Science of Ick vs Damsels with Dragons: a storify

(by scicurious) Jan 12 2014

Yesterday, I saw something about a "boys only" program at the NC Museum of Natural Sciences. I wasn't thrilled. I tweeted. And it turned out, I didn't have complete information...and that further information made the issue even more complex. When it is ok to separate boys and girls? And to what end? Will this help or hurt participation in science?


I welcome more insights in the comments.


[View the story "Things That Go Ick vs Damsels in Distress: gender separation and science" on Storify]

8 responses so far

On speed, and cheese

(by scicurious) Jan 08 2014

As I started planning this harebrained idea of mine, I had several people contact me. Often they ask me to come to where they are to run races. But they also often include something about how they'll run, but they can't possibly keep up with me. This is really strange.

I'm not a fast runner. I never have been. My fastest 5K is a 23:22 and my fastest half marathon was a 1:52:19. That half marathon PR was a LOT longer ago than I like to admit. Since then, I have a knee that makes me spend a lot of time with a foam roller, and a lazy attitude that has shortened  and slowed my runs. My usual half marathon now is over 2 hours. My training runs are usually 10 minute miles. For most of these half marathons, I will be aiming for a 9:30 mile. If I CAN work up better speed, I would love to break 1:50:00 in the half marathon, but I won't beat myself up if I don't.

It's not particularly slow, sure. But it's not Ryan Hall fast either. I wish I were faster, but, well, running is running. No matter what pace we run, we get the job done. I think people are just as impressive running slow as when they are running fast. Often, slower runners are more impressive. After all, they have to keep at it for LONGER.

No matter what, people who are running (or, equally impressively, swimming or biking or walking or hiking or skiing or yogaing or lifting, or any other form of exercise) are impressive. They are getting out there, getting active, and doing something that, often, hurts and sucks until you are done. Anyone who gets out there and does more than they would normally do, in pursuit of health, accomplishment, or just feeling good is impressive in my book. And if we keep doing it, we must like it somehow, right?

I wonder where people got this idea that I was a fast runner. It is because I talk about running? Is it because I am doing the half marathon challenge at all? Neither of those are indicators. Talking about something often is no indication that you are in fact an expert (though now I wonder if there's a psychological phenomenon where if people see you talk about something often, they assume that you are an expert).

Why am I doing this? Not because I'm fast. Some people have told me I am doing this because I like to set attainable goals, or because I am awesome. Nope.

I'm doing this for cheese. I love cheese. And running half marathons means I can eat as much cheese as I want for the next year. I'd probably eat the cheese anyway, but I'd feel a vague sense of guilt. Now that sense is gone. Bring on the cheese.

800px-Peruvian_cheese_open_air_market(I will take four of each, please. Source)

Who knows. Maybe this project will make me faster. Maybe it won't. But in the end, pace doesn't matter. This train runs on cheese.



7 responses so far

The 'system' failed me. It should have failed me sooner.

(by scicurious) Jan 06 2014

There are some posts that punch you in the gut a little. Lately, for me, those posts have been about life in academia. About 'the system'. Whether or not it failed people. This post was one of them. It hit me hard. But it made me think, too.

The post, "The afternoon I decided to leave academe - and what happened next", describes someone who could have been me (had I been a history PhD, anyway). She loved being in academia, but in the end, facing another year of adjuncting, she decided to leave. She is now successful in a completely different career, but she still fights a nagging sense of failure.

And she could have been me. My situation, lately, is very similar. Because I am no longer in academia. I am still writing up my last few papers (which, by the way, is a HECK of a lot harder to do when you have to do the work that pays first and try to squeeze it around a completely different full time job), but I'm not a scientist anymore. Instead, I'm a writer. I love my new career. But like the author of that post, I still feel that nagging sense of failure.

I could have kept at it. Many people told me to take another post-doc, take the 'part time' (though is a 3-3 with research and service really part time?), non-TT job I was offered. To adjunct, to keep trying.

And part of me really, really wanted to. I have always wanted to be a professor. I remember seeing my father in class once, when I was very young. He is a professor, and to me, he looked like the coolest guy in the world. So knowledgeable, so inspiring, so brilliant. And I wanted to be like that when I grew up. I wanted to teach, to think big thoughts, to present new things to the world, to have everyone think I was smart.

