Scientists At Work Photos

I always love a good photograph…and here’s Nature‘s 2018 #ScientistsAtWork winner.

More information and other amazing runner-up photos are in the full article: A photo celebration of scientists at work by Jack Leeming.


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.

Changing Demographics of the Biomedical Workforce

Thanks to Mike the Mad Biologist’s blog, this article (from January 2017) resurfaced:

The new face of US science : Nature News & Comment

This study looks at census data to determine the demographics of PhD recipients in the biological or medical sciences.  The authors characterize a biomedical workforce that is fundamentally different from previous generations.  Their infographic contains the main trends:


Heggeness et al, The new face of US science. Nature Comment, 2017




Marie Tharp, oceanographic cartographer

From Mike the Mad Biologist’s blog, I learned about Marie Tharp, the woman who mapped the ocean floor.  The amazing story is described in the articles below:

Seeing Is Believing: How Marie Tharp Changed Geology Forever (

Four facts about Marie Tharp, the woman whose art mapped the bottom of the sea (


Credit: Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and the estate of Marie Tharp, from the article linked below.


Popular Genes

Nature recently had a news feature documenting the most popular genes in the human genome by Elie Doglin.  In addition to a list of the most popular genes and their location in the human genome, the article discusses the history of popular genes.  Genes that became popular signaled new scientific discoveries at the time.  This was a fun read.


Source: Peter Kerpedjiev/NCBI-NLM (from The most popular genes in the human genome)


Fixing science, one researcher at a time

A recent column in Nature caught my attention today.  The piece, No researcher is too junior to fix science by John Tregoning, talks about the problematic competitiveness of science.  Tregoning ends the column with an appeal to combat this current scientific culture.

Let’s strive instead to stand together. One science historian called last month’s science march unprecedented in its scale and breadth. That energy and optimism need not dissipate — it should be funnelled into making the system function better. The pay-off might not be immediate, but let’s play the long game so that all can win.

I couldn’t have put it better.