Navigation Links
The academic jungle: Ecosystem model reveals why women are driven out of science
Date:6/26/2012

Understanding how a species battles to sustain itself in a challenging habitat is a cornerstone of ecological research; now scientists have applied this approach to science itself to discover why women are being driven out of academia. Their results, published in Oikos, reveals how a gender imbalance in science and academia is maintained by institutional barriers.

"In ecology a species can only establish itself and develop if the population exceeds a certain threshold," said Dr Katherine O'Brien from the University of Queensland, Australia. "It's similar for researchers and academics who need to reach a certain point before they can attract more funding, more students to teach and high quality collaborators which can increase their research productivity. Yet there are barriers which prevent women from reaching this point."

One of these barriers is the tendency of female academics towards part-time work in order to balance family and work commitments. Working part-time is rare in academia while university managers find it difficult to assess the research performance of part-time staff using traditional methods.

The performance of academics and researchers is increasingly assessed using set metrics such as the number of papers produced in a year or the number of citations the research generates.

While these metrics can promote research output within an organisation, they can also undermine diversity, which in ecological terms is fatal to a species as it underpins resilience.

"To use the ecology analogy, research productivity is similar to the birth rate of a new species. Both need to exceed a critical rate if the population is going to grow and survive, or the academic is to become established in their field," said O'Brien. "However, research metrics are strongly biased towards full-time continuous employment and penalise academics who take time off before they become established."

The ecological model also suggests that if women have children before becoming established they will struggle to remain competitive with their full-time peers. This explains drift of women from research into teaching, where performance is assessed on current rather than accumulated historical performance.

To address the gender imbalance the authors suggest that women who go part-time should be strategic and concentrate on either research of teaching. In turn university managers should be cautious in judging success using metrics, and implement schemes to ensure that part-time work and career breaks are not "one-way tickets" out of research.

"The ecological approach demonstrates that any system which operates on a narrow criteria, be it a forest or a faculty, undermines itself by reducing both diversity and the pool of talent from which our researchers are drawn," concluded O'Brien. "In a working environment dominated by those working full-time women need to be brave and be prepared to be the odd ones out."


'/>"/>

Contact: Ben Norman
Lifesciencenews@wiley.com
44-124-377-0375
Wiley-Blackwell
Source:Eurekalert

Related biology news :

1. 7 pharmaceutical companies join academic researchers to speed TB drug discovery
2. Unexpected crustacean diversity discovered in northern freshwater ecosystems
3. Hot meets cold at new deep-sea ecosystem: Hydrothermal seep
4. Melting glaciers, enough sand to bury London, and ancient ecosystem engineering
5. Extreme weather threatens rich ecosystems
6. Loss of predators in Northern Hemisphere affecting ecosystem health
7. Thomson Reuters Launches Life Sciences Partner Ecosystem to Drive Collaborative R&D Drug Processes
8. USF study: Common fungicide wreaks havoc on freshwater ecosystems
9. A network of knowledge on biodiversity and ecosystem services in Europe
10. Wildfire and an example of its important link to the ecosystem
11. Consortium of scientists maps the human bodys bacterial ecosystem
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:5/16/2017)... -- Veratad Technologies, LLC ( www.veratad.com ), an innovative and ... solutions, announced today they will participate as a sponsor ... May 17, 2017, in Washington D.C.,s ... Identity impacts the lives of billions of ... digital world, defining identity is critical to nearly every ...
(Date:4/24/2017)... Janice Kephart , former 9/11 ... Partners, LLP (IdSP) , today issues the following ... March 6, 2017 Executive Order: Protecting the ... be instilled with greater confidence, enabling the reactivation ... applications are suspended by until at least July ...
(Date:4/17/2017)... , April 17, 2017 NXT-ID, Inc. ... company, announces the filing of its 2016 Annual Report on Form ... Exchange Commission. ... Form 10-K is available in the Investor Relations section of the ... on the SEC,s website at http://www.sec.gov . 2016 ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:5/24/2017)... ... May 24, 2017 , ... Patient Monitoring and Diagnostic ... connectivity to reduce the amount of wiring in a healthcare facility and allow ... devices including infusion pumps, heart and hypertension monitoring, glucose monitoring, and other wearable ...
(Date:5/23/2017)... ... May 23, 2017 , ... Genedata, a leading ... marking the occasion with a strong presence at Bio-IT World Conference & Expo ... extends an invitation to all attendees to view posters on the entire ...
(Date:5/23/2017)... ... May 23, 2017 , ... Kathy Goin is joining ... She brings years of expertise in establishing and leading clinical operations at Sponsors ... licensed occupational therapist, through a variety of leadership roles in Clinical Operations, to ...
(Date:5/22/2017)... Baltimore, Maryland (PRWEB) , ... May 22, 2017 ... ... Ted Olsen, joined with other leaders of the Maryland Biohealth community in developing ... a globally recognized Top 3 U.S. BioHealth Innovation Hub by 2023. ...
Breaking Biology Technology: