Scientists of the future

The Intel Science Talent Search has announced the names of 300 students who’ve qualified as semifinalists. The 40 finalists will be announced on Jan. 27. As usual, many are Indo- and Asian-Americans. I counted five Chens and six Lins. In addition, 46 percent of semifinalists are female. That’s nothing new. In 2007, the breakdown was 50-50.

Update:  Bias doesn’t explain the dearth of women in physics and engineering (or the over-representation of women in psychology and veterinary medicine) writes Christina Hoff Sommers, the author of The Science on Women and Science, on a WashPost blog.

In The Mathematics of Sex: How Biology and Society Conspire to Limit Talented Women and Girls, Cornell University psychologists Stephen Ceci and Wendy Williams “demonstrate that the research at the heart of the gender bias movement is riddled with fallacies and inconsistencies,” Sommers writes.

About Joanne


  1. From the blog post:

    That means finding creative and effective ways to encourage gifted students of both sexes to pursue careers in science and technology. But it also entails reigning in a small but highly influential lobby that aims to make academic science a new playing field for gender politics.

    There’s a problem with this. If we accept that say, a 4:1 men to women ratio is “natural” in the mathematical sciences (figure made up), societal bias will change that into a 50:1 ratio. We humans inevitably turn probable outcomes in certain expectations. (It’s just the way our brains are wired.)

    Given that human bias inevitably magnifies natural bias, acceptance that the ratio will highly uneven is tantamount to acceptance that ratio will be essentially zero.

    Thus I consider it entirely necessary that we have a push from some quarters for acting as if there are no biological differences to counterbalance the overwhelming society-wide push that assumes girls/women can’t do hard science.

  2. Two years ago, a friend and his wife, both scientist doing postdoctoral work at an Ivy League institution, were coming to the end of their contracts. They had applied to multiple other postdoctoral positions, but unfortunately they both got offers but always in different cities. When they tried negotiating with another Ivy League school, a professor told him that he should accept the position and his wife could stay at home supporting him. Needless to say, they didn’t go there, but found another institution that would take both.

    So I am skeptical, to say the least, when I hear people proclaim that their is no more bias in science academia.

  3. Jason Becker says:

    I wanted to draw your attention to another science competition– the Siemens (formerly Siemens-Westinghouse) competition.

    Unlike Intel, which examines demographics, your parent’s education, SAT scores, school GPA and rank, Siemens judges all of the submissions blindly. The quality of your research and research paper are all that matters in the first round, and in the following rounds, it’s the presentation of your research and ability to answer questions about your research that matters. Intel asks random questions about other science and problem solving at later rounds.

    One is a measure of total student performance and quiz bowl tied into a research paper, whereas one measures actual research accomplishments and skills.

    As a past National Finalist at the Siemens Competition, I can firmly say that I believe their format is far better at identifying budding young scientists and I wish that the press didn’t ignore their competition in favor of Intel’s.

  4. Soapbox0916 says:

    I am a female scientist working outside the science field because I wanted to move back to my hometown and live near family. Science jobs are scarce in my hometown.

    I sort of enjoy what I do for a living, but I am basically a social worker/government peon now working with mostly females in a stereotypical female field. I really do miss being a scientist at times, but I don’t want to move. Gender may play a role in life decisions, but I would be a scientist if I could get a science job where I currently live.

    Bias is still well alive and should never be undestimated.

  5. Bob What About? says:

    I am amused at the “scientific” assessments in Comments 1, 2, and 4 above. None of this is very complicated. If one believes that “equality” means equality of outcomes, then by all means create and enforce rules to enforce those outcomes. This is a legitimate approach that can lead to a “fair” but static society not unlike the operation of bees or ants. Alternatively, if “equality” means equality of opportunity, then innate ability will come through — on average, of course — leading to the greatest satisfaction of global human potential. The latter course is not without local defects, distortions, and outright malice. However, the former course is guaranteed to suck the life out of what it means to be human.

  6. However, the former course is guaranteed to suck the life out of what it means to be human.

    I’m not certain how you get demanding equality of outcome from poster 1, 2, and 4, but I’m curious about how discriminating against men (in this case) sucks the life out of what it means to be human, but discriminating against women is just a distortion.

    In other words, discrimination against me is a tragedy for the human race, while discrimination against you is just an unfortunate but unavoidable outcome. At least your up-front about it.

    If we’re bound to have some discrimination (and, being human, I suspect that we are), I’d prefer to see it go both ways. I strongly suspect that that is where the minimum of total amount of discrimination lies as it becomes clear that no one system of discrimination has complete social dominance and acceptance.


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