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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Researchgatekeepers



Researchgate.net is a predictably disappointing example of gendered hierarchies within knowledge production. While the prejudice is not as explicitly displayed as it may be in an actual academic environment, it is implicitly just as strong. I do not have actual numbers on the demographics, but just from my research alone there is an evident divide between disciplines in terms of gender.

The Natural Sciences are heavily dominated by elderly white males and young Indian males. Perhaps, this divide is not actual in terms of absolute numbers, it is however apparent, especially in terms of the members with a large amount of followers. The largest group of women are typically younger and more interested in contemporary critical theory.

This came as a surprise to me, since I thought that with an online site that provides mutual benefits for research collaboration would be more aimed at progressing science than sticking to traditional social mores or conventions. I asked my girlfriend about the gendered relations within the natural sciences. She has a unique point of view on the situation since her father teaches Astrophysics here at UT and she has been a student in both the Natural Sciences and the Humanities here. She sees much more of a prejudice within the Natural Sciences but nonetheless a very prevalent force within the humanities as well. 

I have not seen any actual acts that I would see as explicitly sexist on the website, yet there is some intangible force which seems to prevent collaboration across genders. Thus, there hasn't been any need for management to intervene. Maybe management has intervened previously and driven out all of the obvious sexists, I'm not sure. Nonetheless, my experience indicates that social networking sites, rather than opening up new connections or modes of viewing research, has simply extended traditional biases.

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2 Comments:

At April 24, 2011 at 9:29 PM , Blogger Goli said...

Perhaps the creators of Researchgate had the same hopes you did, that by using a social networking site as a means for engaging in collaboration they could narrow the gender gap within the natural sciences. This reminds me of what Christina mentioned in class about Wikipedia. It's not exactly clear if the male-domination of that site is a product of genuine gender biases or other forces. For example, maybe women contribute less edits because they are busy as caregivers, despite having the credentials and capability to get involved. It might be interesting to see if the women who do participate on Researchgate have a common characteristic.

 
At May 4, 2011 at 7:21 PM , Blogger Katie K said...

The movement to involve women more in the sciences and technology fields has been going on for many years now. I feel like there is still a stigma, though, that says that a professional woman in the sciences is not "sexy" or the proper place for her. It could be that female interaction on the site is lesser for the reason Goli gave, or perhaps there is still a large gap between gender demographics within the various fields.

 

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