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Earth Science

Reason Excoriates Paper On "Glaciers, Gender, and Science" (reason.com) 523

An anonymous reader writes: Reason.com's Robby Soave criticizes an article published in the journal Progress in Human Geography, for being "utterly incomprehensible," and "the least essential paper ever written." Entitled Glaciers, Gender, and Science--A feminist glaciology framework for global environmental climate change, the article is authored by researchers at the University of Oregon and funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation. Despite being filled with "buzzwords -- colonialism, marginalization, masculinist discourses, etc. -- with such frequency that the entire thing comes off like a joke," the article is accompanied by an enthusiastic press release from the University of Oregon, stating that "glacier research has been intertwined with gender relations, masculine cultures of exploration, geopolitics, and individual and institutional power. That, in turn, led to glacier-related academic and governmental jobs being predominantly filled by men. ... Melting glaciers are today considered a national security risk for numerous countries,' [one of the researchers] said. 'Power and colonialism have shaped the science.' That message is detailed extensively in the paper."
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Reason Excoriates Paper On "Glaciers, Gender, and Science"

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  • Funded by the NSF (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Crashmarik ( 635988 ) on Tuesday March 08, 2016 @04:54PM (#51661365)

    Your tax dollars at work.

    • by Type44Q ( 1233630 ) on Tuesday March 08, 2016 @05:18PM (#51661577)
      Divide and conquer, baby. Nothing quite so useful to TPTB as driving a wedge between the sexes...
    • by Beavertank ( 1178717 ) on Tuesday March 08, 2016 @05:40PM (#51661789)
      Yes? And? I mean, it appears to be true, but is there some larger point behind your comment or do you just like observing where funding for things comes from?
    • More on the grant (Score:5, Interesting)

      by dlenmn ( 145080 ) on Tuesday March 08, 2016 @05:57PM (#51661935)

      The NSF is usually very careful about who it gives money to; only something like 10% of funding request are granted. For those who are curious, the basic grant information on this grant is available from the NSF:

      http://www.nsf.gov/awardsearch... [nsf.gov]

      The grant was done through the Directorate for Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences (specifically the division of Social and Economic Sciences) -- as opposed to the Geosciences Directorate, which I believe normally handles the climate change work. (The NSF is divided into different parts for funding different areas.)

      FWIW, the house science committee has long been working [insidehighered.com] to cut the budget for the Directorate for Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences. I'm sure that good work gets funded by that directorate, but it sure does make me pissed that a BS grant like this gets funded, while more useful grants in applied physics (my area) don't get funded.

      I wouldn't pin this bad grant on the NSF as a whole. Hopefully it's the exception for that directorate rather than the rule.

      • by Hognoxious ( 631665 ) on Tuesday March 08, 2016 @06:16PM (#51662061) Homepage Journal

        The NSF is usually very careful about who it gives money to; only something like 10% of funding request are granted.

        If they rolled 3D6 and only gave funding when it came up as 1 1 1 that would make them nearly twice as careful.

      • by TiggertheMad ( 556308 ) on Tuesday March 08, 2016 @07:26PM (#51662463) Homepage Journal
        Of course NSF might be very careful about their grants and such normally, but they will now be mercilessly mocked because they made a single mistake. I am normally pretty supportive of feminist agendas as treating everyone equally is a strangely compelling idea, but I feel that this is such an easy target that I cannot ignore it:

        "tldr: Its men's fault that ice melts when heated because the penis is the root of all evil."
        • Re:lol (Score:5, Insightful)

          by microbox ( 704317 ) on Tuesday March 08, 2016 @07:53PM (#51662619)
          Most people believe that men and women should be treated equally, and have equal opportunities. Feminism goes wrong when it turns in to myopic whining about unequal outcomes. Unfortunately this is what much modern feminism has turned in to. It is not about equality at all.
        • Re:lol (Score:4, Insightful)

          by kwbauer ( 1677400 ) on Tuesday March 08, 2016 @09:05PM (#51663071)

          "I am normally pretty supportive of feminist agendas as treating everyone equally is a strangely compelling idea, but I feel that this is such an easy target that I cannot ignore it."

