Science

Careers in science desk: From “successful scientist” all the way up to “freelance science writer”

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Here’s Kathy Weston (Science, February 04, 2011) on, among other things, the surprising importance of networking – unless you have already got a Nobel prize:

My initial conviction — essential for anyone who wants to make it as a scientist — that I could really make a difference, maybe even win a few prizes and get famous, eroded when I realized that my brain was simply not wired like those of the phalanx of Nobelists I met over the years; I was never going to be original enough to be a star. This early realization, combined with a deep-seated lack of self-confidence, meant that I was useless at self-promotion and networking. I would go to conferences and hide in corners, never daring to talk to the speakers and the big shots. I never managed, as an infinitely more successful friend put it, “to piss in all the right places.”

[ … ]

What could I have done to check my descent into mediocrity? I should have put aside my fears of looking dumb and got on with the networking stuff anyway. And — very importantly — I should have found myself a mentor. Every scientist needs someone in a position of power who has faith in his or her abilities, to provide advice and do a bit of trumpet-blowing on his or her behalf. I should have taken more scientific risks, gone for bigger stakes, and thought harder about direction. Finally, I should have followed my instincts and quit my job before it quit me — but I was hampered by an exaggerated terror of being labeled a failure. (In fact, none of my friends and family seems to care a hoot about my fall from grace, and of course I should have known that all along.)

Much food for thought here, on women in the competitive world of science.

Part of Weston’s difficulty was that, like most women, she simply couldn’t ignore relationships, on the theory that if she was a big success, they would take care of themselves. This puts me in mind of Cordelia Fine’s timely dismissal of research on supposed innate differences between men and women. Yes, most such claims are easily debunked – but the anomaly remains, and Weston depicts the outcome astutely.

All that said, science writer is a great career choice – if you like writing. Of course, if you write sympathetically about ID theorists, you must live with a troll monitor around your neck, but in some places, that’s a distinction.

Denyse O’Leary is co-author of The Spiritual Brain.

10 Replies to “Careers in science desk: From “successful scientist” all the way up to “freelance science writer”

  1. 1
    Robert Byers says:

    Iknow young women who excel in science and math.
    Indeed creationism, YEC, needs heaps of women to bring the victory.
    The bible, unlike Darwin, teaches all human beings are born equal and simply need to be motivated to advance.
    thats the problem.
    Women are not motivated like men and never will be.
    I believe because they are made for their husbands mission as the bible says.
    So they innately don’t have ambition in the same measure.
    In ten thousand activities i see women far behind men in ability. Especially non paid stuff.
    In short women are less intelligent then men today as in the past.
    More involved now but still way behind.
    yet its because of motivation and not anything innate.
    Same as with everyone.
    The thing to do is tell girls to strive to do well but to accept its unlikely ever stats will demonstrate like ability.
    There is a innate motivation to not live for themselves but for their husband.
    Then they can do their own ambition.
    I do not believe ever women will keep up, or close, to men intellectually.
    in science and math this is just very obvious.
    Poker and dirtbiking too.
    And so on.

    As long as women don’t see a innate intellectual difference then second place will not bother them.
    They really do know they have very different motives for happiness.
    A woman easily can be a great scientist.
    Yet very unlikely few ever will.
    Time will not change things.
    Its about identity and profound motivation.

  2. 2
    MathGrrl says:

    From Robert Byers:

    Women are not motivated like men and never will be.
    I believe because they are made for their husbands mission as the bible says.
    So they innately don’t have ambition in the same measure.
    In ten thousand activities i see women far behind men in ability. Especially non paid stuff.
    In short women are less intelligent then men today as in the past.
    . . .
    The thing to do is tell girls to strive to do well but to accept its unlikely ever stats will demonstrate like ability.
    There is a innate motivation to not live for themselves but for their husband.
    . . .
    I do not believe ever women will keep up, or close, to men intellectually.
    in science and math this is just very obvious.
    Poker and dirtbiking too.
    And so on.

    As long as women don’t see a innate intellectual difference then second place will not bother them.
    . . . .

    Is this an example of the type of “civil” discourse that is expected at UD? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not calling for any poster to be censored (I prefer to know who the misogynistic bigots are, by their own words). I do find it interesting, however, that this viewpoint is apparently considered acceptable and on topic at a blog supposedly about science.

  3. 3
    bornagain77 says:

    Mr. Byers, that is fairly over the top in its demeaning tone towards women, not to mention the fact that you now have no rigorous studies to show women as ‘less intelligent’ in math,,,,

    Girls’ and boys’ math performance now equal – 2008
    http://berkeley.edu/news/media.....math.shtml

    as well, I personally feel, as far as ‘social intelligence’ is concerned, most men aren’t even close to women in sophistication!

  4. 4
    markf says:

    #3 Well said BA77. I think you are nuts, but basically you’re a good sort.

  5. 5
    Upright BiPed says:

    Byers, you’ve gone off the deep end. Women around the globe and throughout all of time have been motivated in a myriad of ways that you do not seem to appreciate. You owe your life to them.

