NIH Funding by Gender – A Rollercoaster Ride

Nature came out with a News article reporting that, for women who land a large NIH grant, their mid- and late-career funding tracks about the same as men.

Leaky pipeline for women scientists dries up after they win first big grant

Sounds promising, right?  But there’s more to the story.  The original article published in PNAS by Lisa A. Hechtman et al, gives more details (including those listed below).

Good news: women now earn more doctorates in the life sciences, comprising 55% of the recipients in 2016.  This trend has held since 2006, according to the NSF’s statistics.

Bad news: according to the same table, the gender gaps are still large for physical & earth sciences, math & CS, and engineering.

But that’s for another post.

Bad news: despite the gender parity in doctorate recipients, women are underrepresented among assistant professors (even accounting for a postdoctoral research delay).

Bad news: women submit less than one-third of NIH research proposals, according to the NIH.

 

Good news: women who do submit NIH research proposals are as successful as men in obtaining first-time grants.

Good news: the paper studied “funding longevity” among first-time grant awardees between 1991 and 2010, and found that women’s success in securing funding over their careers in this cohort were nearly as good as men (there’s still a gender gap, but it’s small).

Bad news: other gender differences exist when comparing men and women in this cohort of investigators, though the differences are smaller than the previous numbers.  For example, women are less likely to attempt to renew grants and are less successful in the NIH grant renewal process, which is a factor that leads to sustained funding for both genders.

So a mix of good news and bad news, some signs of progress, and indications of where career support may stop the “leaky pipeline.”

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The Ada Lace Books

Wired just came out with an article about the Ada Lace children’s books, written by Emily Calandrelli.  I love the nod to Ada Lovelace, a mathematician who wrote the first computer programs — in the mid-1800s.

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You can buy one book (or the whole series) on Amazon.

 

Twitter

An online presence has become an important professional networking tool, and offers a low-stakes way to connect with the public. The social media giant Twitter has been leveraged for this purpose, and articles at venues such as PLOS Biology and AAAS have promoted Twitter and other social media for use by scientists.  At a time where we increasingly emphasize Open Science and Open Data and manuscript preprints are becoming commonplace (even in biology), Twitter is yet another way to communicate your research quickly.

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Me, crawling out from under a rock.

So, I decided to join Twitter (@anna_m_ritz).  I know, I’m slow to the game.  Joining is like jumping off the high dive — social media is something I was used to doing a long time ago, and something I can do again but it’s going to take some work.  I’m getting the hang of it — the following, the liking, the retweeting, the tweeting — and I was struck by some immediate reactions. Naturally, I thought I’d write a blog post.

 

I immediately felt more connected to my scientific community.  Reading tweets about scientific accomplishments (preprints, talks, posters, publications, grants, awards) and frustrations (data availability, proposal rejections, sexism in STEM) put these ideas in the context of happening right now.

Twitter is the place to advertise, even in science.  This means tweeting your recent manuscript, a new postdoctoral position in your lab, or an upcoming talk at a meeting.

There is so much to catch up on.  My list of bookmarked tweets of relevant preprints grows by the day.  I’m comforted by the fact that these preprints are papers I’d see months from now and need to read then. So I’m saving my future self time…?

Most of the people I follow are men. For now.  This is depressing, and came about because I started with following my computer science colleagues who are, let’s face it, mostly men.  I’ve been seeking out women in the field to follow, and hope to achieve a better balance here.

Sabbatical Part 2

We are right smack in the middle of summer — my undergraduate research group is doing great as they wrap up the last few weeks of their projects, with plans to present work at conferences.  Keep an eye out for posters (and even papers!) at some of these venues:

Last week I had the chance to attend ISMB in Chicago, where I met with old and new colleagues in computational biology.  My postdoc Ibrahim Youssef also presented a poster on his recent work on signaling pathway reconstruction algorithms.  The weather cooperated and Chicago was wonderful.

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View from Michigan Avenue – the ISMB venue location was fantastic.

Sabbatical, you do not disappoint.

Start of Sabbatical

It’s official — my junior sabbatical (technically “junior leave”) has begun.  I’m free from teaching, college service, and academic advising for a whole year.  I’m being paid part-time, but it’s worth it!

In addition to the mountain of research-related goals I’ve set for myself, I also want to get outside and explore more of the area.  I’ve succeeded so far, spending the first weekend visiting colleagues at UC Merced and hiking in Yosemite.

20180519_125624Ok, so not every weekend’s going to get views like this one.  I’ve been also doing some long bike rides in Portland (long for me, at least) — part of the 10 best rides in Portland, a map that has quickly become my go-to guide.  Last weekend I biked to the summit of McKenzie Pass — the views were as good as I had heard, including the vast lava fields near the top.

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So far, the start of sabbatical has been great.

P.S. My summer students are maintaining a blog of their research – The Pathway Not Taken – check it out!

 

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.

Prickly Women

The Inside Higher Ed blog just had a short opinion article by M. Soledad Caballero and Aimee Knupsky at Allegheny College about the praise of “Prickly Women.”  A quote from the article appears below.

Why academe should honor prickly women (opinion)

They are known throughout history as the “killjoys,” the “ice queens,” the “hysterics,” the “ball-busters.” They are the “Prickly Women” — the women who don’t let things go, who stand up for themselves and others, and who question the status-quo of structural inequities and outdated institutional practices. They stick out decidedly among the “bro-hood” of academic administration.

Despite the negative connotations and perceptions they incite, Prickly Women have exactly the kind of insight and persistence needed as the crises in higher education continue to mount.