          The inability to see the internal contradiction within that sentence is a very common trait among those who are "pretty supportive of feminist agendas."

      • Re:More on the grant (Score:3, Informative)

        by NicBenjamin ( 2124018 ) on Tuesday March 08, 2016 @09:34PM (#51663199)

        Have you read anything on this except Reason.com's takedown? Literally anything? Because this is Social Science, and they're reaction to Social Sciences tends to be heavily colored by the fact that most Scientists studying society do not actually find that Libertarianism is the One True Gospel. They're also much closer to the climate-skeptics camp then they like to admit, arguing the global-warmiong-pause,/a> is real and [reason.com]excoriating [reason.com] Di Caprio for using his Oscar Acceptance speech on the topic. Their stands on both subjects tend to be dominated by a steadfast refusal to care what their opponents are saying when they use words differently.

        Pretty much the entire article that we are talking about can be summarized by the phrase "Ayn Rand didn't use the words 'gendered,' 'postcolonial,' or 'political ecology' in her books; therefore I don't know what they mean; therefore this paper's abstract is meaningless gibberish."

        FYI, the abstract means she was doing some very basic research into how science emphasizes (for lack of a term a reason.com reader would understand) man shit at the expense of woman shit, and how that specifically impacts papers on glaciers and climate change. If I had access to the article I suspect the man shit would be stuff like military science implications of climate change such as terrorism, environmental effects on local livestock, other large-scale economic dislocation, etc. Whereas the woman shit would be much smaller-scale.

        For example, most of Central Asian cultures near glaciers are gonna be burning stuff for heat. Maybe it's actual shit, maybe it's local plant-life. Will the local plant-life change? If they're using sheep dung, and the plants change, will post-climate-change still burn the same? How can they adapt? That's pretty fucking important in that region, and a) I'd be stunned if anyone had bothered to gather the data necessary for the paper, and b) I'd be even more stunned if it got published. The Imperialism bits are included because groups that Empress Victoria of India disliked are likely still on the bad-list of important people in the region, and thus if they use some unique heating strategy that will be screwed by climate change it's likely nobody will notice until the poor bastards start freezing to death.

        • Just an aside: If I hit a paywall, I usually made a sport of finding an unencumbered copy of a paper at an author's university home page.

          In this case, it's not necessary. The full paper is available from the /. post's link. Once onto the Sage page, you'll find the links "Full Text" and "Full Text (PDF)" under the heading "This Article".

  • by pubwvj ( 1045960 ) on Tuesday March 08, 2016 @04:57PM (#51661393)

    Because glacier's and climate change care about your gender. -Bender.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 08, 2016 @04:58PM (#51661397)

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sokal_affair

  • by Syncerus ( 213609 ) on Tuesday March 08, 2016 @04:58PM (#51661403)

    Proof positive that 20 years in an adult day care facility does not make one a genius. It also demonstrates that 30 years spent running an adult day care facility is capable of melting the brains of once intelligent men and women.

    • Re:Adult Day Care (Score:5, Interesting)

      by BarbaraHudson ( 3785311 ) <barbarahudsononline AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday March 08, 2016 @06:27PM (#51662117) Journal

      This is what happens when you start off with one faulty deduction.

      "Jaclyn found a report that noted how women are more vulnerable to glacier changes and hazards than are men," said Carey, associate dean of the Clark Honors College and a professor of history and environmental studies. "I had never researched these gendered vulnerabilities."

      That report linked flooding from a glacial lake with an increase of sexually transmitted infections in women [md-health.com]. "I was fascinated by how two seemingly disparate issues could be so intimately linked through glacial ice," Rushing said. "I wanted to know more about the relationship between women and ice, so we pursued the topic from climate-change vulnerability to knowledge."

