RFS Briefings - October 24, 2019

We are pleased to include another issue of RFS Briefings with some timely and encouraging updates on women in science.

Despite the significant accomplishments of women presented here, we must also note that the recently announced Nobel Prizes in Chemistry, Physics, and Physiology or Medicine, all went to men. Prior to this year’s announcements, Göran Hansson, secretary-general of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, addressed the imbalance in gender and ethnicity among Nobel Prize winners. Only 20 Nobel medals have gone to women since the Awards began in 1901, though there is evidence of a small increase in more women being nominated. Read more. Please also see the articles below summarizing important coverage of these Awards.

We would like to inform you of two upcoming opportunities:

  • The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation invites physician scientists at the assistant professor level who are conducting research in any disease area to submit pre-proposal applications for the 2020 Clinical Scientist Development Award, due on November 19, 2019.  Read more.

  • The Action Collaborative on Preventing Sexual Harassment in Higher Education of the National Academies of Sciences will be presenting its First Annual Public Summit on November 19 – November 20 in Seattle, WA. The audience may participate in-person or virtually through an interactive webcast. Read more.

And, of course, registration is now open for the RFS Board Meeting & Colloquium in November in Philadelphia at the Wistar Institute.

See below for more news about women in science

Please continue to share important news and opportunities with us so that we may share it with you and others who are committed to supporting the careers of exceptional women in science.


With regards,

Karla Signature

Karla Shepard Rubinger
Executive Director
Rosalind Franklin Society

Nobel Prize in Medicine Awarded for Research on How Cells Manage Oxygen

The 2019 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was jointly awarded to three male scientists: William Kaelin, Jr., professor of medicine at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Brigham & Women’s Hospital Harvard Medical School; Gregg L. Semenza, professor of genetic medicine at Johns Hopkins; and Peter Radcliff, director of clinical research at the Francis Crick Institute in London and director of the Target Discovery Institute at Oxford. They were recognized for their work on how cells sense and adapt to oxygen availability, which has important implications for treating diseases such as cancer, anemia, heart attacks, and strokes. Read more.  

‘More Women Are Being Nominated’: Nobel Academy Head Discusses Diversity

Göran Hansson, secretary-general of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, addressed the imbalance in gender and ethnicity among Nobel Prize winners. Of the 607 Nobel medals awarded in scientific disciplines, only 20 have gone to women. Last year, the academy acknowledged that women and scientists from some ethnic groups have been under-represented. Though two women won in 2018 – Donna Strickland in physics and Frances Arnold in chemistry, this did little to “move the needle.” With efforts to encourage scientists to nominate more diverse candidates, including an increase in the proportion of women among the nominators and new language asking nominators to consider gender, geography, topic, and number of discoveries, the impact was small. Read more.

Three Male Scientists were Awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for their Work on Lithium-Ion Batteries

John Goodenough, University of Texas at Austin (at 97 years, the oldest laureate to win this award), M. Stanley Whittingham of Binghamton University, and Akira Yoshino of Meijo University  all male scientists  will share the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for the development of lithium-ion batteries, a major contribution to the technical revolution. Wireless and free of fossil fuel, they provide energy to mobile phones, electric cars, pacemakers and other miniaturized versions of life-saving devices, among other products. This recent Award, however, underscores once again the fact that of the more than 600 Nobel prize medals in science, only 20 have gone to women despite modifications in the award process in 2019 by the Royal Swedish Academy to encourage greater diversity. Dr. Francis Arnold, among the three 2018 winners, was only the fifth woman to win the prize in chemistry. To read more about this Award, see the articles in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Guardian.  

Nobel Prize in Physics Awarded for Studies of Earth’s Place in the Universe

The 2019 Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded to astrophysicist James Peebles, a professor emeritus at Princeton University, for this theories that helped to explain the 13.8 billion years of cosmological history. He shared the award with Michael Mayor, an astrophysicist and professor emeritus of astronomy at the University of Geneva and Didier Queloz, a professor of physics at Cavendish Laboratory at Cambridge University, and at the University of Geneva. They were the first to discover a planet circling around a distant sun-like star. Dr. Donna Strickland was among the winners of the 2018 prize in physics, only the third woman to win this prize. Read more.

