Controversy over paper evaluating he impact on younger female scientists of having female or male mentors

In November, 2020, Science Magazine published a study (link to the actual paper) evaluating the impact on younger female scientists of having female or male mentors.

Here are some sections of the paper:

“Our gender-related findings suggest that current diversity policies promoting female-female mentorships, as well-intended as they may be, could hinder the careers of women who remain in academia in unexpected ways…Female scientists, in fact, may benefit from opposite-gender mentorships in terms of their publication potential and impact throughout their post-mentorship careers.”

The paper drew rather swift criticism and outrage and then outrage at the outrage. Out of all the…outrage some interesting issues arise:

  • Was the methodology of the study sound? Also worth noting that this was a statistical study that found a correlation, how did they conclude a causal link? Related question is whether people are criticizing the methodology because they are interested in rigorous science or because they want to undermine a study whose conclusions they don’t want to believe.
  • More importantly though, even if the study were done soundly, is this an appropriate question to study? Does the question/issue being studied violate some ethical standards? If a study turns out to be true but causes harm, should it be published or even explored in the first place? Are some questions off limits?
  • If only one paper finds an association or correlation can we call this scientific knowledge?
  • How do we, as individuals or communities of knowers, respond when a scientific study violates our personal or political beliefs?

This last question above is basis of the backlash against many of the study’s critics.

Here’s one article that goes over the issue:

A Study Claimed Male Mentors Are More Helpful to Women Scientists—and It Did Not Go Over Well

https://www.thedailybeast.com/a-study-claimed-male-mentors-are-more-helpful-to-women-scientistsand-it-did-not-go-over-well

Some interesting discussions on twitter as well

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A longer thread you can follow here: https://twitter.com/clairlemon/status/1330601601774456832

 


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