So I went to college. I went to grad school. I did a lot of science. I felt I was doing something that would change people's lives for the better, that would help people who suffered. I wanted to save the world. In the end, I wasn't good enough to save the world, not Tenure-Track good enough. But also, in the end, I realized that I did not want to BE good enough. I no longer wanted to be big wig science professor at a big wig university.

Throughout all this, I read a lot about people who feel the academic system failed them (or their friends). They were promised jobs, or they themselves had promise, and the system weeded them out with the ruthlessness of 8% paylines. I don't know whether the system failed them or not. We're all different.

But did the system fail me? There may have been problems with funding, may have been problems with mentors, or lack of them. There may have been issues with projects or support or a million other things. There may have been problems with me, with my attitude, my smarts, my drive. Or not. Or none of the above. But in the end, yes, I DO think the system failed me.

I think it didn't kick me out fast enough.

Continue Reading »

106 responses so far

Tying up loose ends

(by scicurious) Jan 01 2014

A lot of people outside academia don't realize how slow the gears grind. Projects have to be conceived, funded, performed, written up. Submitted, rejected, submitted again, rejected with revisions, resubmitted, and then, finally, published. In an ideal world, the process takes months. In can take years. I'm out of academia. But I am not free of it. I have four first author papers still waiting. In my first few months out of academia, I spent all my free time writing three of them up. Checking all the data, dotting the i's and crossing the t's. Two have been submitted, and returned with major and minor revisions, respectively.

And now my spare time is devoted to revisions.

People ask me lately what it's like to be out of academia. It may be years until I'm fully "free." In some ways it feels like claws pulling me back to my old life. The revisions get harder and harder to do, as I get further and further from the lab. I begin to forget the literature, the established ways of writing, the phrasing. I forget how to think about things. It's hard to switch from your daily job to the work still unfinished. Especially when it's 10pm at night.

And unfortunately, the worse you get, the more you get chastised for doing things badly. And the more you fear and expect the chastisement. Emails from your old life make you sick to your stomach, even though most are completely innocuous. Academia loves sticks, and carrots a feel like they are deliberately undervalued. It really says something about academia that often, acceptance with minor revisions sounds EXACTLY like rejection until you ask somebody else.

This makes it very, very hard to complete those papers. Then you realize you're the one procrastinating and you feel even WORSE. I know it's my fault. I know. The papers need to go out. I know it's my responsibility to do them and do them well. But it is a slog. At best.

I'm determined not to give up. So far, I am putting in 30 min per day on a paper. Response to reviewers, reading it over, edits, reading relevant literature. Often, if I get into it, the 30 minutes will stretch to an hour or more. But sometimes I'm gritting my teeth and telling myself "30 minutes, you can do 30 stinking minutes." It's not much. It's not enough. But it is something.

6 responses so far

Crowdsourcing Music!

(by scicurious) Dec 30 2013

Many people run to music. I do sometimes. Mostly for races, when I need something to keep my heart rate up. For practice runs, I prefer the company of a friend, or an audiobook. I've gotten through many, many audiobooks that way (including the unabridged Les Miserables, which is not for the faint of heart. Did you know it inclueds an entire chapter on the history of sewers in general and the Paris sewer system in particular? Riveting).

But I need some more music suggestions! I've got a dependable playlist, but often you need something new and fun to inspire you.

Some of my favorites:

Any suggestions?

4 responses so far

Switching things around...

(by scicurious) Dec 29 2013

Looking through the race schedule, I've got a couple of switchups I want to make.

April: I could run Charlottesville, but I'd much rather run the Phildelphia Hot Chocolate 15k. Why? BECAUSE DELICIOUS. That's not far though...I will need another race in April.

Perhaps the Dismal Swamp Stomp? Sounds pretty. And flat. I like flat.

July: Scheduled for Columbia, SC. In July. That is some HOT HOT HOT HEAT. In fact, that could be dangerous. I am from such climes, so I could probably be ok. But the desire to escape somewhere nicer is strong. Someplace like Seattle. Or Oregon. Where 100 degrees F + 90% humidity is the stuff of legend only. Any suggestions?

A full marathon: I was thinking to make Philly the full marathon, but it's well known that the second half, out to Valley Forge and back on the Schuykill, is epically boring. And boring is bad. Because when you realize you are bored, you realize you are TIRED. Baltimore has been suggested instead, supposedly a good "challenging" course. Any other suggestions? October/November a must.


Suggestions Welcome!

