sexta-feira, fevereiro 02, 2007

Bias cut

Alexandre Martinez me mandou este texto (do qual coloco alguns extratos aqui):

Women, it seems, often get a raw deal in science — so how can discrimination be tackled?

Lutz Bornmann is a researcher at the Professorship for Social Psychology and Research onHigher Education at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich.

When it comes to applying for grants, woman seem to be at a disadvantage — they are potentially less likely to succeed than their male counterparts. So suggests a meta-analysis of 21 studies conducted by my colleagues Rüdiger Mutz and Hans-Dieter Daniel and I . The cause of this discrepancy is unknown. It could be that fewer women principal investigators apply for grants. Gender bias — whether implicit or explicit — could come into play. Or the explanation could be institutional; there are more men than women in high-ranking positions, meaning fewer women have a chance to make decisions.

There has been widespread acknowledgement of how gender affects scientific careers. A comprehensive review of the literature on gender differences in the careers of academic scientists by the US National Science Foundation (NSF), concludes: "Taken as a whole, the body of literature we reviewed provides evidence that women in academic careers are disadvantaged compared with men in similar careers. Women faculty earn less, are promoted less frequently to senior academic ranks, and publish less frequently than their male counterparts."

But the NSF doesn’t address peer review as a component of this discrepancy. Conventionally, peer review is regarded as a sure guarantee of good science. It reassures us about the quality of scientific work and that taxpayers’ money is well spent. Our meta-analysis suggests that there are robust gender differences in grant peer-review procedures, and our results line up with the NSF’s broader conclusion on gender differences in the careers of academic scientists. Whatever the cause, our paper also reports some ways to rule out gender bias — whetherintentional or unintentional. One possible way to avoid bias in the grant peer-review process is to mask applicants’ gender. In journal peer review, masking authors’ gender has proved to be a satisfactory precaution against bias.

A few years ago, our team analysed the peer review selection process for the Boehringer Ingelheim Fund (BIF) fellowships (see Nature 430, 591; 2004). Although the selection process proved highly valid in identifying the most promising junior scientists, and there was no gender difference at postdoctoral level, we did find a slight gender bias in the selection of PhD students. The results were thoroughly discussed by the review committee and the foundation continued to monitor its selection process closely. This allowed the BIF to see a considerable increase in female applicants and scholars in the next few years, with nearly 50% of the 2006 PhD scholarships awarded to women. But according to Hermann Fröhlich, managing director of the BIF, the growing number of young women participating and succeeding in one of the most competitive selection processes for scholarships may be due to social change. And as the BIF evaluates young researchers and their projects at the earliest possible phase in the scientific career, its figures may indicate that large numbers of women have started to reach for the top in science.

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