      Unless you're having sex with the wildlife, you get sexually transmitted diseases from, you know, sex with other humans. It's more likely to be a correlation between not being able to adequately dry off inner garbs while moving from flood areas, or staying in those areas, leading to more yeast infections which increases susceptibility to STDs [md-health.com].

      People commonly believe that having sex will cause women to develop a yeast infection, but this is not the case. Women that are not having sex can still develop a yeast infection. In most cases a yeast infection occurs when the immune system is weak. Those that are overworked or tired can have a higher risk for developing a yeast infection. If you have just recovered from being ill or using antibiotics may also be susceptible to developing a yeast infection. Those that do not eat a proper diet, suffer from diabetes or are pregnant can also have an increased risk

      A yeast infection is not a sexually transmitted disease in spite of the symptoms being relatively similar. However, if you have been scratching the vagina due to the itchiness associated with yeast infections you may have left small cuts on the skin that increase your risk of developing an STD.

      Also, one report about flooding and stds around one lake does not good science make.

  • by Jeff Y ( 4362625 ) on Tuesday March 08, 2016 @05:02PM (#51661441)
    Can't believe the final sentence of the abstract is not a giveaway: "thereby leading to more just and equitable ... human-ice interactions." Wha??
  • by sbrown7792 ( 2027476 ) on Tuesday March 08, 2016 @05:02PM (#51661443)

    "Men's voices generally are more represented in government than are women's voices," Carey said. "Women might be less able to migrate out of a flood zone during a sudden glacier melt. In Peru, we know that men migrate to the cities for jobs, whereas women are more confined to their homes and child rearing."

    This whole thing reads like an auto-generated thesis.

  • My take (Score:5, Informative)

    by brennz ( 715237 ) on Tuesday March 08, 2016 @05:05PM (#51661477)
    SJW agitprop [wikipedia.org] masquerading as science.

    They don't call it cultural marxism [mises.org] for nothing!
  • by Noah Haders ( 3621429 ) on Tuesday March 08, 2016 @05:09PM (#51661511)

    You know, everybody has to scramble to make that cheddar. For some people it's being world renowned specialists in the gendered aspects of climate change research. For others it's founding a startup that builds drones for dogs, intended to ride on the dogs back and launch when commanded by the dog via neural signals to retrieve objects just out of reach. More power to them.

  • Possible explanation (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 08, 2016 @05:12PM (#51661537)

    The part about melting glaciers and the impacts on the security of countries is legitimate. Even in highly developed countries, water is a highly sought resource. It's essential for power generation, agriculture, sanitation, and human consumption. This has resulted in legal squabbles in the United States, especially in which individuals, businesses, and states have agreements to be allocated a certain amount of water while others have a demonstrable need for the same water. In some states, this has led to laws making it illegal to even do things like collecting rain that falls on your own property. Places like California and the northern Great Plains depend on melting glaciers and snow pack for a significant amount of their water. That's also true elsewhere in the world, such as Tibet and Nepal, where water from melting glaciers in the Himalayas is a hugely important source of water to the region. While there have been significant steps toward gender equality in highly developed parts of the world, there are more traditional gender roles in many less developed parts of the world. This is especially true in places where it's frequent for men to leave their families and take jobs in other cities and countries as migrant workers to provide for their families while women remain in their homes. It's very possible in those regions that the impacts of water shortages will be different for women than for men. The research isn't entirely inexplicable, unlike what the summary author would want you to believe.

    • by harperska ( 1376103 ) on Tuesday March 08, 2016 @05:52PM (#51661877)

      I think you're right. However, the paper could have gotten to the point quicker, and done more to actually further that argument. Whereas instead, it seems to be written by somebody with a feminist axe to grind, and almost seems to intentionally bait the anti-sjw crowd. Most of the paper seems to follow the argument of "Women's contribution to science tends to be overlooked" => "Glaciology is science" => "Therefore we ought to focus on women's contributions to glaciology". This may be true, but it comes across as a lot of fist shaking, and not a lot of getting to the point about what specific advancements in that field in particular have been overlooked due to male-dominated science. It reads more like an undergrad term paper written for a women's study class than something belonging in a serious academic journal.