The Data Behind the Nobel Prizes

Chemistry World has examined over 100 years of data behind the Nobel Prizes – who and what wins. Since 1901, the Nobel Foundation has awarded annual prizes for chemistry, physics, and medicine/physiology to up to three scientists, totaling 604 different scientists (some have won twice). The data were used to profile the average chemistry Nobel prize laureate as “. . . an American man in his late 50s (probably called Richard, John, or Paul) who works at the University of California, Stanford or Caltech. His prizewinning work was published 16 or 17 years ago, in Nature or the Journal of the American Chemical Society, and has been cited 529 times so far.” The authors explain that there is of course a lot more diversity in the individual winners. Read more
Melinda Gates: Here’s Why I’m Committing $1 Billion to Promote Gender Equality

Over the next decade, Melinda Gates has promised to commit $1 billion to expanding women’s power and influence in the United States through her company, Pivotal Ventures, LLC. Three priority areas have been defined: dismantling the barriers to women’s professional advancement (e.g., caregiving, biased and stereotypical gender norms); fast-tracking women in sectors with huge societal impact (e.g., technology, media, and public office); and mobilizing shareholders, consumers, and employees to toughen external pressure on companies and organizations in need of reform. Gates argues that “Equality can’t wait, and no one in a position to act should either.” Read more.

Kaiser Health News Wins Prestigious Barlett & Steele Investigative Journalism Award

Kaiser Health News (KHN), the editorially independent news service of the Kaiser Family Foundation, won a top prize in the 13th Annual Barlett & Steele Awards for Investigative Journalism. KHN, one of the two gold award winners, published a series “Hidden Harm” which revealed the existence of the Food and Drug Administration’s granting of secret reporting exemptions to medical device makers in order to keep millions of malfunction and injury reports from the public. A second gold award winner, an investigative team of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, NBC News and The Associated Press, was recognized for a series, “Implant Files.” These reports led FDA to announce the largest modernization of its reporting system in a generation. Read more.

Top 100 Companies in Gender Equality – Equileap Global Report

Eqileap released its 2019 Gender Equality Global Report & Ranking, along with ten videos of CEOs from its Reaching Gender Equality series. The report is based on data from over 3,500 companies that were evaluated on 19 gender gap criteria, including gender balance across the workforce, gender pay gap, paid parental leave, and anti-sexual harassment policies. Despite slow progress, Equileap found continued positive change over the past three years. A breakdown by country shows that Australia, France, and the Nordics, led by Sweden, remain the best performing countries on gender equality overall. An important contributor to change is the combined role of companies, government, and investors. Based in Amsterdam, Equileap is now recognized as the leading organization providing data and insights on gender equality in the corporate sector. Read more.  

Wyss Symposium Offers Glimpse into the Future of Diagnostics

The Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering hosted its 10th Annual Wyss International Symposium on September 20, 2019 in Boston, MA. With 960 attendees, half represented academia and the rest were from government agencies, foundations, and various industries. Presentations focused on Next Generation Diagnostics. A member of the RFS Advisory Board, Pardis Sabati, MD, DPhil, Harvard University, spoke during the session on Global Health explaining how tracking the evolution of genomes in real-time can help predict and ultimately prevent the spread of disease epidemics. Other impressive women were represented as well. Read more.

The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation – The 2020 Clinical Scientist Development Award Competition is Now Open

The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation invites physician scientists at the assistant professor level who are conducting research in any disease area to submit pre-proposal applications for the 2020 Clinical Scientist Development Award, due on November 19, 2019. About 50 applicants will be asked to submit a full proposal. Read more.

BM Principles of Pathology, Michaelmas Term 2019

Professor David R. Greaves, University of Oxford, commissioned the cover of a book to be used for a Principles of Pathology course which he will teach next term. The book cover and an opinion piece in the book feature Esther Miriam Zimmer Lederberg (1922-2006), who was a pioneer in bacterial genetics. Professor Greaves said that his inspiration for this was due in part to an Editorial by Carol Shoshkes Reiss, “Inclusiveness,” published in DNA Cell Biology in 2013. Dr. Reiss, Editor-in-Chief of the Journal, is a member of the RFS Board. Read more.

