After the furore, farrago and stramash of Prof Alessandro Strumia talking about sex differences, I went back to the BBC last night to read about other news. Of course, my eye was caught by a story entitled: The Women standing up for Science https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-45717060
There were 3 interviews with women university researchers, apparently selected because they had tweeted criticisms about the lecture.
Dr Jennifer Rohn, cell biologist, University College London
Prof Strumia’s comments: If you took them at face value, they could be quite demoralising – he is a big-shot professional. Most of what he presented has been debunked and there’s been a swift universal rebuttal from the science community of his comments.
Dr Jess Wade, physicist, Imperial College London:
Prof Strumia’s comments: They are really damaging to the community. Most of us realise that having diversity, having people who think differently to you, is so important to research. If you only have people who look and think the same, you will never progress.
Dr Sylvia McLain, biophysicist, University of Oxford
Prof Strumia’s comments: I think he’s weak and feeling threatened. In nature, some oak trees kill off small oak trees so they can grow bigger and stronger.
Of course, all three may have said much more, but it is odd that none of that was reported, when a couple of killer blows on the content of the lecture would have received wide publicity. I looked for other things they might have said elsewhere, and in one case found better particulars:
Dr Jess Wade, reported in the New Scientist, who had attended the conference, said of Strumia’s lecture:
Sadly, the event was overshadowed by a talk given by Alessandro Strumia at the University of Pisa, Italy, a long-standing member of the CERN collaboration. He had told organisers he would present a historical look at women’s representation in academic publishing. Instead, he insulted the professors coordinating the meeting, the audience of young women and, now, women scientists all over the world.
In a nutshell; he claimed that women weren’t as good at physics, were promoted too early and received disproportionate funding given their ability. Unlike my talk, backed by evidence, he cited a bunch of poorly thought out gender science from right-wing thinkers. These included James Damore, who was fired from Google last year for holding similar views.
The is an interesting comment, particularly the notion that declaring researchers to be “right-wing thinkers” is a way of refuting a proposition. Dr Wade is working to get more women into studying science, which is a good thing. On the issue of sex differences, one of her stated sources on sex differences is Angela Saini’s “Inferior”.
Other tweeters again suggested that Strumia’s comments were factually wrong, outdated, irrelevant, discredited and so on, but without providing references, presumably because all those criticisms were so well known that further explanation was unnecessary.
If I can find any more information on the counter-arguments, I will let you know.