  6. 6
    bornagain77 says:

    Mr. Byers this should resonate;

    Proverbs 7:4
    Say to wisdom, You are my sister; and call understanding your kinswoman:

  7. 7
    MathGrrl says:

    Thank you for chiming in, bornagain77 and Upright BiPed. We may not agree with each other on some technical matters, but I’m glad we can on some (arguably more important) topics.

  8. 8
    vividbleau says:

    RB RE1

    Your post is so outrageous I am speechless. You should retract and apologize. You would do well to spend some time reading Proverbs 31.

    Vivid

  9. 9
    Barb says:

    With respect to the jaw-dropping first post of this thread:

    “Iknow young women who excel in science and math.”

    Anecdoctal evidence is nice, but it doesn’t really prove anything.

    “Women are not motivated like men and never will be. I believe because they are made for their husbands mission as the bible says. So they innately don’t have ambition in the same measure.”

    Um…what?

    What about the many single Christian women who don’t have a husband? Who work secularly to pay the bills, often while raising children? They’re not motivated?

    “In ten thousand activities i see women far behind men in ability. Especially non paid stuff.
    In short women are less intelligent then men today as in the past. More involved now but still way behind.”

    Name all 10,000 activities and then we can continue. Women are most assuredly not less intelligent than men are.

    “yet its because of motivation and not anything innate. Same as with everyone. The thing to do is tell girls to strive to do well but to accept its unlikely ever stats will demonstrate like ability.
    There is a innate motivation to not live for themselves but for their husband.”

    Please, first respond to my comment about single Christian women.

    “Then they can do their own ambition. I do not believe ever women will keep up, or close, to men intellectually.”

    LOLWUT? I am reasonably sure that there are women inhabiting this planet who are 10 times as intelligent as you are.

    “in science and math this is just very obvious.”

    Marie Curie would like a word with you.

    “Poker and dirtbiking too. And so on.”

    Here is where I’m hoping that you’re just joking and that you don’t believe a word of what you posted.

    “As long as women don’t see a innate intellectual difference then second place will not bother them. They really do know they have very different motives for happiness.”

    For some, happiness is making a great deal of money; for some, happiness is taking care of a child. Both require intelligence, and to insult all women by making such broad, sweeping generalizations makes me take you less seriously.

    “A woman easily can be a great scientist. Yet very unlikely few ever will.”

    Okay, Wikipedia to the rescue:
    Marie Curie. Won the Nobel Prize. Twice. (1903 and 1911, in chemistry and physics)
    Hypatia of Alexandria. Mathematician in 3-4th century Egypt.
    Sophia Brahe, Danish astronomer and chemist.
    Marie Lavoisier, French chemist.
    Florence Nightengale, British nurse.
    Henrietta Leavitt, astronomer.
    Yvonne Barr, British virologist (as in the Epstein-Barr virus)

    Take a look at the list of female Nobel laureates sometime (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/F....._laureates)

    “Time will not change things. Its about identity and profound motivation.”

    And you have not proven that women
    lack identities of their own and that they simply meld into their husband’s identity. The 1950s have been over for some time now.

  10. 10
    Robert Byers says:

    What isa the truth?
    I say what i said is true!
    First folks You are aware of the creation wars here eh?!
    We struggle not to see creationism expelled based on rights of striving for truth (and therefore rights to be wrong) and some saymy ideas should be expelled.
    This is case in point of the problem facing creationism or anything seen as politically incorrect.
    Freedom of ideas, speech, and faith are the core beliefs of the anglo-American civilization.
    Especially on public forums.
    If you disagree then spell it out!
    If you have accusations against my motives and character then make a case.
    All I saw was typical baseless accusations like one finds in origin contentions.

    I stand by the accuracy and integrity of what I said.
    I can hold opinion about intelligence of any group including women.
    Yet i clearly said women’s lack intelligence equality with men is not innate or genetic.
    Yet it is real and it is from free will or motivation.

    The bible clearly says men are made to do well or achieve. Women are to help their husband to this goal.
    This explains the innate lack of motivation and results to compete with men in ten thousand endeavers.
    As a great law of humanity.

    I believe anyone can do anything, save retardation etc restrictions, but I don’t believe everyone does.
    As to scoring achievement anyone who sees women competing head to head with men, after investigation, is incompetent.

    Identity today/past is a great factor in achievement.
    I am a 46 year old guy in toronto and no one would say women can compete with men in anything with intelligence being a factor by the numbers.
    Yet all, almost, would agree women have the ability to compete.
    therefore other motivations are invoked.
    The bible gives the clue.

    Don’t be offended by the truth or by its bearer.
    There is nothing unjust here. just unwelcome.
    As long as people from birth are seen as having the same ability to be smart as anyone then no one can complain.
    Results however are real, historic, discussed, and conclusive.
    So simply see motivation/free will as behind all differences.

    Don’t deny men their rightful rewards of success based on rightful motives.
    Don’t deny our right of preeminence in matters of the intelligence.
    Theres only persons and not sexes in regards to intellectual ability. Yet there is profound sex differences in motivations.
    Its not just football. Its all skillful things.
    where am I wrong?

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