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ImperialCollege150 karma

Why focus on gender rather than substantive contributions to your field?

Of course we recognise substantial contributions to our fields! We are just saying that for too long we’ve recognised only the contributions of a few, not everyone.

Would it not be more productive to society to seek the best and brightest? Regardless of identity politics?

Since college admissions indicate women now outnumber men by a wide margin, don't you worry about the

profound negative effects your grotesque emphasis on gender will propagate?

I would like to see a world where women and men participated equally - in all subjects as well as in college admissions. Whilst women may outnumber men in admissions to higher education, they don’t outnumber them in physics or engineering, and they certainly don’t in senior positions. I’d like everyone to feel they had access to college to study whatever they want - tell me what is “grotesque” about that?

What made you choose to raise the profile of women in science rather than, say, orphans or handicapped or mentally ill or children raised by a single parent or impoverished or struggling people who have NO profile in science?

I would love to have more time to support orphans, handicapped and the mentally ill. I am not an expert in these fields and wouldn’t want to assume I would know what is best for them, so when I have time off from my research job, I contribute to initiatives I understand a bit better. I also work with teachers and schools to make sure all children, whether they are impoverished or from a single parent, realise that they can become scientists. We run lots of activities at Imperial for the next generation of scientists (https://www.imperial.ac.uk/be-inspired/student-recruitment-and-outreach/schools-and-colleges/wohl-reach-out-lab/) and these are specifically targetted at young people who have ‘no profile in science’ and no ‘science capital’. If you have any suggestions about productive things we could all do to help the groups you’ve listed, I’d love to hear them!

Why not choose to raise the profile of a poor child raised by semi-literate parent(s) who overcomes hardship after hardship and becomes a scientist contributing to man's understanding of the world REGARDLESS of their sex?

I think this is quite a similar question to the one above. We are all making efforts to improve everyone’s access to science, through Imperial’s education program (https://www.imperial.ac.uk/be-inspired/student-recruitment-and-outreach/schools-and-colleges/wohl-reach-out-lab/) and the IOP’s Stimulating Physics Network (a national teacher network in the UK). The wikipedia work is totally separate to widening participation in education - we are using the encyclopedia to improve people’s awareness of established scientists and their contributions to their fields. They are both valuable. Again, if you have any other ideas about raising the profile of a “poor child raised by semi-literate parent(s) who overcomes hardship after hardship and becomes a scientist contributing to man's understanding of the world REGARDLESS of their sex”, just let me know.

Don't you find this emphasis on sex rather than substance to be self-serving in the extreme and ultimately counterproductive?

We’ve answered this a tonne of times (see above). Of course we’re focussing on substance. For a long time, substance has only been celebrated for people of a particular sex, and we’re trying to stop that from happening. I want to evaluate scientists on their science, not their gender.

I wonder how much better off we would be if we tried to encourage bright inquisitive people wherever we find them. Having four bright sons and having participated closely in their educations, I can state unequivocally that there is overwhelming gender bias towards females at the expense of males. Your work, effort, trajectory and propaganda are profoundly retrograde to overall positive cultural evolution.

It sounds like your bright sons have a great parent and are super lucky. I am sorry that they, and you, have had to experience an “overwhelming bias to girls”. Whilst recent initiatives have been strongly pushing “girls in STEM” I was unaware that this persisted in other areas of the curriculum. I am only a physicist - I can’t answer for other areas of education, but the IOP Improving Gender Balance Project demonstrated how differently teachers treat boys and girls. All of their efforts have been to make education more fair for everyone in the classroom: https://www.iop.org/education/teacher/support/girls_physics/resources/file_69811.pdf

ImperialCollege130 karma

Good question. It's quite hard as a consumer to take action on deforestation - it can seem like a really remote problem, really far away - but there are some useful things you can do.

