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Anne is a "Strange Quark"

Wow! I won the “strange quark” (2nd place) award in a science writing contest, hosted by Three Quarks Daily, for blogging about the Mississippi River, floods, levees, and the illusion of control.

As I wrote in the comments at 3QD:

Wow! I never thought I’d actually win something for writing about stuff for fun. Thank you to Dr. Lisa Randall for selecting me, the folks at Three Quarks Daily for hosting this contest and boosting me into the finals. I am deeply honored to be a winner of the 3 Quarks Daily contest, and incredibly impressed by the company I’m in.

The 1993 Mississippi River floods were the event that made me become the scientist I am today, so I really wanted to do a creditable job explaining the perspectives and nuances of flood management. Based on the response to the piece, I must have done OK! But now I’ve set myself the goal of bringing that same quality of writing to more blog posts and my scientific papers, so I may be in trouble if they don’t live up to the high praise that this post has gotten.

Thanks to my readers for supporting me in the contest and in blogging generally. Special thanks to my co-blogger Chris for giving me a place to write and for encouraging and supporting me every day.

Diversity in the geosciences and the impact of social media

Cross-posted at Highly Allochthonous

ResearchBlogging.orgOne year ago, Kim Hannula, Pat Campbell, Suzanne Franks, and I launched a survey about women geoscientists reading and writing in the blogosphere. We presented the results at the Geological Society of America meeting, and Kim wrote a great post summarizing and discussing our data. Then I took Kim’s post, polished it up with great wording and thinking suggestions from all of the co-authors and submitted it for publication. It went out to reviewers and a few months later, we were accepted for publication.

In the September issue of GSA Today, you can find our article on The Internet as a resource and support network for diverse geoscientists. We wrote the article with with the idea of reaching beyond the audience that already reads blogs (or attends education/diversity sessions at GSA), with the view that we might be able to open some eyes as to why time spent on-line reading and writing blogs and participating in Twitter might be a valuable thing for geoscientists to be doing. And, of course, we had some data to support our assertions.

GSA Today is an open-access journal, so everyone can and should go ahead and read the whole 2-page paper. But if you want a few highlights, here are some selections from the paper:

The online opportunities for mentoring, networking, and knowledge sharing may be particularly valuable for women and minority geoscientists. Virtual networks offer opportunities to provide support and reduce the professional isolation that can be felt in physical work environments where there are few colleagues of a similar gender, race, or ethnicity. …

Women reported professional and social benefits from reading blogs. We used a five-point scale (1: strongly agree; 3: neutral; 5: strongly disagree) to assess perceived benefits. Of the professional benefits, respondents were most positive about learning things outside their specialty (avg. 1.9), followed by learning within their specialty (avg. 2.3), learning about pedagogy (avg. 2.4), and learning about technology (avg. 2.5). Based on these responses, we conclude that these women blog readers perceive positive professional benefits from their online reading. This suggests that social and other online media could be strategically used to supplement the resources available to all geoscientists, regardless of their gender, ethnicity, geographic location, or employment status. …

Geoscience students perceived the strongest benefits from blog reading, while faculty most strongly agreed that blogs helped them find role models and normalize their experience by finding that many other faculty share their experiences and perspectives. Women in industry perceived less social benefit from blog reading than those in academia, but women in government were the most negative about their blog-reading experiences. In particular, their responses indicated that blog reading had not been helpful to them in finding role models. …

Blogs and other social media may provide a source of community and role models for women geoscientists and help in the recruitment and retention of women from undergraduate education to faculty or industry careers. Our survey results show that blogs are already providing valuable benefits to white, academic women geoscientists, but that existing social media networks could be doing a better job of supporting minority geoscientists and those outside academia. We believe that professional societies, employers, funding agencies, and individual geoscientists should recognize the potential value of social media for supporting a diverse geoscience community. To be effective, such recognition should be accompanied by policies that encourage geoscientists to actively participate in geoscience-related social media opportunities. …

As a white woman geoscientist in academia, I have definitely personally and professionally benefited from my blog reading and writing time. (I even have a publication to show for it!) But I would to love to hear more from minority and outside-of-academia geoscientists about what blogs, Twitter, and other internet-based forms of support could be doing to better support you. As you can see from the paragraph above, what we ended up advocating was that institutional support for blogging and blog-reading would help increase participation. We thought that, with increased participation, more minority and outside-of-academia geosciences voices would emerge, helping others find support, community, role models, and mentoring in voices similar to their own. Meanwhile those of us closer to the white/academic end of the spectrum could learn from all that a diverse geoscientist community has to offer.

