How should we talk about science and the people behind the discoveries? In our outreach program, Future Science Leaders, we want to show the work of science so we are trying to show the personality of scientists – but we also want students to be inspired by the accomplishments. My default position is to try to separate these discussions and talk about the accomplishments when discussing the science but at a different time, talk about personal lives when students want to know about what it is like to be a scientist. It is important that we have these discussions about about both areas in regards to all genders and backgrounds.
In a previous post, I wrote about how we often include personal details about women scientists but don’t do the same for men. In March of this year just after International Women’s Day, the students were given assignments to write about women or men scientists again with some rules.
Our first year students wrote about women (or another under-represented group in science) and had to pass the Finkbeiner test:, meaning the post can not mention:
- The fact that she’s a woman
- Her husband’s job
- Her child care arrangements
- How she nurtures her underlings
- How she was taken aback by the competitiveness in her field
- How she’s such a role model for other women
- How she’s the “first woman to…”
For the women scientists, we do not let them write about Marie Curie to get them to learn of new female scientists. (It was then interesting to read the Wired piece arguing to think beyond Marie Curie.) There was still some overlap between the student choices so next year we will help and encourage them them to research beyond standard texts.
The second year students had to do a reverse Finkbeiner, meaning they had to do a post where they broke all the rules for a man scientist.
Here are all the posts – how do you think they did?
Interesting, many of the students wrote about Alfred Einstein and when asked, they said that they had trouble finding personal details about others. This has not been the case in other years so it may have been a case of looking just before the deadline. Next year, Einstein will not be allowed. I’m surprised we didn’t have anyone write about Alan Turing this year.