Physics and Diversity seminars

We have a monthly seminar at AlbaNova universitetscentrum in Stockholm. The seminars are aimed at PhD students at KTH, SU and NORDITA , but interested master students and postdocs in the early stage of their career are also welcome.

For each seminar we read one or several articles within the topic of diversity in academic research, in particular physics. Below you can see a list of planned seminars including the specific topic for each session and links for the reading material.

Like other journal clubs, ours has an aim. Having spent a lot of time discussing whether lack of diversity is a problem in academia, and whether we, as young female scientists, had experienced gender bias in academia, we wanted to take the discussion to the next level, beyond understanding that there is a problem. Therefore our journal club takes as its premise that the lack of diversity in academia is something academia needs to address and that women and other minorities do experience bias against them.

We simply ask that all participants respect this as the premise. If you feel that this still needs to be debated, this journal club is not the place to do so.

The seminars are held in A4:1003 usually from 15-17. See below for the full schedule.

While we do not know if it is possible to get credits for participating in the journal club; for those of you who would like to try to get some credits for participation, we estimate that if you participate in all of the seminars including giving a presentation in the final one it should correspond to 1.5 ECTS.

Code of conduct

This is a journal club that centers around bias in academia, and we are aware that many of the participants are likely to have experienced such bias. We wish for everyone to be able to enjoy the journal club.

When participating in the journal club, we all agree to conduct ourselves in a professional manner. We strive for the journal club to be a safe space.

Though we might have our disagreements, we should all refrain from making the argument personal. If you feel that your boundaries have been crossed or that you are deliberately misunderstood please speak up or tell us after the seminar.

The plan for the seminars

Note that the last three seminars will be postponed until further notice, due to the current situation.

Tuesday February 4th 15-17: Gender roles in Physics

For the first seminar we will read the following two articles that both centers around gender roles in academia.

Gender practices in the construction of academic excellence: Sheep with five legs 
and Masculinities and experimental practices in physics: The view from three case studies

A sheep with five legs is a Dutch idiom which refers to someone with an ideal and impossible to find combination of skills and experiences. This article challenges the western norms of meritocracy, which treats academic excellence as objective and measurable, and argues that it is a social construct, subject to cultural and political influences. The article focus on gender inequalities, and how gender is practised in the evaluation of professorial candidates. The research is based on empirical data on recruitment of professors in The Netherlands. 

Traditionally gender-focused physics research has regarded gender as a binary construct and compared experiences of men and women rather than the variability of experiences across the spectrum. Through this, gender has been regarded as a women problem to be solved by ‘female friendly’ solutions. This article instead focus on gender as performative and fluid and distinguishes between what it is to be a male or female in a local context, and the concept of masculinities and femininities as how people do a man or a woman. Through three case studies the article explores how the understanding of masculinities in physics can help to further understand the process of doing physics and doing gender.

Tuesday February 25th 15-17: A mathematical model to describe bias in academic research

As physicist we are used to using mathematical models to describe all sorts of systems, both physical and mathematical systems but also systems of a more social scientific nature. Therefore we have for the second seminar picked an article that defines a mathematical model for the glass ceiling effect in social networks.

Homophily and the Glass Ceiling Effect in Social Networks

In this paper the authors define and study the glass ceiling effect in social networks and propose a mathematical model, that partially explains the causes of the glass ceiling effect. This model and accommodates the three social phenomena: (i) the “rich get richer” mechanism, (ii) a minority-majority partition, and (iii) homophily. They prove that the model exhibits a strong moment glass ceiling effect and that all three conditions are
necessary. Additionally, they present empirical evidence taken from a mentor-student network of researchers (derived from the DBLP database) that exhibits both a glass ceiling effect and the above three phenomena.

Seminar 3: Diversity is not just a gender question, and gender is not a binary.

Much of the discussion of diversity in academia focus on gender bias, where gender in the research is defined as a binary concept. In this seminar we wish to broaden the discussion. The article we consider this time is Enriching gender in physics education research: A binary past and a complex future.

The article criticizes the heavy focus on the binary notion of gender in the field of physical education research. The article further describes the problems and exclusion of this view point, giving an intersectional perspective, as well as examples on how the field should and can evolve.

Seminar 4: Another mathematical model or another article on intersectionality.

We would like the fourth seminar to either be a discussion about a mathematical model that can be used to describe bias towards diversity in academic research similar to the seminar in February, or continue on the topic of diversity in a broader sense.

While we do have some ideas we are still open for suggestion, so please feel free to suggest something. An article we are considering is Making Black Women Scientists under White Empiricism: The Racialization of Epistemology in Physics 

Seminar 5:

For the last seminar in the spring 2020 we would like the participants to present articles, research, or something else dealing with the lack of diversity in academic research.

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