Scientific papers nowadays are written more on computers than with ink and paper, but no matter how you write a paper it is important to distinguish who gets credit for what. (Image credit: Petar Milošević, CC BY-SA 4.0)
A huge component of science is the execution of successful experiments and then writing about those experiments. Consequently, a lot of weight is put on who did what, and what kind of credit people deserve for what they do. This can result in some arguments about how much so and so did for the project, and why they deserve authorship credit. In this article, I want to briefly cover some authorship issues and what kind of impact authorship can have on a scientist’s career.
As part of a two-day gender equality workshop for the Department of Biology at NTNU, Kate Layton-Matthews and I had the chance to interview Professor Marlene Zuk. Marlene is a prominent evolutionary biologist and behavioral ecologist, and a well-known advocate of improved gender equality in academia.
Her emphasis on bringing about more fact-based discussions on gender and how to attract women to typically male-dominated professions is unfortunately still necessary. People are still maintaining the view that women are ‘naturally less inclined’ to what are considered as ‘masculine’ disciplines, but as Marlene explains, it is impossible to disentangle culture from genetics. Her work is fundamental in the face of such dangerous over-simplification, for instance in the light of the firing of a disgraced professor at Cern, the European nuclear research centre in Geneva, where a male professor commented that ‘Physics was built by men’, which was unsurprisingly met with immediate backlash. In the words of another gender equality-advocate and professor in Physics, Jessica Wade, we need to fight against the ‘toxic and incorrect messages’ that such people are propagating.
“I think that [traditional gender roles] are powerful and yet subtle in terms of affecting the choices that women make along their careers.” (Image Credit: Amy Austin, University of Buenos Aires)
In 2018, women are still under-represented in Science. UNESCO showed that at latest count, less than a third of all researchers in Western Europe and North America are women, with the highest percentage in any region of the world 47.2%, in Central Asia. With this in mind, my colleague Kate Layton-Matthews and I were lucky enough to sit down with 2018 L’Oreal-UNESCO For Women in Science award-winner Amy Austin at the 2017 Ecology Across Borders conference in Ghent, Belgium. We spoke about ecology’s recent recognition in the awards, the ongoing gender gap in science, and how we can all contribute to closing it.