Hundreds of researchers have signed a letter that's to be sent to Science to protest the journal's propping up of "damaging stereotypes about underrepresented groups in STEM fields," Retraction Watch reports.
The letter, written by Aradhna Tripati, Jennifer Glass, and Lenny Teytelman, comes in the wake of a string of incidents at Science or its related publications, especially at its career advice column.
"I chose to write the letter because I appreciate how damaging the unintentional reinforcement of stereotypes can be," Tripati, a geologist at the University of California, Los Angeles, tells BuzzFeed News.
Last July, she and her co-authors note, the cover of Science featured headless, transgender women of color with a caption about staying ahead of HIV/AIDS. The image, they note, suggests the women were sex workers. This, they say in their letter, feeds "into stereotypes associating prostitution and HIV/AIDS with three underrepresented communities — women, people of color, and the transgender community — along with its general harmful representation of disembodied female bodies," according to Retraction Watch.
While Marcia McNutt, Science's editor in chief, who has been tapped recently as the next president of the National Academy of Sciences, said after the cover appeared that it "was not intended to offend anyone, but rather to highlight the fact that there are solutions for the AIDS crisis for this forgotten but at-risk group."
However, "some editors were not in the apologetic spirit," as Retraction Watch says, as Jim Austin, the now-former editor of Science Careers, tweeted from a now-deleted account: "Am I the only one who finds moral indignation really boring?" Austin resigned July 3.
Then at Science Careers this past June, virologist Alice Huang, a former AAAS president, responded to a young researcher's query about her advisor's wandering gaze by saying that the young researcher should put up with it and focus on her science. This column was retracted after an outcry and the journal noted that it was "inconsistent with our extensive institutional efforts to promote the role of women in science."
The "final straw," as BuzzFeed puts it, for the trio writing the letter came last week when Science ran an article in which the University of Toronto's Eleftherios Diamandis discusses how he got ahead at work by relying on his wife, also a PhD scientist, to take on "the bulk of the domestic responsibilities."
The letter says such advice supports "gendered career roles that reinforce sexist stereotypes."
Retraction Watch showed the letter to McNutt, and in a statement, she says that "Science and Science Careers in particular have had a couple of missteps, which we regret." She adds that AAAS offers a number of programs to support the careers of women, minorities, and people with disabilities.
BuzzFeed and Retraction Watch both note that more than 350 scientists have co-signed the letter.