8 responses so far

A harebrained idea

(by scicurious) Dec 28 2013

As some of you may know, I am a runner. I've been one since high school. I've never been a GOOD one, mind you. Just a trotting along kind of runner. But I ran my first 5K in college, my first half marathon in grad school, and have been doing  races ever since. I haven't yet done a marathon, mostly because...well after about two hours of running I get kind of bored, you know?  I'll do one someday.

And maybe this is the year!  You see, yesterday I came up with a harebrained idea. I like half marathons, but training for them gets kind of old. It's best if you stack a bunch close together, so you kind of stay in training. So I was planning a few for May and then again for the fall, and I thought...well why not do them ALL.

Ok, not ALL of them. But my new year's resolution? 1 half marathon per month, for 12 months. It's nothing crazy, I know people who do one marathon per month (I know one guy who does MORE). I figure if they can do it, so can I!

Here I'll be keeping track of the races, posting pictures and finish times (if anyone cares). And maybe, there will be thoughts along the way. About victory, defeat, and maybe about running. 🙂

And so my idea was born. And 2014 will be the 13.1 year.I've looked up races, preferably close to home, as travel is expensive. Even so...this is not a cheap harebrained idea! Dyeing your hair blue? That's like $100. Running 12 races in a year plus travel and hotel for some of them? We're looking at well over $2000.


I'm thinking of taking up a collection, maybe with rewards? Like, say, if you funded a race, I'd give you the shirt? I don't really need more shirts. I could sign it if you wanted? Or...oh I don't know, what reward would people like for funding my pain? And would anyone fund it? I figure if I raised another $1000 I could switch one of the local races to the west coast even.

But funding or not, we're going ahead! I've already started my planning and the first three races are booked. I'll probably book the next three soon.

Proposed schedule:

Screen shot 2013-12-28 at 11.46.43 AM

But right now? I'm going for a training run. I think I'm going to need it.

9 responses so far

A more personal take

(by scicurious) Dec 28 2013

In case you all missed it, for the past three months now, I have been a full time writer and blogger at Science News, where I run the science education blog Eureka! Lab, and of course, Scicurious. It is, without a doubt, a fantastic life. I'm learning so much as a writer, and I hope that I'm making a difference as I go!

But of course, things happen in the meantime. Personal things. And so my editors have said I can continue here, dropping personal posts from time to time, to talk particularly about my transition away from academia and to life as a science writer. I'm very pleased to be able to do that. It is a difficult transition to make, and I want others out there making it to are not alone in leaving academia. And you are not a failure.

And of course there are other things as well. I have a harebrained new project! For those of you who are interested, see my next post. For those who aren't, well I completely understand. 🙂

One response so far

Happy Science Trails!

(by scicurious) Oct 23 2013

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I am excited to say that I have started a new, FULL TIME job as the Science Education Writer at Science News for Students! You can check out all my science education stuff over at Eureka!Lab! And don't worry, Scicurious will continue! I've got my new digs up and running over at Science News, and the science...and the WEIRD SCIENCE, will continue on!!!

I have been, and always will be, a proud Scientopian. And you might see a personal post or two here from me from time to time. 🙂 And of course I'll be here, reading and commenting  at some of my fav places.

So readers and fellow bloggers, please update your bookmarks, and make sure not to miss any Scicurious! The blog continues on!

5 responses so far

Building a new normal

(by scicurious) Oct 21 2013

This is the post about Bora. And the "community" that I thought was there. There's been other stuff going on as well. But this one is about Bora.


I warn you all that this post is very hard for me. Normally what you see here, even the longer ranting or opinion pieces on academic life, even the big reviews on opponent process theory or long posts on a paper? Those are drafted and posted on the fly. I hammer them out in a single sitting, fast as you like, and throw them onto the internet. Maybe I'll have a friend or two look over an opinion post. But usually not.

But this? This I went over, over and over, in my head. This I took notes for. I wrote an OUTLINE. It's the only way I feel I can fit all the thoughts and feelings in, and even then, I don't think that I'll hit them all.

I don't process on the internet. I don't process on twitter or write posts trying to understand my feelings. I never have, I probably never will. Partially because, when I process, I do so in far more than 140 characters. Partially because, at this point, if I say something I regret... I say it to 23,000 people. And I shudder at the idea of saying something wrong, or something hurtful to someone else, to 23,000 people. And it's partially because I just can't react that fast. It means I've been quiet on a lot of issues, even though people have told me I need to say something. I do want to say something. I just want to make sure I've processed, and that it's the thing I need to say. My silence does NOT mean I do not support the victims. Far from it.