One final note, I’m a newbie member of the Diversity in the Geosciences committee for the Geological Society of America. If you have ideas for how GSA could be doing a better job of promoting and supporting diversity off-line and/or on-line, please let me know.

Jefferson, A.J., Hannula, K.A., Campbell, P.B., & Franks, S.E. (2010). The Internet as a resource and support network for diverse geoscientists GSA Today, 20 (9), 59-61 : 10.1130/GSATG91GW.1

Chris Rowan speaking today in the department

I’m delighted to be hosting Dr. Chris Rowan of the University of Edinburgh. Chris’s specialty is paleomagnetic applied to both neotectonic and paleoclimatic problems, and he’s worked in some fabulously exotic locations. Chris is also the lead blogger at Highly Allochthonous, where I occasionally contribute posts as well.

Dr. Rowan will be giving a 2 pm seminar in McEniry 401 with the title: “In search of good palaeomagnetic data: a romp through New Zealand, South Africa and Oman” This talk is aimed firmly at the non-expert.

Dr. Rowan and I will also be convening an informal discussion called “Beyond LOLcats: Earth Science in the Internet Age” at 11 am in McEniry 401. We’ll be discussing how tools like RSS feeds, Google Wave/Docs and Twitter can enhance facilitate collaboration and enhance research productivity.

If you can, please join us for one or both of these interesting seminars.

Women geoscientists and blogs: what we found

Just in time for my ScienceOnline 2010 session, Kim Hannula has done a wonderful job writing up the results of our study on how women geoscientists use blogs. She’s got lots of pretty histograms for those interested in the details, but here are the take home messages from our study:

  • Women geoscientists participate in larger blogging communities
  • Blogs can be useful for sharing experiences and finding role models
  • Women-in-science blogging helps academics
  • But what about people whose experiences aren’t reflected? (Minorities, people with disabilities, non-trad paths?)

We’re hoping to convert our work into something in dead-tree format to reach an audience beyond those already engaged in online communities, so you may hear some more about this topic in the future.

GSA Abstract: Blogs as a resource and social support network for women geoscientists

The Watershed Hydrogeology Lab is going to be busy at this year’s Geological Society of America annual meeting in Portland, Oregon in October. We’ve submitted four abstracts for the meeting, I am co-convening a session, and I’ll be helping lead a pre-meeting field trip.

In addition to being a complete water nerd, I have an interest in gender issues in science. The abstract below lets me think outside of my usual box and work with some really great collaborators.

HANNULA, Kimberly A., Department of Geoscience, Fort Lewis College, 1000 Rim Drive, Durango, CO 81301,, JEFFERSON, Anne J., Dept. of Geography and Earth Sciences, University of North Carolina-Charlotte, 9201 University City Boulevard, Charlotte, NC 28223, CAMPBELL, Patricia B., Campbell-Kibler Associates, Inc, 80 Lakeside Dr, Groton, MA 01450, and FRANKS, Suzanne E., 2435 Edgecomb Ave, Glenside, PA 19038

As women geoscientists progress through their careers, they may find themselves working with fewer and fewer other women. For example, although women now receive 40-45% of undergraduate degrees in geosciences, the proportion of women in tenure-track academic positions is much lower (14.2%) (Martinez, 2008). These women may feel isolated or unsupported in their work environment. Increasingly, social networking on the internet is used as a way of building community without geographic constraints. For instance, there are at least 20 blogs written by women geoscientists, and an unknown number of women geoscientists reading blogs. Blogs and other social media may provide a source of community and role models for women geoscientists, and help in the recruitment and retention of women from undergraduate to faculty or industry careers.

Preliminary work has found that women have many different reasons for writing blogs. Some want to improve scientific literacy, discuss science-related policy, highlight interesting research, or show people what it’s like to work in their field. Some want to discuss social issues, including those related to being a woman in science. Some write for personal reasons: to get support, to get feedback on ideas, for catharsis, or because they just enjoy writing. Women geoscientists also read blogs for a number of reasons: to keep in contact with geoscientists while working with non-geoscientists or while taking time off from work, to look at perspectives from related fields, to find mentors and role models, to participate in discussions with interesting women, to be part of conversations about gender or race, or to get advice.

We will present the results of an online survey of blog readers and writers, designed to find the extent to which women use blogs for these goals, and whether reading and writing blogs affects women’s career goals in the geosciences.

Reference: Martinez, C., 2008, Female participation in the academic geoscience community: American Geological Institute Workforce Currents, n. 9.