Cath Waller writes at Nature's SpotOn blog that she recently attended an ecology workshop that had a program to connect female mentors and mentees. She applied to be both, but was told there was no one to mentor her — that there are always more mentee applications than there are mentors. "I think this says something about how we see ourselves as female scientists," she writes. "We understand the power of networking and are keen to learn from our peers but we don't always have the confidence to put ourselves 'out there,' even when it is in the relatively safe environment of offering support to other women in a similar scientific discipline."
Waller adds that female scientists can avail themselves of tools like LinkedIn and Twitter to grow their online presence and develop confidence in expressing themselves. In addition, such tools also allow researchers to be mentors to far-flung mentees. "My mentee is located almost 400 miles away so we are exploring the use of online tools to create a strong communication framework. Hopefully I can then, in some way, help her to avoid the insecurities I have dealt with and offer support as she develops her career," she adds.
Research councils in the UK have shifted toward funding doctoral training programs at a handful of top institutions, Anna Fazackerley writes at The Guardian, leaving some smaller schools to wonder about their role. "What they are doing is creating a catch-22. If they limit research council studentships to the big players, that limits the scoring in the [Research Excellence Framework], and if you don't score highly in that you don't get studentships in the future," says Paul O'Prey, the vice-chancellor of Roehampton University in London. Some worry, Fazackerley adds, that other research grants would also be affected.
Others, though, say students benefit from an environment of scholarship. "Research students need more than a good supervisor; they need deep engagement in the full breadth of their discipline. That can only happen in an environment where there is a critical mass of teachers and like-qualified students," adds Sarah Worthington, a Cambridge University law professor.
Women with degrees in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields are not exempt from the wage gap between men and women, writes Katie Valentine at Science Progress.
A report issued this month by the American Association of University Women finds that female college graduates experience a pay gap — earning 82 cents for every dollar a male counterpart earns — as soon as one year after graduation. Women earn less even when college major is controlled for.
Valentine argues that the difference in pay and employment has three facets: Firstly, a small number of women choose to major in STEM fields, then, of those that do, many don't pursue a STEM career, and, finally, those that do pursue such a career are paid less than their male counterparts.
A number of steps may be taken to try to pique girls' and women's interest in STEM fields, but Valentine says "more could be done to make working conditions better for women once they do enter a career — whether in STEM or in other fields."
The US National Institutes of Health's Deputy Director for Extramural Research Sally Rockey writes at her Rock Talk blog that she has been getting a number of questions about what activities make up "official duties" for postdocs — most particularly whether they including going to or presenting at a conference. "I think everyone would agree that attending a professional meeting and presenting research results is a critical part of a postdoc's expected responsibilities," she says.
Indeed, she adds that postdocs supported by research grants can attend meetings as part of their duties. "The guidelines allow compensation for all activities that contribute to and are intimately related to the work supported by the award. … Delivering special lectures, writing reports and articles, participating in seminars, consulting with colleagues and graduate students, and attending meetings and conferences can be supported according to these guidelines," she says. Similar activities are allowed for postdocs supported by National Research Service Award stipends, Rockey adds.
While the proportion of female authors on scholarly papers is lower than their representation in academia as a whole, that proportion is on the rise, reports the Chronicle of Higher Education. Researchers at the University of Washington sifted through articles archived in JSTOR to determine whether there were gender-based differences in scholarly publishing and whether those differences changed over time.
The researchers, including Jennifer Jacquet, analyzed about 2 million papers published during the course of 345 years and found that 22 percent of all authors were women. They also noted that women were slightly less likely to be the first author on a paper. The Chronicle says, though, that by 2010, the proportion of women as first authors — about 30 percent — reached the same level of female authors in general.
"But those gains have not been mirrored in the last-author position, which is of particular importance in the biological sciences," it adds. In 2010, 23 percent of last authors were female — for cell and molecular biology papers published between 1990 and 2010, women made up 30 percent of the authors, but 16.5 percent of the senior authors.
