Monday, August 19th 2019

Season 3 Episode 26 – Pregnant Citizen Science!


Show notes: Join Kate as she talks to Dr. Caroline Signore, Deputy Director of Extramural Research at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development at the National Institutes of Health. We talk about Dr. Signore’s path to obstetric and gynecological research. And, we discuss PregSource, a very important program at the NIH designed to involve pregnant women in research understanding the normal experience of pregnancy. Too often we think whatever we are experiencing is normal when it isn’t, or is abnormal when everything is fine, and that’s because there is so little data on pregnant women at all.

PregSource currently has over 700 people enrolled. If you are pregnant you should consider signing up today! The NICHD is also releasing a Spanish-language version of PregSource in September.

Guest Bio:

Caroline Signore, M.D., M.P.H., is a board-certified obstetrician-gynecologist and serves as the Deputy Director of the NICHD’s Division of Extramural Research (DER). As of January 1, 2019, she is also serving as acting chief of the Pregnancy and Perinatology Branch (PPB). 

She joined NICHD in 2003, first in the Division of Epidemiology, Statistics, and Prevention Research (now the Division of Intramural Population Health Research), and then as a program official in the PPB. She was appointed as Deputy Director of DER in 2013. 

Dr. Signore completed her obstetrics and gynecology residency at the University of Florida, and later received her master’s in public health at The George Washington University. Dr. Signore is a fellow of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

Dr. Caroline Signore of the NIH.

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Direct download: here

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Monday, August 12th 2019

Season 3 Premiere of Period Podcast – Are We Defined by Our Cycles?

Show notes: Join Kate as she talks to Dr. Annaliese Beery, professor and member of the Psychology, Biology, and Neuroscience programs at Smith College. I wanted to talk to Dr. Beery because of her work on sex, gender, and estrus cycles in animal research. People often avoid studying females because they believe we are all too variable because of the effects of the menstrual cycle on physiology and behavior. Dr. Beery tells us how that isn’t at all true! She also tells us about the research that shows that males are often the ones who are more variable.

It turns out that menstrual/estrus cycles don’t mean you are suddenly at the whim of your hormones any more than any other gender. So one of the main reasons for gender inequity in research – that when studying females you have to control for menstrual cycle phase, and that is just so hard – is rendered moot. I have been chewing on this interview for months, because it turns upside down so many ways that menstruators are taught to think about themselves. I loved this episode, and I hope you do too!

Guest Bio: Dr. Beery is a professor at Smith College, where she integrates ecological, evolutionary, and neuroscience perspectives in her work. One branch of her research is focused on the neurobiological mechanisms supporting life in social groups. She also studies sex bias in the use of female and male research subjects—both from literature based surveys of prior research, and through empirical studies of sources of variability in males and females. She is the recipient of grants from the National Institute of Mental Health, the National Science Foundation, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and other organizations.  

Picture of Dr. Annaliese Beery
Dr. Annaliese Beery

Do you want to be a patron, or is there someone in your life who would want to be? Check out my Patreon page for ways to support this podcast. Help me make beautiful things!

Want a better PERIOD?

Subscribe to PERIOD so you don’t miss an episode! Subscribing, especially on iTunes, helps us a ton with promoting the podcast and getting the word out to more people. So does leaving a review, so please do that too!

Call or write me! I am collecting two things right now: your period questions, and first period stories. Leave me a voicemail with either or both at 262-PERIOD-2 (262-737-4632). Don’t forget to tell me how to contact you if you don’t mind my following up.

Other ways to contact me:

I can’t wait to hear what you think! Thanks for listening!

Direct download: here

Permalink: here

Wednesday, February 28th 2018

Transcript of my oral testimony from February 27th Congressional hearing on sexual misconduct in the sciences

A number of folks have asked for the transcript for my oral remarks at yesterday’s hearing of the Congressional Subcommittee on Research & Technology (see the whole hearing here). So, here it is. While I made sure to get feedback from many people for my written testimony, I wrote the oral testimony without input, and I wrote it for you. If you’d like to read my longer, written testimony, full of citations as well as quotes from interview respondents, you can find it here.

***

Thank you for the opportunity to share my research and expertise with you today, and thank you for taking on such an important topic. I want to start by sharing a bit about what sexual harassment is, how it manifests in the sciences, and what I hope you’ll help us do about it.

