Supporting the movement toward gender equity in STEM

Diverse faculties are vital. In research, they bring different perspectives to bear on projects, supporting innovation and discovery. In education, they foster a greater range of young minds thanks to their broader understanding of marginalization and privilege. While some advances toward gender equity in STEM faculties have been made, women remain greatly under-represented, particularly women of color.

The Association for Women in Science (AWIS) recognizes the serious long-term impact of this lack of diverse perspectives in research and education. They’re working toward equity in STEM, and this year, they’ve launched an exciting initiative to further that crucial goal: the ADVANCE Resource and Coordination (ARC) Network Community. It is intended to bring together diverse audiences, including scholars, educators, practitioners and researchers, to collaborate on, discuss and implement change.

At Mendeley, we firmly believe in the goals of the AWIS and are proud to be supporting them. We have created a new dedicated online group for the ARC Network to help members from across the globe connect. They can share both ideas and resources, including reports, articles, datasets and videos, as well as organizing online events and learning opportunities.

In addition, Elsevier’s preprint service SSRN will host a dedicated STEM First Look series to support the initiative. This will be a quarterly digest of STEM equity content and early-stage research, including presentations, white papers, videos, podcasts and webinars.

Mendeley and SSRN are designed for connection, sharing and collaboration, and that’s exactly what the ARC Network needed when they approached us. As Dr. Heather Metcalf, AWIS Chief Research Officer and ARC Network Principal Investigator explains, “with the online research collaboration tools generously provided by Elsevier, the ARC Network will facilitate the early adoption and implementation of promising practices and sharing of new research findings. Providing these opportunities broadens our collective impact on STEM equity in unprecedented ways.”

Gaby Appleton, Managing Director of Mendeley and Researcher Products said of the collaboration “Supporting researchers and educators is the core vision for Mendeley. We’re delighted to be part of the ARC Network initiative because it means supporting a healthy future for scholarship and innovation in STEM.”

Find out more about AWIS here and their ADVANCE Resource and Coordination (ARC) Network Community here

Find out more about SSRN here

Avoiding Research Pitfalls: Kristen Marhaver Talks@Mendeley


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Last week we welcomed Dr Kristen Marhaver to Talks@Mendeley. She travelled all the way from the Carmabi Research Institute in Curacao – one of the oldest research centres in the Caribbean where she studies coral reefs – to discuss how researchers can communicate their work more effectively, and what pitfalls they are likely to encounter along the way.

She started off by explaining that her keen interest in Science Communication (and Digital Science in particular) came from a passion for the ocean, her concern over its collapse, and a wish to make a positive contribution towards conservation.

She expanded on the theme of her recent Wired Article, talking about the problems that come from treating scientific research as a disposable commodity rather than a durable good, to be built incrementally over time.

Science News

“We have this situation where a paper that took 5 years to produce, which addresses 500 years of biology, gets 3 days of press attention. My question is, what happens in day 4? The media noise simply doesn’t match the severity of the problem.”

The main problem, she believes, stems from the fact that science is not the news, but gets treated as such. And by approaching it as an ephemeral commodity, we’re doing a huge disservice to the research community and society in general.

“Science News shouldn’t be something that ages. It shouldn’t be taboo to talk about science that was published last week, that is just absurd.”

She also pointed out that Twitter is becoming a useful aggregator of science news:

“We’ve reached a sort of speed limit on Twitter in we can’t produce enough news for a new tweet every five seconds, but that then creates a space for citizens to float things they believe are important back up to the surface, hence the #InCaseYouMissedIt phenomenon”

Bad Translation

Kristen also highlighted the problems around diluting or sensationalising scientific messages in order to make it more palatable or newsworthy. Since researchers don’t usually get to go on book tours or press tours to talk about their message, there is often a real danger of their work getting irrevocably misinterpreted along the way.

“The main issue here is that scientific research is so specialized that there will be very few people in the world, apart from the original researcher, who are qualified to interpret and critically analyse that output, and to translate it to a broader audience.”

There is, however, hope in the fact that we’re increasingly seeing the Internet acting as a platform for expert translators of this content.

“You now have things like Altmetrics aggregating all the chatter around scientific research. When I first started talking about this a few years ago, there was really no way for the average citizen to look at a piece of research and figure out what gravitas it had, and what its real importance was.”

However, she believes that altmetrics should not merely focus solely on counting mentions and other social interactions, but should prioritise aggregated content, curating expert opinions in such as way as to make research clearer and more accessible to the average person. At the moment, Altmetrics is something that is on the radar of the scientific community, but not exactly common knowledge to the general public. And that, says Marhaver, is something that really needs to change.

“Every paper should come with a lay summary. This kind of tool is something that everybody should know about, and should be on every search search bar: Tell me more about this research in a language that makes sense to me

That is actually something that chimes with some recent initiative by Mendeley and Elsevier, like the recently launched STM Digest , which aims to provide lay translations of scientific papers produced by experts with in-depth knowledge of the subject.

OA Fundamentalism

“It’s hard for conservationists to pick their battles wisely, but sometimes you have to let small things go to win the bigger fights.”

