Collaboration and Gender Equity among Academic Scientists
2. Existing Research on Collaboration
2.1. Research Collaboration
2.2. Valuing Collaboration
2.3. Collaboration in Career Development
3. The Present Study: Institutional Context and Methods
4.1. Resources for Collaboration
STEM faculty men looked for additional resources that would allow them to develop more robust interdisciplinary collaborations. Assistant men also noted that the lack of university-supported research assistants made it difficult for them to get their collaborative research programs off the ground: “the absence of RA-ships for graduate students makes it difficult to attract graduate students without [my] already having grants.” Assistant men suggested that support for interdisciplinary RAs and postdocs would be a major resource that would help facilitate collaboration across units or faculty at the university. While many of the assistant women in our focus groups came from engineering and lab science fields that emphasize collaboration, they did not make the same claims for internal funding for RAs and postdocs.My work is very interdisciplinary. There’s not much chance to interact with other departments. The exception is [interdisciplinary program with] cross-college faculty members. Faculty share what they are doing, but beyond that, is there other support? There are no seed grants for working together. This is discouraging.
Another assistant woman similarly noted, “I feel like [the university] is shooting itself in the foot with that. If collaborative grants were valued and you could still show your independent contributions, it would cost the university a lot less money in terms of start-ups and having to hire people.” Devaluing collaborative grants left these faculty feeling uncertain about how to carry out their research programs, given tensions between collaborative funding opportunities but emphasis on individual grant-getting at the university.It’s not olden days for funding. Everyone is trying to be in a silo to write grants, and [they are] not going to get funded. Interdisciplinary efforts get funded…saying you won’t get promoted if [you are] co-investigator or co-PI on the grant…is throwing the baby out with bathwater.
A full professor who is a woman similarly argued that “disciplinary flagship journals are valued more than interdisciplinary journals,” leading to a conversation about how external letter writers might review interdisciplinary faculty poorly who are up for tenure and promotion if judging simply by the standards of their field. We also heard from a woman associate professor who felt that since external reviewers are usually within the field, “if someone has a big interdisciplinary focus,” it would be challenging to find external reviewers who do not judge them primarily on “what they are doing for the field.” This suggests that doing interdisciplinary research is not entirely recognized in tenure and promotion decision.It would almost be politically incorrect to say we do not support interdisciplinary research. I think we are open verbally…the [research] literature they are bringing in [to their paper] is [interdisciplinary], but the co-authorships are not. Again, coming back to the cultural impediments, high impact journals are the ones that are very field and disciplinary specific, no matter how interdisciplinary, that is where you are going to get published and read, not in interdisciplinary venues. There is a conflict there.
This is very challenging for faculty members trying to ensure both research funding and promotion.the advice I got was to work on my own work. They don’t really count much of these collaborative papers unless it’s your students, your name. If you’re the co-PI on a collaborative grant, the money is kind of discounted, especially related to tenure and promotion.
Here, junior women have created a peer mentoring program to provide each other with support that had been missing within their department. Another group of associate women discussed a previous mentoring program funded by an external grant that was no longer active because the funding had ended:We felt a little frustrated in our department, and we had no senior women faculty at the time, so we did a College…mentoring group for women that focused on issues of research, teaching, work-life balance. Women of all ranks were included.
we all shared a love of the mentoring program we had pre-tenure and…that is lacking, post-tenure…it was so productive, we would all like to see an effort, built in structurally. It needs to be institutionalized, can’t be just depending on funding, gone away the next year.
I do get [feedback], if I bug them, like [on] a grant, I ask them to read my grant…but they are both senior people. I don’t feel that connection, maybe [I have questions about] very stupid things about student, [they’ll say] ‘learn to deal with it,’ no real suggestions. There is no real understanding between my situation and their situation.”
Funding is tight these days. It’s sometimes hard to get mentoring around grants because senior faculty without funding may not have gotten a grant in this climate. Now people are scrambling to find a way to sustain funding in a new environment, people who before had these massive labs, just don’t.
Conflicts of Interest
- What support for peer mentoring exists (if any) in your department?
- How are decisions made in your department—do you think decisions are made hierarchically, or more collectively? (for example, do chairs consult and make decisions, do committees decide/ how are committees selected)Q2B. Relatedly, how much transparency would you say exists around personnel decisions in your department? (promotion, tenure, merit, distinguished, teaching awards)
- In your own work, do you engage in interdisciplinary research?Q3A. Do you see interdisciplinary research as supported by your department? (i.e., How do you think interdisciplinary research will come into play when it comes time for tenure review?)
- What do you think the general level of satisfaction is among faculty in your department? (why?)
- What barriers do you perceive to faculty work?
- Are these data surprising? Why do you think there is a gender gap?
- What recommendations do you have for interventions to address perceived barriers to faculty work?Q7A. Are there ways that decision-making could be improved?Q7B. Would you recommend additional support for interdisciplinary research, and if so how?
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|Rank & Gender of Focus Group||Field|
|Assistant Men||Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Chemistry, Chemical Engineering, Computer Science, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, Political Science, Psychological and Brain Sciences|
|Assistant Women||Astronomy, Biology, Chemistry, Chemical Engineering, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Economics, Environmental Conservation, Geosciences, Linguistics, Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, Microbiology, Physics, Psychological and Brain Sciences, Resource Economics, Sociology|
|Associate Men||Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Biology, Chemistry, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Computer Science, Economics, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning, Sociology|
|Associate Women||Anthropology, Biology, Chemistry, Ecological Conservation, Math and Statistics, Physics, Psychological and Brain Sciences, Sociology|
|Full Men||Astronomy, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Biology, Chemistry, Computer Science, Linguistics, Management, Math and Statistics, Political Science, Physics, Psychological and Brain Sciences, Sociology|
|Full Women||Anthropology, Biology, Chemistry, Economics, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Geosciences, Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning, Physics, Political Science, Psychological and Brain Sciences, Sociology|
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Misra, J.; Smith-Doerr, L.; Dasgupta, N.; Weaver, G.; Normanly, J. Collaboration and Gender Equity among Academic Scientists. Soc. Sci. 2017, 6, 25. https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci6010025
Misra J, Smith-Doerr L, Dasgupta N, Weaver G, Normanly J. Collaboration and Gender Equity among Academic Scientists. Social Sciences. 2017; 6(1):25. https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci6010025Chicago/Turabian Style
Misra, Joya, Laurel Smith-Doerr, Nilanjana Dasgupta, Gabriela Weaver, and Jennifer Normanly. 2017. "Collaboration and Gender Equity among Academic Scientists" Social Sciences 6, no. 1: 25. https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci6010025