I mentioned last week that The Scientist was looking for people to vote on their favorite science bloggers. It seemed that none of the 7 folks they initially asked to name favorites to kick off the article were women; and that few of the men who contributed to the article named women bloggers (it was about a 3/1 ratio male/female).
This lead to a great deal of discussion and a nice post from Zuska asking where the women bloggers are. The Scientist also released an article about women in science originally scheduled to appear in January this week, which suggests that they either feel guilty, are covering their ass, or both. They certainly noticed all the heat, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
The editor at The Scientist also commented at Grrrl Scientist’s blog:
“I wanted to clarify why there ended up being an all-male list of bloggers in this article. We contacted around 15-20 male and female bloggers in total — based on Technorati authority — across several life sciences topics, such as evolution, pharma, genetics, etc., to try to cater for all the readers’ backgrounds. The bloggers that appear are all the people who replied….”
There was a heated discussion about this topic over at Pharyngula, where the usual canards of “reverse discrimination” and “forced to include less qualified people” have been thrown about. Several people have suggested there simply are no good female science bloggers.*
I feel a bit like Bill Clinton when I say that depends on how you define “science blogging”, or “good.” If a blog is 50% science, is it a science blog? What’s the magic number?
Does the blog content have to be a long, detailed essay about a science topic, or what what I often do, posting a news item with a little commentary? Does it need to only deal with primary literature?
And what is good? How do you know it, other than when you see it?
No one seems to be willing to define it, other than “Good is what I like.” It’s like trying to define “good porn.”
This whole situation made me think of the Schelling Segregation Demo. In the late 70’s Shelling set up his model to examine how very small preferences for “people like me” can over a relatively short time cause complete segregation. His model was re-examined in the 90’s, and found to be pretty robust.
So, you’re a white dude. You set up a meeting at a conference. Or, you compile a list of blogs. You invite…your friends. Who are people like you. It doesn’t have to be a conscious decision to exclude anyone. But the results will be exclusionary.
And that is why you have to examine everything you do to see if there is a pattern of exclusion. And work actively against it.
And all of this is why I think the suggestion that no women were included because there aren’t any good women science bloggers is utter bullshit.
*Disclaimer: I don’t think I’m a “good science blogger”; I shoot for “interesting.” I have rather a fringe niche, so don’t expect to ever hit the big time :D
I’m pretty sure I am female, though.