Sabbatical Part 4

This fall has has been filled with meetings of all types:

Meeting 1: Pacific Northwest Quantitative Biology (PacNow QB) Meeting
Who: Organized by yours truly and Derek Applewhite.
What: Regional meeting for faculty, researchers, and students interest in quantitative, data-driven biology.
Where: Hosted at Lewis & Clark College (thanks Clarkies!).
When: September 22
Interested? The meeting has been held annually, and includes a student poster session and faculty/researcher invited talks.

Meeting 2: Computational Biology Workshop
Who: Organized by kick-ass computer scientist Layla Oesper.
What: Undergraduate workshop that brought together faculty from five liberal arts institutions to introduce computer science students to applications in biology.
Where: Hosted at Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota (proudly known as the city of “Cows, Colleges, and Contentment”).
When: September 29-30
Interested? No immediate plans for a future workshop of this type, but all the materials are freely available online.

Meeting 3: Consortium for Computing Sciences in Colleges (CCSC-NW) Regional Meeting
Who: Organized by Kelvin Sung and others, including pretty fantastic women in CS: Tammy VanDeGrift, Haiyan Cheng, and Shereen Khoja.
What: Regional meeting for computer science educators at colleges in the Pacific Northwest, with a focus on CS education.
Where: Hosted at University of Washington, Bothell.
When: October 12-13
Interested? This was my first time and I loved meeting new colleagues.  CCSC-NW is usually held in early October every year, and will be held in the Portland area next year.

And then there’s the crazy beautiful weather here in Portland – fantastic view of St. John’s Bridge in North Portland during a hike in Forest Park:



CMU professors resign due to sexism in the workplace

Yet another example of how sexism can creep into academia: as CMU’s business incubator became more prestigious, its female founder’s role became marginalized.

Read an interview with Dr. Blum in NEXT Pittsburgh: Lenore Blum shocked the community with her sudden resignation from CMU. Here she tells us why.

Coverage from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: 2 CMU computer science professors — including founder of Project Olympus incubator — resign

Time-to-parity for women publishing in STEM fields

A recent paper by Holman et al. in PLOS Biology presents a new look at the gender gap in publications for millions of authors from over one hundred countries in over six thousand journals.  You can interact with the data through their  web app.

The gender gap in science: How long until women are equally represented?
Luke Holman, Devi Stuart-Fox, Cindy E. Hauser, PLOS Biology 2018.

The authors present the current author gender ratio, its rate of change per year, and the estimate number of years until the gender ratio comes with 5% of parity.  A few notes below the image…

Here are the first things I noticed:

  1. The estimated percent of women authors “maxes out” at 50% (there’s a Figure 2 that includes fields with a higher percentage of women).
  2. – the preprint server that began as a mathematics and physics venue – has particularly poor percent of women authors.
  3. First author percentages tend to be “ahead of the curve” for each discipline, while last authors lag behind the numbers for all authors.  In many fields, first authors denote who did the most work, and last authors denote who funded the work.  My hunch is that a higher proportion of women get papers as graduate students and postdocs, whereas fewer women make it to senior-level faculty as heads of a lab.
  4. On a positive note, more women are publishing in the fields than before (the rate of change is mostly positive).

The paper’s supplementary figure S3 shows data for Computer Science (from arXiv).  Based on current trajectories, only two sub-categories (Information Theory and Robotics) hope to see gender parity within the next 50-100 years.  We still have a long way to go.

Breakdown of CS faculty hires in 2017

Craig E. Wills of WPI recently wrote a report that describes the outcomes of advertised CS faculty positions across institutions in 2017. It was a follow-up to a previous report on the CS positions advertised in 2017.  The report contains a wealth of information about the number of faculty positions filled at different institutions.

In summary, 244 of the 323 advertised positions were fulfilled, giving an aggregate 75% success rate.  Not surprisingly, this success varied by institution type: 90% of the positions advertised by the top 100 graduate schools according to U.S. News Rankings were filled, whereas other PhD-granting institutions, Masters-granting institutions, and Bachelors-granting institutions had 67%, 66%, and 69% success rates, respectively.

Wills also looked at the faculty positions by research area.  I’ll focus on three:

  • AI/DM/ML: artificial intelligence, computational linguistics, data mining, machine learning, natural language processing, text analytics
  • CompSci: computational biology, computational life science, computational medicine, computational neuroscience (you get the picture…)
  • Security: cryptography, forensics, information assurance, privacy, security

The figure below shows the percent of faculty positions sought for each field on the x-axis and the percent of faculty positions filled for each field on the y-axis:


Points that lie on the red x=y line indicate that the percent of faculty positions filled exactly matched the percent of faculty positions sought.  Let’s look at the three largest outliers:

  • AI/DM/ML was sought for 11% of the positions by area, but ended up filling 21% of the positions.
  • DataSci was sought for 16% of the positions by area, but ended up filling only 7% of the positions.
  • Security was sought for 23% of the positions, but ended up filling only 12% of the positions.

Wills cited many factors associated with these discrepancies, including the fact that nearly a quarter of the positions did not specify an area of interest in their ad.  Additionally, institutions simply did not end up hiring in the areas of interest, either because they could not find candidates in that area or they found better candidates in other areas.  Areas could also be satisfied with multiple fields (for example AI/DM/ML or DataSci accounted for 27% of the positions sought and ended up filling 28% of the positions when combined).

Another factor that Wills considered was the number of Ph.D.s produced by area (based on Taulbee Survey results):


It’s good to be in Security, since only 6% of the Ph.D.s produced are in this area compared to the demand of 23% of the positions sought in this area.  It’s also good to be in AI/DM/ML because over 20% of the faculty positions were filled in this area, even if the job ads didn’t specify it.

Overall, the report was an interesting read – I’m looking forward to seeing these trends over time.

Female Code Breakers

Here’s a fascinating story about the women who helped break codes during WWII.  The article appeared as part of ACM TechNews, and is excerpted from the book Code Girls: The Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers of World War II by Liza Mundy.

via The Secret History of the Female Code Breakers Who Helped Defeat the Nazis – POLITICO Magazine

(Thanks to Barbara Ryder, emeritus professor and former chair of Computer Science at Virginia Tech, for the pointer)