RR Paper progress, Data correction paper progress, and some thoughts on Google’s gender balance issues

Stating the obvious. CC0-licensed image from: https://pixabay.com/en/writer-writing-paper-letter-author-605764/
Stating the obvious. CC0-licensed image from: https://pixabay.com/en/writer-writing-paper-letter-author-605764/

These weeks are filled with writing. Last Thursday, we handed in the corrected proofs for the Round Robin paper. This will be available soon under this reference and DOI, and will be open access together with its sizeable SI:

Pauw, B.R., Kästner, C. and Thünemann, A.F. (2017). J. Appl. Cryst. 50, https://doi.org/10.1107/S160057671701010X

There were interesting discussions during the review procedure, but I have, unfortunately, not received an answer to my question on whether the referees would be happy to make the comments and answers available to the public. If you were a referee, and you wouldn’t mind, please let me know!

 

Secondly, Team Diamond and us have been hard at work improving and clarifying the data corrections sequence lab note, based on the referee and editor comments we received. This is scheduled to be returned shortly. Mostly it involves adding bits of clarifications and side-notes, which is surprisingly difficult if we try to keep the flow of the introduction intact. A good introduction can save lives, so we are trying our best to keep it flowing nicely while including the suggested changes.

 

Lastly, I didn’t think it would be necessary to bring this up, but apparently it is worth weighing in: the supposed “differences” between genders in intellectual jobs. A topic raised due to a recent incident at Google, where a man claimed that women, due to their genetic makeup, were less suited to their jobs than men. (Almost) needless to say: I don’t believe it. Quoting Feynman (again):

… now, I might be quite wrong, maybe they do know all these things. But I don’t think I’m wrong. You see, I have the advantage of having found out how hard it is to really know something. How careful you have to be about checking your experiments. How easy it is to make mistakes and fool yourself. I know what it means to know something, and therefore, I can’t… I see how they get their information, and I can’t believe they know it! They haven’t done the work necessary, they haven’t done the checks necessary, haven’t done the care necessary! I have a great suspicion that they don’t know that this stuff is… , and they’re intimidating people by it. I think so. I… I don’t know the world very well, but that’s what I think.

In my experience, there is a lot of gender bias going on everywhere. Having lived in Japan, where this is bloody obvious, makes it easier to recognise it. However, upon our return to Europe, we can see the same over here, just a little bit better hidden.

Go and take a walk through your local Toys’R’Us, for example, and you see that both kids as well as parents are led to believe that there should be different section for girls and boys from age zero onwards, with wildly different focus (e.g. cars vs. princesses). Continue your walk through the clothes shops, and see the vastly different styles for men and women, and it’s not just the cut needed to adapt to the differences in body shapes. You will have a hard time convincing me that we are not mentally damaged by such constant divisions. If you repeatedly tell people that girls like pink, boys like blue, for example, they will start believing it from a very early age. So I strongly suspect that anything we see after that carries with it a hefty dose of observation bias. Such observations are usually followed by a bit of mental acrobatics to try and pseudo-scientifically justify this based on our neanderthal instincts, hunter-gatherer backgrounds, or something along those lines. However, being human, in my eyes, involves trying to be better than our animal underpinnings.

If you find yourself with such biases, and you want to improve, it is possible to actively try to correct them. The more you do this, the less effort it will take. You can try to discuss them among close friends to see if they may be able to change your mind. Do not — and this is very important — do not send them to thousands of your colleagues, souring the workplace! However, if you truly find yourself unable to change your known biases for the better, please simply keep them to yourself.  This way, when you pass the baton to the next generation, they do not have to carry along our archaic misconceptions, and can believe what they deem to be right.

Now, if it turns out I am wrong, if there truly happens to be a double-blind measurable difference between the work capabilities of the various genders, let us start by assuming that this difference has arisen due to the constant indoctrination. That, too, may give it a chance to disappear in favour of an equal world. My efforts won’t be perfect, for I am damaged too, but I hope we can go forward to abandon all pointless biases sooner rather than later.

 

Disclaimer: my opinions are my own.

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