The video includes interviews with medical genetics trainees and day-in-the-life footage of patient care and other medical genetics activities. ACMG is also distributing it to medical schools and medical genetics training programs around the country.
Genetics and genomics "are changing how we practice medicine and will increasingly guide day-to-day healthcare decisions," says Bruce Korf, president of the ACMG Foundation for Genetic and Genomic Medicine, in an ACMG press release.
He adds that the video is intended to inform medical students about the different career paths they can choose: "from a clinical genetics residency to combined residency programs of genetics together with internal medicine, pediatrics, OB-GYN, or maternal fetal medicine."
A contributing factor to the leaky pipeline of women leaving the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics career path is bias, writes The American Prospect.
Indeed, a recent PNAS article from Yale University researchers found that faculty members, when reviewing applications for a lab manger position, judged the one with a male name as more competent than the same application with a female name appended to it.
"These are the biases that everyone holds," Fatima Goss Graves, vice president for education and employment at the National Women's Law Center, tells the Prospect. She adds that such biases "disadvantage the female students. Already, in some cases, they're taking a leap of faith in going into a field in which they're making up a small percentage."
The Prospect notes that the main challenge is getting people to realize that they hold such biases and then to try to deal with them. "Members of science fields tend to pride themselves on objectivity and their dedication to meritocracy, something that for years has helped perpetuate the myth that if women were really as good as their male colleagues, they would have risen to the top of the field on the merits of their work," it says.
A New York-based technology manager tells the Prospect that the idea of a meritocracy is a lie. "I genuinely believed that you could test for technical skills and show in a real black-and-white way whether [an applicant could] succeed," the manager says. "One day the curtain fell from my eyes."
The new fiscal year started at the beginning of this week, and the folks at the National Institute of General Medical Sciences' Feedback Loop blog offer answers to common questions and concerns about the turn of the fiscal year. Laurie Tompkins and Joe Gindhart point out that NIGMS only funds a few R01s after its September Advisory Council meeting. "Most pending applications are funded after January 1, depending on when NIH gets its budget appropriation from Congress," they write.
Tompkins and Gindhart also note that individuals with grant anniversary dates at the beginning of December may receive awards late because funding guidance and financial programs have to be established and sometimes because the National Institutes of Health is funded by a temporary continuing resolution rather than a full-year budget.
And, they add that sometimes continuation budgets may also be reduced due to NIGMS being funded through a temporary continuing resolution. "This is because we must fund conservatively in case of a further CR or an appropriation that is at a lower level. The likelihood of a temporary budget cut is highest in December and January, since the probability that NIH will be on a CR is highest at the beginning of a fiscal year," Tompkins and Gindhart write. "It's possible that some or all of the budget reductions will be restored after NIH gets an appropriation."
It's good to keep up with what's going on in your field, even if you've recently found yourself without a position. Bitesize Bio's Ellen Moran offers four tips for keeping up. First, she says to stay in contact with your former coworkers and boss, even stopping by to say hello, and then she notes that keeping up with people on social networks can be a boon. Additionally, Moran suggests setting up email alerts based on keywords so that you stay on top of the latest researcher. Lastly, she says to take advantage of the time you have. "Being out of work isn't exactly ideal, but it can be a good opportunity to finally write that paper you have been putting on the back burner. It could also be an ideal time to write some reviews, or, if you wish to get back into research, to write some research grants," she adds.
There is still bias against women in science, as a recent paper from a group at Yale University has reported, and editorials from a panel of experts at The New York Times explore what can be done to encourage women to pursue science careers. While the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Nancy Hopkins calls for what she dubs "affirmative effort" — to overcome unconscious bias against women in science — other panelists champion different approaches.
