What’s a president look like?

Trump is worried:

Well, I just don’t think she has a presidential look, and you need a presidential look,” Mr. Trump told ABC’s David Muir in an interview broadcast on Tuesday.

That echoed a remark he made Monday, when, speaking to a small group of mostly men in Cleveland, Mr. Trump asked skeptically, “And she looks presidential, fellows?”  [My stress.]

Here’s a good picture of some presidents:


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Male-dominated conferences in neuroscience

The NY Times reports on a data-based analogue of the Gendered Conference Campaign in neuroscience:

[The organizers] started a website called BiasWatchNeuro, with an inaugural post on the conference. Since then, they have posted gender ratios among speakers at more than 60 conferences in various areas of neuroscience, and compared them with the base rates — the proportion of female scientists in that particular field. The base rates are estimated from the number of women in grants databases. If anything, Dr. Niv said, the site errs on the side of underestimating the base rates.

At about half of the conferences listed on the site so far, the number of female speakers matches or surpasses the base rate in that field in general. But what fuels the project, Dr. Niv said, is how many conferences continue to fall not just a little, but far short, of the proportion of women in that field.

The discussion in the article, including potential explanations for the findings and varied reactions from people within the field, is interesting, and has a lot of parallels to the case of philosophy.

Dialogues on Disability -Karl Viertel

I’m very late posting about this – apologies for that – but better late than never… The latest installment in Shelley’s series of interviews with disabled philosophers is out now. As always, it raises important and troubling issues. This time, she talks to Karl Viertel, who has chosen to appear in the series under a pseudonym. He talks to Shelley about depression, anxiety, self-identity, the problems with academic ‘pedigree’, and more.

My guest today is Karl Viertel (not his real name). Karl studies Classical German Philosophy and Phenomenology. When he is not nose-deep in a German text, Karl may be found on his yoga mat, bicycle, or in the local coffee shop with a good novel and a slice of cake.

You can read the interview here.

Double anonymous review helps women

Women are more likely to be accepted to speak at academic conferences if applications are anonymised to remove any mention of their gender, a study suggests.

In the latest piece of evidence to support the “Matilda effect” – where women in male-dominated fields are rated more harshly by peer reviewers – a review of a leading international conference found that papers with a female first author were viewed more positively once clues to the applicant’s gender were removed.


The study was also important because it revealed gender bias in this particular field, even though a male-to-female speaker ratio (roughly 50:50 in 2012 and 2014) did not suggest an immediate problem, Dr Roberts explained.

“We’ve shown that sometimes a bias is there even when raw numbers show equality,” he added.

“Young people also do better under double-blind reviewing as they can be recognised for the quality of their work, rather than winning credit just for their name and reputation,” Dr Roberts said.

Read more at THES, or the paper.

Don’t blame the mothers

From folk medicine to popular culture, there is an abiding fascination with how the experiences of pregnant women imprint on their descendants. The latest wave in this discussion flows from studies of epigenetics — analyses of heritable changes to DNA that affect gene activity but not nucleotide sequence. Such DNA modification has been implicated in a child’s future risk of obesity, diseases such as diabetes, and poor response to stress.

Headlines in the press reveal how these findings are often simplified to focus on the maternal impact: ‘Mother’s diet during pregnancy alters baby’s DNA’ (BBC), ‘Grandma’s Experiences Leave a Mark on Your Genes’ (Discover), and ‘Pregnant 9/11 survivors transmitted trauma to their children’ (The Guardian). Factors such as the paternal contribution, family life and social environment receive less attention.

Questions about the long shadow of the uterine environment are part of a burgeoning field known as developmental origins of health and disease (DOHaD)1. For example, one study revealed2 that 45% of children born to women with type 2 diabetes develop diabetes by their mid-twenties, compared with 9% of children whose mothers developed diabetes after pregnancy.

DOHaD would ideally guide policies that support parents and children, but exaggerations and over-simplifications are making scapegoats of mothers, and could even increase surveillance and regulation of pregnant women. As academics working in DOHaD and cultural studies of science, we are concerned. We urge researchers, press officers and journalists to consider the ramifications of irresponsible discussion.

Read on, in Nature.  Lots of useful data here, and great arguments.