Something that’s really important is to buy sustainably-produced palm oil. The reason this is important is that it’s vital that palm oil producers get an incentive to produce palm oil sustainably - and so have a reason to avoid clearing forests. Getting certified for sustainable production is expensive and palm oil profit margins are slim, so it’s important that producers who avoid deforestation have a market for their products. There are huge markets for palm oil in China and India which make no demands for sustainability, and if no-one buys sustainable or deforestation-free oil, producers can always just sell their oil there.

How can you make sure you're buying sustainable palm oil? You can check which companies (retailers, consumer goods manufacturers) use sustainable palm oil by having a Google search for their name + ‘palm oil’, or check the sustainability sections of their websites.

Secondly, you could look into the websites of some of the retailers and manufacturers of your favourite or most-used goods - chocolate, cakes, biscuits, shampoo, cosmetics - and check what the companies’ sustainability policies are. Do they have a zero-deforestation commitment? Are they members of the RSPO? Do they have a commitment to protecting High Conservation Value (HCV) areas and High Carbon Stock forests (HCS is a standard for ensuring all forests are protected)? If yes - great. If not, you could write to them and put pressure on them to reform their practices. Most companies are really responsive to customer feedback like this. Check out their websites first, as most of the big companies publish lots of sustainability info there.

Finally, lots of the NGOs that work on deforestation and palm oil - like WWF, Greenpeace, Conservation International, to name a few - may be doing work on deforestation that you could get involved with as a volunteer. Check out their websites - this might give you a way of getting involved more actively, beyond just using your purchasing power as a consumer.

ImperialCollege88 karma

Hi Mr Jomo, thanks for your question. It is difficult to answer very specifically as we are just not smart enough in this area yet. Diet is clearly VERY important - our problem currently is that we just don’t know exactly what is the ‘right’ diet and it will very likely be individual to every person/every cancer.

Lots of work is going in to this area now - so we shall know more in the short term future, for sure.

ImperialCollege78 karma

Claire: There are so many incredible women that we could talk about for hours. I’m a crystallographer, so I would argue that the seminal work by Dorothy Hodgkin, Rosalind Franklin, Kathleen Lonsdale and Helen Megaw is essential to know about. This is where the variety of science that we are all doing comes into play, as we all have biases as to what the best scientific discoveries are :-D.

I’m going to pick (to no one’s surprise) Dame Prof. Kathleen Lonsdale. She did the critical experiment and interpreted the data to prove that benzene was flat. This was groundbreaking at the time.

Up to this point (which was over 100 years of hot debate including Faraday and Kekule), no one understood the chemical structure or its shape. There’s a longer article on her work by Prof. Mike Glazer (her PhD student):http://rsta.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/373/2039/20140232

If you want something a bit shorter, I’ve also written a short article about her work: http://www.herstory.ie/news/2017/4/27/dame-kathleen-lonsdale-scientist-educator-activist

Jess: WOAH! Great question. I love Martha Whiteley, Imperial alumni and chemist during the First World War: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martha_Annie_Whiteley. She had a trench on our South Kensington campus! She campaigned a lot for women in chemistry and ALSO INVENTED MUSTARD GAS. There’s more in this wonderful book, A Lab of One’s Own:

https://global.oup.com/academic/product/a-lab-of-ones-own-9780198794981, which is a summary of science during the suffragette movement.

I’m also really inspired by Gladys West, an African-American mathematician who worked on the early stages of GPS: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gladys_West. Roma Agrawal, another Imperial alum, is a structural engineer who built the top of the Shard: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roma_Agrawal. She’s pretty awesome too. I think I could go on forever. Let’s catch up on Twitter?

ImperialCollege76 karma

For a long time, society has been telling women they’re better at ‘caring’ roles. Even if they’re not trained psychologists, women academics are often responsible for any students who get ‘emotional’ in a department:

Psychology and psychiatry professionalised at a much later period than other sciences. Therefore the barriers to entry were not so firmly in place, for example lots of university courses were not created until after the second world war when attitudes to women were already changing. Alice got her whole PhD writing about psychiatry in the second world war and there were plenty of women doing it!