Janelle Wilson, a middle school science teacher, says that while girls are interested in science, they need better role models, especially as they begin to worry about how they appear to their peers. Similarly, Dennis Berkey, the president of Worcester Polytechnic Institute, argues female students need to be in leadership roles. At his school, he writes, "enrollment, retention and graduation rates for female students are significantly above national benchmarks" and he attributes that progress to such efforts. Further, Jeniffer Harper-Taylor, president of the Siemens Foundation, says there need to be programs that educate faculty about bias against women in science, and put programs in place to counter such bias, like limiting professors' hiring authority. "On a broader cultural level, we also need to counter the myth that girls don't do science," Harper-Taylor adds.
However, Carrie Lukas from the Independent Women's Forum says there is little evidence of systematic discrimination against women in science, and she notes that more women now enroll in college than men.
Disagreements over who goes where on an author list are common, but deciding ahead of time how credit will be doled out can limit those arguments, writes Amber Dance at Nature Jobs.
"The force of the dispute usually revolves around the feeling that whatever they did was more important than what the other person did," Stanford University's Stephen Kosslyn tells her.
Some journals and institutions have guidelines regarding authorship, and many of those are based on ones developed by the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors, Dance adds. According to the ICMJE criteria, to be an author, a researcher "must have been involved in designing the project, collecting data or analysing the results; they must have participated in drafting or revising the manuscript; and they must have approved the final, published paper," Dance says.
The guidelines put forth by the Committee on Publication Ethics suggest that researchers discuss and choose who will be an author on a project's resulting paper before any work is done — and to revisit the question as the project progresses, Dance adds.
Even with guidelines, disputes can arise, and Dance notes that some researchers seek out a third part to mediate. Additionally, credit can be shared as in co-senior authorships.
Former National Institute of General Medical Sciences Director Jeremy Berg shares some advice on obtaining grants from the US National Institutes of Health and more in a two-part interview with Paul Knoepfler at the Knoepfler Lab Stem Cell Blog.
Berg, who left NIGMS last year to join the University of Pittsburgh as a faculty member in the Department of Computational and Systems Biology shares some tips on submitting grants in part one of the interview, noting that "applicants cannot afford to submit applications that have avoidable flaws."
He describes the NIH funding system as a meritocracy, but notes that there are some "caveats."
For example, "comparing an application from an established well-funded investigator with one from a starting assistant professor is no simple matter" because the more experienced investigator will have "considerable preliminary data and have a track record to relieve many concerns about the feasibility of the proposed project whereas the starting assistant professor will have fewer preliminary data and a shorter track record, but may have a more creative idea."
When faced with budget cuts, NIGMS "felt that it was better to fund more applications rather than to fund applications at the full requested level" because "having more laboratories and projects active seemed to us to be a better strategy," Berg says.
In part two, he weighs in on the sequestration threat to the NIH budget, noting that 80 percent of the NIH budget is already committed to ongoing grants and fixed costs, so a projected 8.2 percent cut due to sequestration would be taken out of the remaining 20 of the budget available for new and competing grants, which corresponds to a 41 percent cut for these grants.
Berg says it's "crucial that the scientific community work hard and effectively to communicate the impact of continued sub-inflationary increases in the NIH budget will have on scientific medical program and American scientific leadership and competitiveness."
With online mentorship, a six-week-long program sponsored by Maria Klawe, the president of Harvey Mudd College, aims to support young women who are interested in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math by connecting them to women working in those fields, reports The New York Times. Universities like Harvard, MIT, and Stanford are part of the program, called Women in Technology Sharing Online or WitsOn, providing mentors and students alike, and the Times notes that Klawe has also lined up astronaut Mae Jemison and Cisco CTO Padmasree Warrior to participate.
"Young women in STEM, more than young men, have a lot of questions about what kind of career they'll have," Dennis Berkey, president of Worcester Polytechnic Institute, tells the Times, "whether the rewards are based on performance or the old boys' network, whether it'll let them make a positive impact on the world, and how it will relate to their aspirations for family."