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Leading Scientific Journal Comes Under Fire

posted: 07/17/15
by: Danny Clemens
Diverse scientists
Monkey Business Images/thinkstock

The scientific community is raising red flags regarding a leading scientific journal's portrayal of minority groups, according to a letter drafted by Aradhna K. Tripati, Jennifer B. Glass and Lenny Teytelman and obtained by DSCOVRD.

First reported by Retraction Watch, the letter takes issue with four recent incidents surrounding the journal Science, which has been accused of perpetuating "damaging stereotypes about underrepresented groups in STEM fields":

  • In column published in the July 2015 issue of Science, a male researcher implies that he was only successful because his wife assumed "the bulk of the domestic responsibilities" in their household while he worked 17 hours a day.
  • A post on Science's careers website encouraged female professionals to tolerate inappropriate behavior from their supervisors: "As long as your adviser does not move on to other advances, I suggest you put up with it, with good humor if you can.....His attention on your chest may be unwelcome, but you need his attention on your science and his best advice."
  • A cover story regarding HIV/AIDS treatment featured a photo of "headless transgender sex workers of color", which "fed into stereotypes associating prostitution and HIV/AIDS with three underrepresented communities".
  • Finally, a now-deleted tweet from a Science editor dismissed criticism of the aforementioned incidents as "really boring".

"These incidents risk deterring people from underrepresented groups from pursuing careers in STEM, and (in the fourth case) appear to mock criticisms from the scientific community in response to these communications," the letter reads.

Science did respond to several of the complaints: the journal issued an apology regarding the HIV/AIDS cover and quickly retracted the article encouraging females to tolerate inappropriate behavior. The letter, however, encourages Science to be more proactive in preventing these incidents from happening in the future. To date, it has gathered more than 10 pages of signatures, and will be officially delivered to Science officials next week.

The letter has not yet been openly published online.

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