I was going to write this post a few months back, based on the news of Professor Jocelyn Bell Burnell donating her £2.3 million award for a science prize to
…fund women, under-represented ethnic minority and refugee students to become physics researchers.
In fact this blog has been half way in the making ever since 2014 when #shirtstorm kicked off and Dr Matt Taylor was forced to apologise for some clothing he wore that offended the new puritans among us.
Clothing made by a female friend of his, clothing you can view here
It irritated me as a scientist (by education and trade). Granted my science background is chemistry because I’ll never understand physics (I’m not clever enough and I hate maths) and I really should have gone further with biology instead but you make your choices based on your first influences and even though my grandma wanted to go to Uni to do physics (the family couldn’t afford it), it was my AC/DC-loving chemistry teacher that suckered me into that particular branch of the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths*) subjects.
As I went through all levels of education and the into employment within the (chemical) science field one thing that was apparent, not that it mattered or was something to even be cared about, was that there was a pretty good mix of men and women around me. Yes, there was also a fair representation, per capita at least, of ethnic minorities too but this piece is more about gender balance as I’ve experienced it.
You could argue that; apart from my maleness and straightness, coming from a poor/working-class, single-parent household I had certain disadvantages in getting any further. Possibly more so back when I was trying, now it is just used for political gain and to flood universities with people who really shouldn’t and don’t need to be there given the amount of shit and pointless degrees there are out there these days, but then again university education is now a business, but I digress.
Back then, none of this mattered…
What made the difference is that I
- had a particular aptitude for science
- had a particular level of intelligence required to pass exams and get the necessary grades
- could work hard, when I wanted/needed to
And most importantly of all…
- I really wanted to do science
Which leads us to Cern scientist Alessandro Strumia being suspended after comments he made relating to sexism in physics.
I’m not a fan of identity politics. I’m not a fan of victim mentality. What we have here is a failure to communicate and a certain level of chicken-and-egg nonsense.
The only thing I have to contribute to this typical modern day shit storm is that no amount of money will change either the gender or racial balance of people in science.
People go into science….
….because they want to go into science.
You have to have aptitude and intelligence and drive and a love for the subject, the same as any vocation and as with anything, the cream will rise.
Are there prejudice people in science? Well as a reflection of society it would be the case that the probability is high.
But science is as science does and it doesn’t matter who does it. It just is.
Science is just there; waiting to be discovered, or proved, or even disproved and the waters really need to stop being muddied by identity politics co-opted by people with really shit and pointless degrees and nothing of value to give back to society themselves.
Thanks for reading.
*Maths, not math, of all the Americanisms I read and hear, that is the one I’m most annoyed by.