Female Artists Made Little Progress in Museums Since 2008, Survey Finds

Although RFS focuses on gender inequity faced by women in science, we feel it is important to acknowledge the barriers faced by women in other fields as well. New data show that female artists, despite the perception that they were being given overdue recognition over the past decade, have in fact made little progress in museums. Between 2008 and 2018, only 11 percent of art acquired by the country’s top museums for their permanent collections was by women. In part, this is based on the notion that women are more of a risk. Read more.

Three Lessons from Industry that I’m Taking Back to Academia

Yumeng Mao, a fellow at the Science for Life Laboratory and an assistant professor at the Uppsala University in Sweden, reflects on his experience shifting from a postdoc to a job in industry despite the skepticism of his colleagues. His decision was based on the desire to learn more about how treatments were developed from basic research. Now, three years later, he is switching back to academia, confident that his industry experience was worth the risk. Dr. Mao shares the lessons he learned during his time in industry: the importance of interdisciplinary perspectives; an appreciation for work-life balance; and the support of others as he determined his career path. Read more.

Recent Loss of Cokie Roberts, Renowned Journalist & Champion of Women

In a statement by Francis S. Collins, MD, PhD, NIH Director on the passing of Cokie Roberts, he applauds her staunch, long-time support of NIH. In particular, she was profoundly involved with the Children’s Inn, a home-away-from home for NIH’s pediatric patients and families in several capacities: a guide to the Inn since its earliest beginnings; part of the leadership team; and as Secretary of the Board of Directors. Cokie was a “brilliant, award-winning reporter, best-selling author, and revered political commentator,” said Collins. “We have lost a legend, who lived up to every superlative ever used to describe her,” he concluded. Read more.    

Jane Goodall Keeps Going, With a Lot of Hope (and a Bit of Whiskey)

Now 85 years old, Jane Goodall’s childhood role model was Tarzan. When she learned that chimpanzee habitats were being destroyed, she became “a crusader” and her message is always the same: “The forests are disappearing. The animals are going quiet. We’re running out of time.” The renowned primatologist continues to raise money for her institute and its affiliates. Her nonprofit organization raises money for conservation efforts across Africa, and works with local communities to promote economic self-sufficiency and improve public health. Though this has proven to be an effective model for preserving chimpanzee habitats, Ms. Goodall is concerned that it is no working fast enough – with one million species in danger of extinction. Read more.

Register Now for the 2019 Action Collaborative Summit on Preventing Sexual Harassment in Higher Education

The Action Collaborative on Preventing Sexual Harassment in Higher Education of the National Academies of Sciences will be presenting its First Annual Public Summit on November 19 – November 20 in Seattle, WA. The goal is to develop and implement approaches to this “pervasive, harmful, and costly” problem through a combination of plenary sessions, panel discussions, and current sessions. The audience may participate in-person or virtually through an interactive webcast. Faculty, students, staff, and others are also invited to submit proposals for posters, due October 4. The upcoming RFS Annual Board Meeting & Colloquium on November 20-21 will have a presentation on the Action Collaborative’s important work. Read more.  

6 Libraries Around the World Completely Dedicated to Women

The following libraries are completely dedicated to women: (1) Glasgow Women’s Library (Glasgow, Scotland), focused on the feminist history of the city and country, including one of UK’s most significant LGBT historical collections; (2) Biblioteca Francesca Bonnemaison (Barcelona, Spain), founded as early as 1909  as the first ever women’s library in Europe; (3) The Women’s Library LSE (London, England), founded in 1926 by the London Society for Women’s Suffrage, it now belongs to the London School of Economics and focuses on the feminist movements of the 19th and 20th centuries and on the women’s suffrage movement; (4) Bibliothèque Marguerite Durand (Paris, France), the only public library in France dedicated entirely to women; (5) Biblioteca delle Donna (Bologna, Italy), Italy’s main collection of texts dedicated to women, feminism, and gender studies; and (6) Jesse Street National Women’s Library (Sydney, Australia), which includes both a book and an archives collection as well as serials, posters, and audiovisual materials. Read more.