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Taking Action, Online and In Person

Fenella Saunders

American Scientist has a long history of featuring authors from underrepresented groups in science. We support the philosophy that the value of diversity lies in creating a scientific community that is more creative and more inclusive of all ideas.

These issues are vitally important to the progress of science, so we were honored to have our associate editor Katie L. Burke invited to lead a discussion about women in science at ScienceOnline 2014 earlier this year. This conference focuses on the ways that science is conducted and communicated online. Many scientists now commonly use social media for public outreach, updates with colleagues, and even data collection.

For those of you following American Scientist on social media, you may have seen live Tweets and photos we posted on Facebook on the day of Dr. Burke’s event. In case you missed it, or want to take a closer look, we’ve compiled a list of resources at

Dr. Burke had been invited to lead the session at ScienceOnline because she had previously assembled a definitive collection of statistics about gender bias in science (linked at the page above). One study that she cited found that grant applications with a female principal investigator receive an average of about $80,000 less in funding. Another showed that although women receive about 50 percent of the doctorates in science, they make up only 21 percent of tenured professors in science.

Click to Enlarge ImageThe purpose of the session was not to lament the problem or point fingers, but to find constructive ways to address it. After gathering input from attendees, Dr. Burke helped to run an ideas session with illustrator Perrin Ireland of the Natural Resources Defense Council, who makes live sketches of conference talks and discussions. That collaboration yielded a whimsical but information-packed graphic (right) illustrating a number of proposed pathways that could help women succeed in science.

This conversation is ongoing, and everyone can contribute to it. Look for the hashtag #sciowomen on Twitter, and join in. Question not only the assumptions of others, but your own as well. Take the time to get informed about the data. Consider how you can support colleagues and students facing challenges. And most of all, figure out how to get involved and make a difference. The future of the scientific research endeavor depends on all of us.

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