Can Science Have It All?

gravityAccording to two recent articles, science as a field is male-dominated and old-fashioned in a patriarchy way, and, if that weren’t enough, suffering from funding problems. The Washington Post reports that science isn’t simply unfriendly to women but also to dudes who want to be good dads:

The majority of tenured full professors at some of the most prestigious universities in the country, who have the most power to hire and fire and set the workplace expectation of long hours, are men who have either a full-time spouse at home who handles all caregiving and home duties, or a spouse with a part-time or secondary career who takes primary responsibility for the home. And it’s not just women who are being squeezed out of academic science, the study concludes. It’s also men who want to be more active at home. … “Academic science doesn’t just have a gender problem, but a family problem,” said Sarah Damaske, a sociology professor at Penn State and one of the report’s authors. “We came to see that men or women, if they want to have families, are likely to face significant challenges.” …

Damaske said age didn’t play a role in their findings. Some men in egalitarian partnerships were well into their 60s. And some graduate students in their 20s had traditional marriages or planned not to have children in order to dedicate their lives to their careers.

At the same time, lots of talented lab types are also leaving the field because of frustrations about how research is funded

Patterson, 43, once worked for Dr. Solomon Snyder at Johns Hopkins University in one of the top neuroscience laboratories in the world. His research is published in some of the most prestigious journals. … Over the years, he has written a blizzard of grant proposals, but he couldn’t convince his peers that his edgy ideas were worth taking a risk on. So, as the last of his funding dried up, he quit his academic job. “I shouldn’t be a grocer right now,” he says with a note of anger in his voice. “I should be training students. I should be doing deeper research. And I can’t. I don’t have an outlet for it.”

“The country has invested, in me alone, $5 million or $6 million, easily,” Patterson says, thinking back on the funding he received for his education and his research. And he’s just one of many feeling the brunt of the funding crunch.

There are no national statistics about how many people are giving up on academic science, but an NPR analysis of NIH data found that 3,400 scientists lost their sustaining grants between 2012 and 2013. Some will eventually get new funding, others will retire; but others, like Glomski and Patterson, will just give up.

On the (maybe?) bright side, Patterson’s daughter is training to go into the field.

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