Sexual harassment comes in two main forms – come ons, which are unwanted sexual advances and sexual coercion, and put downs, also called gender harassment, non-sexual behaviors that are crude or hostile regarding gender. While the come ons are the types of behaviors you see in articles about Harvey Weinstein and in sexual harassment trainings, the majority of sexual harassment are in fact the put downs. These are the kinds of behaviors most women in the workplace have experienced at least once in their lifetimes, and many experience every day. The offensive remarks, subtle exclusions, requests to make coffee, yes, but also starting rumors, sabotaging a promotion, or ruining a career.

One of the more recent cases of sexual harassment in the sciences is by alleged perpetrator David Marchant, a Boston University geologist who conducted fieldwork in Antarctica. This case involved horrifying and physical gender harassment: blowing volcanic ash into the already snow blind eyes of a grad student, pushing her down a mountain multiple times, throwing rocks at her if she dared go to the bathroom.

There are a few conditions that make sexual harassment more common in the workplace. When workplaces are male dominated, not just in numbers but in culturally how they behave, sexual harassment happens more. When workplaces demonstrate that they’re tolerant of sexual harassment, by ignoring reporting, retaliating against reporters, or not sanctioning perpetrators, sexual harassment happens more. In 2016 the EEOC wrote a report that showed that only a quarter of sexual harassment is reported, and of those who report, three quarters of them faced retaliation. I study sexual harassment in the sciences because I am a scientist, I care about science, and I’m interested in the ways in which the manifestation of harassment varies by work context. But this is a problem not just of science, but of American workplaces.

In the sciences, sexual harassment looks like this: women having less access to their advisors, to the materials they need to conduct their research, and withstanding constant questioning of their intelligence and worth. I have stories of sabotaged lab equipment, of intentional safety violations, of rumormongering and yes sometimes of sexual assault and rape. What bothers me the most about how it usually looks in science is that we wrap sexual harassment up in this package that we claim is intellectual rigor, and meritocracy. It’s like we think that rudeness and cruelty are the same thing as being smart without noticing that we direct these cruelties more at women than men, more at women of color than white women, more of sexual minorities than straight folk.

We say that asking a nasty question at a colloquium is how we push people to be better scientists. We say when we see an all-male research team that it must just be that the best scientists for the job were all men. We say that the sole woman in a department is the affirmative action hire. We spend all this taxpayer money supporting recruitment of women to STEM fields, and supporting their educations, only to lose that money when they are forced out by damaging behaviors. We also lose their diversity of perspectives, and thus end up with a flatter, more boring, less complex and less innovative American science.

Too often I’ve heard that harassment and bad behavior are the price we must pay for star scientists. But are they really doing star science? When I’m writing my papers or analyzing my data on sexual harassment in the sciences, I’m thinking of the victims and the science we’ve lost. We lost their ideas, we lost their perspectives. We scientists do this work because we want to give the best of ourselves to the advancement of science. Women keep trying to give us their best, and we blow ash in their faces and push them down mountains.

The way we’ve tried to fix this problem isn’t working, we have decades of evidence to prove it. Let’s move away from a culture of compliance and towards a culture of change. Let’s convince universities to worry less about litigation and more about legacy. Do you want to be on the right side of history when it comes to how you center victims and how you improve the lives of women? Do you want to be the hub for exciting, groundbreaking science? Do you want to be the place everyone wants to work at, or the place all the women warn each other about?

I hope you will join me in encouraging universities and other science workplaces to take a values-into-action approach to eliminating sexual harassment. That means locational, contextual solutions that create respectful and equitable climates for everyone. That means focusing on the behaviors we want to see, not creating fear around the legally actionable ones. And that means creating confidential avenues for women to speak, and to be heard.

I just want to say one last thing, because this testimony is public record and it’s important that I say it. In a climate where perpetrators are being centered and where the conversation has been on reporting and speaking up, I want to say today to victims that I see you. I see you whether or not you report, whether or not you have been in one of my studies. I see you when you email me, tweet at me, when you stay silent. I see you and I think of you and I thank you for getting up every day, and I derive strength from you. I hope you know how much you mean to those of us who do this work.

Thank you.