gender. The pronoun 'she', as spoken by my colleague, likely indicated a female student. The rest of the post was about my own experiences.

Anonymous said...

Did anyone else get the Bob Dylan birthday reference? Perhaps that makes the post implicitly about men.

Anonymous said...

I too am with @nicoleandmaggie.

More cats, more often!

Also pictures of adorable kittens would be great.

GMP said...

I suggest you present your data via a Venn diagram in order to do justice to thematic overlaps; there is certainly a nontrivial overlap between academic and women-centric posts.