Kristen draws parallels here with the Open Access debate, saying there are papers that people simply need to have access to, and that some content needs OA more urgently than others. This is something that scientists have actually started to address by self-sorting based on OA importance, publishing papers with broader societal impact into Open Access journals and more specialized content in others. She recognises that Elsevier initiatives such as Atlas are a good start, but wants them to go further

“My dream is that all the big publishing houses took a small percentage of the most important papers in areas such as food security and conservation, things that they recognised that the public really needed to know about, and just opened those up?”

Talking to Ourselves

“We used to be in the proverbial scientific Ivory Tower talking to ourselves and it was considered shameful and even corrupting for scientists to mingle with the common folk”

We like to think that things have moved on since then because these conversations now happens on the Internet, but the danger is they don’t actually manage to reach the general public.

“You can’t simply rely on creating social networks around scientific content because content is too rare, if your content is PDFs, you don’t have new ones to add very often, unlike Twitter and Facebook. We also need to ask ourselves whether we’re creating great things with our knowledge, or are we just making more click bait?”

Q&A

Before going on to answer questions from the Mendeley team, Kristen finished on a positive note:

“Science Communication is booming, and baby corals are growing.”

And that just has to be a good thing.

Is Space Exploration Worth It? Mendeley Debate at the Cambridge Union Society

Space Exploration

Mendeley is sponsoring another thought-provoking debate at the Cambridge Union Society on February 5th, 2015. Scientists and charity experts will come together to place the necessity of space exploration in the context of other pressing global issues, with the motion being put forward is “This House Believes that Space Exploration is Worth the Cost”.

As governments worldwide are faced with tough funding decisions, what is the argument for prioritising this expensive area of research? Should the burden continue to be shouldered by taxpayers or will the emerging trend for commercial space exploration – spearheaded by Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic and Elon Musk’s SpaceX – change everything? Google’s recent $1bn investment in SpaceX certainly points to an increased appetite in the private sector for exploring the final frontier.

Term Card

Back in October, we sponsored a debate on the issue of The Right to be Forgotten, which you can watch in full below.

This time around, the line-up of speakers discussing the issue includes the Chief Executive of the UK Space Agency, Dr David Parker, Science Fiction writer Professor Alastair Reynolds and Aspiring Astronaut and Entrepreneur Christine Corbett Moran, who is also a member of the SpaceX propulsion group.

Unfortunately, previously announced speaker Adriana Ocampo, Lead Program Executive at NASA’S New Frontiers Program was unable to attend due to health reasons. Although we’re extremely sorry not to be able to welcome her in person on this occasion, she will be contributing to our Women in STEM series, so do subscribe to the Mendeley YouTube channel for her upcoming video, coming straight from NASA Headquarters! We want to keep sharing these stories from people like Adriana and Christine, to support and inspire the next generation of female scientists.

If you have any questions or comments, get in touch via Twitter (@cambridgeunion @MendeleyTalks, or @Mendeley_com) and do tune into the Live Stream from the Cambridge Union on the 5th!

Inspiring Women in Technology

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By: Paula Clerkin, 3rd year CS with AI student at the University of Nottingham

As a third and final year, I am having to come to terms with the end of my time at university. It’s pretty daunting thinking about leaving this lovely bubble of support and finding a proper job in the real world.

Over the past few years, I have tallied up a rather impressive number of attendances to careers events across the country. I like to think that I’ve learned new things at each event but I find I’ve always come away feeling a little disheartened and overwhelmed by the tough requirements and competition. These events manage to, rather heavy handily coerce attendees into applying for internships and grad schemes using impressive facts, figures and shiny benefits. These careers events are missing something. They don’t inspire their attendees.

Although I’ve been to many career events, I still don’t know what path I should take. This is why I am organising Inspire Women In Technology (WIT).

Inspire WIT is a day to celebrate the female individuals working within the technology industry. We have fascinating speakers from all walks of life talking about their personal experiences of working in the industry. They all have different backgrounds and areas, yet they share the same drive and passion for technology.

I find every one of our speakers inspiring. These are the ladies that I adamantly follow on Twitter, I read their blogs and I aspire to do what they do. But I want to know more; I want to know about how they got where they are, the stories behind the decisions they’ve made and I want to listen to their advice. And I know I’m not the only one.

I think it’s about time there was a day for everyone; tech enthusiasts, non-programmers, students at college and university, women and men, to come together and see how truly vast and impressive the technology industry is and how everyone can be part of it.

But it’s not just about talks. The second half of the day will consist of workshops, mini-events and networking opportunities. An Introduction to Programming for Beginners run by Code Club, How to Tackle a Technical Interview by Bloomberg and a live Ethical Hack in 10 by CapitalOne, are just a few of the workshops attendees can go to. There are of course and hardware hack and an all-important careers talk. There truly is something for everyone.

Although networking sounds formal, Inspire WIT attendees will be able to meet and mingle with representatives from the best technology companies around. I have added mini-events such as retro game stations, Oculus’ and a photo booth. There is no pressure, no speed-networking; the emphasis is on taking your time, asking all your questions and most importantly, being inspired and having fun!

I want Inspire WIT to be an opportunity for over 200 attendees to discover their potential and learn more about such a fascinating industry. If there is only one thing that Inspire WIT helped just one person discover, then we have done our job.