It's taken me a lot of time to process. In the first few days, I drank more than was good for me, I admit. I ran more than was good for me, too (which is very possible). More miles vanished under my heels in two days than I'd run in the previous 10 days combined. I would think I felt better, and come back to a fresh cut. I went whole days forgetting to eat. Not sleeping, waking up in a panic thinking it couldn't be this way.

I know this seems like an over-reaction. But I felt like my world was falling down. Science blogging, BORA, who introduced me to science blogging, made me love science again. Bora, and his guidance, got me where I am. Entering into the world of science blogging showed me where my real talent lay. It gave me an entree into a new career that I am unbelievably excited about. I'm so glad to have found something that I'm good at, and that I love. For all this, I thanked Bora. I still do. Science blogging has become my world. It contains most of my friends. It's no longer a world I can step away from and back into the lab. It's my career now. My life.

But it turns out...Bora was not the man I thought he was. I trusted him implicitly. He told me to jump blogs, I would jump. He told me to apply for something, I would. Without hesitation. To me, he was a mentor. Almost paternal. He told me I was his oldest blogdaughter (from way back in '08). He was never inappropriate to me.

But he was horrible, horrible, to others. And it was chilling, and nauseating, to read. I met Bora like all of them did. In a coffee shop. Alone. Nervous. I was no different.

And now I wonder if I was just being used for my sense of loyalty. I think it's obvious to many people who know me. My college boss from the old coffee shop used to tell me I was like a big labrador retriever. I LIKE you! I like you all! I want you to like ME! I trust you implicitly and I think you're GREAT. And if you knock me down, I'll come bounding back, still thinking we're buds. I'm very, very loyal to my friends. They make mistakes, and I know that. Often, I forgive them instantly.

But when those mistakes HURT people. Hurt many, many people. Hurt their own families, possibly beyond repair. Hurt careers. Use power to take what they want. Lie to me. Lie to everyone. Hurt MY FRIENDS.

Even the friendliest dog has a line.

I feel terrible for his victims. I feel terrible that my faith in Bora, in a way, kept him able to harass others. I admire their bravery, their grace. I am with them in every way.

People have been having the uncomfortable, difficult, painful conversations. I've been having a lot of them myself. I have found out that this thing I thought was my community...was not a community to everyone. I have found out that where I tried to be inclusive...people felt excluded. This was not the "community" of everyone at all. I have found that the ScienceOnline meeting, the place where I felt the safest I have ever felt outside my own house...people did not feel safe.

Bora is not the man I thought he was. And the science communication community was not the place I thought it was.

The whole week has been full of downs. But toward the end. I started to see #ripples of hope. Not just the hashtag (though that alone is brilliant), but from other bloggers, saying, we can, in the future, be better. We want to be better. We WILL be better. People taking decisive action.

And I have been incredibly impressed with many of my colleagues. Yes, people fought, and jumped to conclusions, and etc. But there have been no death threats or rape threats, and compared to some communities I've seen...well I'm impressed. I always thought I wrote with and worked with some amazingly good people. Now, I KNOW it.

And it gives me hope. It makes me believe we can do better. It has made me think HARD about how I behave at conferences. Am I friendly? Am I too friendly? Do I exclude people by accident, without knowing? Am I ever in power over someone...even when I may not realize it?

I may have to change how I operate. All of us may. Our rose colored glasses are gone. But I am willing to change. I think many people are. They are willing to admit that what we had...wasn't as great as we thought. And willing to help build a new normal. I hope it's teaching us to listen. I hope it's teaching us to see. Even when we don't like it.

I'm working with some people to help. I would like to help make Science Online the amazing experience I have had for as many people as I can. I would like to make it safe. I've got a few ideas, and I've seen some great ones around. But does anyone else have ideas? Twitter has been a free-flowing stream, and I don't want things that I could help with to flow past. Please please put them in the comments. I'd love to keep track. I'd love to help build a new, better, more trustworthy normal.


ADDENDUM: ScienceOnline is very committed to making stuff better. Karyn is collected responses. So please if you have ideas, send her a summary (not a link or a storify or a tweet, a summary) to Together we can make this better.

35 responses so far

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