Saturday, November 25, 2017

New Topic in Frontiers: Women in Science!!!

From 'You, me and the dancing black holes' by Edward & David

Frontiers has launched a special topic to attract women in science to publish in its pages. 

The requirement is that either the lead author is a woman or the corresponding author. Articles that appear in this topic are free of charge. I am one of the editors and I wholeheartedly support the idea of promoting science done by women. In the academic community we lose talent too easily in both genders and lose opportunities for progress because of vast bureaucracy. I strongly believe we have reached a point where we cannot afford to let go of our best people if we want humanity to survive and continue to thrive. 

From 'You, me and the dancing black holes' by  Edward & David
Women are a minority in physics, chemistry, astronomy and computer science. I have witnessed physics at top institutions, and it is unfortunately still 'a boys club', where graduate students and postdocs are almost invisible even though they do most of the work and have preciously few rights. There is also no support for the families of graduate students and postdoctoral scholars. Little miracles have to happen in each individual case to make things work. My contract ended when I was eight month pregnant with my second son. As an immigrant, I could have chosen to extend my visa for three months to look for other work -- while 8 months pregnant -- and pay the living costs for myself and three children (I also have a foster son) from my savings or move back with my parents. I chose the latter. My advisor/department said that they cannot cover maternity for a contract that would have ended on that date anyhow. When I contacted Human Resources (HR), I have been told that they might have been able to work something out for my case if I had contacted them at an earlier stage, but that departments are under no obligations to report the pregnancies of their employees to HR. I was the second unreported pregnancy in my office and the first woman to use that office space. 

Most of my colleagues who have children and PhDs have stories that are hard to hear.  The Frontiers topic is, however, not focusing on hardships, but aims to celebrate the work done by talented scientists who happen to be women and are leaders in their field or are likely to become leaders in the years to come.

Why I enjoy publishing in Frontiers?

1) It's a more modern journal that opens an interactive forum with the referees, which is less intimidating and more prone towards constructive communication. After the review process the name of the referees are made public unless explicitly requested otherwise.

2) Its rules include that articles can only be rejected based on scientific arguments and not on personal opinions of the form 'this paper is not interesting enough. so, I reject it or I let you as an editor do as you please' (and no this is not made up. I've seen referee responses of this form. They also do not bother to use capital letters.)

3) Frontiers has a presence in social media, which targets a younger audience that uses social media effectively.

4) Frontiers counts the impact of each paper more thoroughly -- they go beyond the number of citations. You can see the number of views, social buzz, and the demographics of your audience.

And the only down side is ...
It is generally not free publish in frontiers. Note that it is free to publish as part of this topic and also that many journals cost money including Physical Review Letters and the Astrophysical Journal. I have been lucky enough to be supported by universities that pay these fees.

My last two technical articles are in Frontiers:

1. Explicit equations for a self-gravitating stellar collapse (note that all three authors are women and that this is my most mathematical paper to date). See my blog post on stellar collapse and time travel.

2.  general relativity as a tool to measure planetary spin in space-craft timing signals. See the planetary spin blog post on this paper to learn that planets spin faster than black holes.

Note: I opted to use my children's drawings to illustrate this post because it's what I have. Edward drew these women/girls with excitement that is visible on their faces. It's how scientists are. The words are allegoric. Women do shake the fields they are in (of course, we all shake the space-time when we dance), and some of their energy is sucked by the hardships faced, which are amplified by the gender gap. Marie Curie is the most famous example of a woman scientist, but there are so many other talented women out-there who shine today. I hope to see some of them publish in this topic in Frontiers.

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