Scientific Peer Review Is Broken Because the Peers Are All the Same

There’s been a lot of conversation about the value of scientific peer review lately. Less than a week ago, the New York Times reported that: “Two major [coronavirus] study retractions in one month have left researchers wondering if the peer review process is broken.” Much more concerningly to me, “[a]n unscientific and racist article” (quote from here) was published in Philosophical Psychology in December 2019 and the editors refused to let a group of scholars publish a critical commentary in a timely fashion. On a related note, the transphobic Gliske paper about which I had posted previously was retracted in April after months of controversy about how it could have possibly passed peer review.

Why does peer review not prevent the fruits of scientific racism, transphobia, and so many other damaging -isms and phobias from getting published?

My short answer is: it’s in the name.

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Dear Neuroscience: Stop Trying to “Fix” Diversity

I announced recently that I had been trying to publish an op-ed and that I would post it here if no newspaper would have it. No newspaper would have it, so here you go (and please imagine it were still the end of December, when this was all more recent and it still seemed a fitting time for new year’s resolutions):

As the year in which President Trump reinstated the ban on trans* persons from military service is coming to a close, many of us are hoping for a less transphobic new year. But the current year of sickening transphobia isn’t quite over yet. “Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling just made headlines by expressing support for Maya Forstater, an openly transphobic researcher who claimed that sex was unchangeable and had nothing to do with identity. Anthony Ramos from the LGBTQ+ media advocacy organization GLAAD referred to Forstater’s view as “an anti-science ideology.”

The disturbing truth is that some scientists hold similar views as Forstater. A recent publication in eNeuro, an open-access journal published by the Society for Neuroscience, proves this point. Author Stephen Gliske, a nuclear physicist by training, proposed a novel theory regarding the neurobiological underpinnings of gender dysphoria (the distress that some trans* individuals experience because of the incongruency between their bodies and gender identities). Much of the argument relies on data from previously published rodent studies.

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Must Read: Article in The CUT on Science and Sexual Stereotyping

When I was still sleeping this morning, Melinda Wenner Moyer published a spot-on article in The CUT, “These Ideas About Sexual Attraction May Be Based on Shoddy Science.” Moyer traced the controversy around French psychologist Nicolas Guéguen’s questionable research on social interactions between men and women. She did an excellent job at connecting evolutionary biologists’ tendency to sexual stereotyping with the current conversation around sexual harassment and other forms of sexualized violence. You should definitely read for yourself, but here’s a little teaser:

We are finally, as a country, publicly acknowledging that men have been treating women like shit for ages. Now, even the science that lends support to our iconic gender stereotypes—the science that reinforces the idea that men are biologically programmed to be sex-crazed and that women are basically sex objects—is coming crashing down, too.

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Final Summaries on 20th-Century Science: Feminism and Science

The below essay was at the same time my favorite to write and my last one for my list with Susan Lindee. Concluding my readings in Cold-War Science and Feminism also brings me one step closer to my oral exams on May 6: this was the first one out of three lists that I completed reading. As of yesterday, I have finished all my lists (more essays to follow on this weblog soon).

I have some training in Gender Studies, most importantly through taking classes with Anelis Kaiser, Sabine Hark, and following the NeuroGenderings network, but taking time to (re)read and discuss the below works gave me a new perspective on my own work. I used to have problems calling myself a “feminist,” because I’ve seen a lot of unproductive deconstructivism in the public discourse. The below scholarship, however, together with my teachers and the NeuroGenderings network, offers a glimpse into the development towards productive feminist science critique that does not forget intersectionality—a scholarly project that I want to contribute to. Continue reading

Book Summaries Cont’d: 20th-Century Sexuality and Sexology

The items below do a fantastic job in connecting the “private” with the “public” spheres—and show that they’re not actually separate spheres whatsoever. Many of these works, I already utilized during a research project on a statistical review of the Kinsey Report. I haven’t had time to revise the research paper that grew out of this project in order to get it accepted at a journal, but I’m positive that this will be easier as soon as I don’t have to read 13 books per week anymore. Just like the reading list on post-WWII US science and second-wave feminism, from which the following items are a part, I worked with Susan Lindee on this research paper. Continue reading

Book Summaries: Cold War Social Science, Gender Roles, and Reproduction

I have done many more readings. The following essay from my Cold War science and feminism list with Susan Lindee is already 1.5 months old and I can read faster and type more efficiently by now. As a colleague of mine, one year ahead of me in the same program, tells the grad student applicants who come in every Monday these days: If we were able to start over grad school with the knowledge and strategies we have now, we would need to get a hobby! We’d be so bored reading only four books a week. Continue reading

Book Summaries: History, Tools, and Practices of Genetics and Hereditary Science

Here comes another contribution to my summaries for my list with Susan Lindee. Topic of the day: “History, Tools, and Practices of Genetics and Hereditary Science.” My original notes are much longer than what I provide in this essay, but I have a maximum of six pages to deliver. So I had to cut some of my observations. Have fun! Continue reading

More Book Summaries! Today: Sorting People Out and Digital Technologies

Last Wednesday, I had another orals meeting with Susan Lindee. You can find the bibliographical details of the books discussed in the blurb and my analytical essay below that. Guess which book I liked least! Continue reading

Privacy Lost—SCAN Put Me on Youtube

I just returned from India a few days ago (see my new Department picture) and getting back to serious academic work is pretty rough after more than three weeks out in the wild … So I just spent a few minutes procrastinating and googling myself. Doing so, I found a youtube video of my short presentation at the First Annual SCAN Retreat. I should watch the video and use it to improve on my English pronunciation, I guess.

P.S. I also found the SCAN certificate in my mailbox when I returned. I’m completely done with classes now, scientific and non-scientific!
P.P.S. Just realized they also put up a testimonial, taken from an email I sent to Martha after my HSS panel last November. I seem to be a quite popular SCAN graduate.

Neuroskeptic’s Patient-Researcher Perspective

Neuroskeptic just published a very interesting post asking: What Can “Lived Experience” Teach Neuroscientists? It’s a short reflection on whether or not neuroscientific research on depression (for instance) should include more patient perspectives. Being very up-front about a personal history of depression, Neuroskeptic points to a problem that sounds almost like the barber paradox. (Read it.)

Two thoughts on that: Continue reading