  • by NotDrWho ( 3543773 ) on Tuesday March 08, 2016 @05:14PM (#51661553)

    The "geologist" who wrote that could one day be a diversity hire on a project that might actually be important.

    And she probably really believes that she's doing real science.

  • by nuckfuts ( 690967 ) on Tuesday March 08, 2016 @05:26PM (#51661659)
    OK, the paper is utterly ridiculous, but so is trying to stretch this as far as "This is why you get Trump".
  • by MrKrillls ( 3858631 ) on Tuesday March 08, 2016 @05:32PM (#51661703)
    Take good stuff, like:

    Changes in glaciers.

    The Impact on vulnerable people and places.

    The smaller role of women in science and technology.

    Hit the blend switch.

    Some stuff doesn't blend all that well.

  • by Krishnoid ( 984597 ) on Tuesday March 08, 2016 @05:40PM (#51661791) Journal

    Happy International Women's Day, everyone?

  • by MerlynEmrys67 ( 583469 ) on Tuesday March 08, 2016 @05:44PM (#51661827)
    From the article

    That report linked flooding from a glacial lake with an increase of sexually transmitted infections in women. "I was fascinated by how two seemingly disparate issues could be so intimately linked through glacial ice," Rushing said. "I wanted to know more about the relationship between women and ice, so we pursued the topic from climate-change vulnerability to knowledge."

    Global Warming cause [forbes.com]

  • by Locke2005 ( 849178 ) on Tuesday March 08, 2016 @05:51PM (#51661867)
    So it was written by a bunch of frigid bitches, then?
  • by SimonInOz ( 579741 ) on Tuesday March 08, 2016 @05:56PM (#51661927)

    It's hard to imagine the masculinity of the majority of researchers does not affect their research. The background of people always affects their outlook on life, so it's pretty likely something as fundamental as gender will too.

    Historically, a lot of science has centred on conflict, and perhaps a little more female input would see more cooperation and manipulation in their subjects.

    It's very probable a more even gender balance would result in more balanced science.

    That would be good.

    But feminist geology, loaded with anti masculine propaganda? Really? That doesn't sound too balanced.

    Come back Marie Curie, we need you. (Also Rachel Carson, Ada Lovelace, Chien-Shiung Wu, Grace Hopper ...)

  • Ice is just ice (Score:5, Insightful)

    by steveha ( 103154 ) on Tuesday March 08, 2016 @05:56PM (#51661931) Homepage

    The introduction of the paper brings up the idea that "ice is just ice" and then dismisses it. If I am understanding the paper correctly (and how can I be certain of that!) the idea is that people care about glaciers, therefore there is a sociological component to them:

    Through a review and synthesis of a multi-disciplinary and wide-ranging literature on human-ice relations, this paper proposes a feminist glaciology framework to analyze human-glacier dynamics, glacier narratives and discourse, and claims to credibility and authority of glaciological knowledge through the lens of feminist studies.

    (italics in original)

    The paper goes on to say that most research on glaciers was produced by males, which of course is a problem.

    Most existing glaciological research — and hence discourse and discussions about cryospheric change — stems from information produced by men, about men, with manly characteristics, and within masculinist discourses.

    No, I didn't punch that up to make it funny, the original really says "men, with manly characteristics".

    Structures of power and domination also stimulated the first large-scale ice core drilling projects — these archetypal masculinist projects to literally penetrate glaciers and extract for measurement and exploitation the ice in Greenland and Antarctica.

    Again, this is the original text. "penetrate" and "exploitation" are both from the paper.

    So the paper argues that all existing knowledge of glaciers is tainted by the maleness of the research, and also by the "colonialism" of the research. In short, not even the study of glaciers can be a pure study of the natural world; glacier scientists must be feminist postcolonial social-justice warriors.

    The conclusion of the paper states:

    Ice is not just ice. The dominant way Western societies understand it through the science of glaciology is not a neutral representation of nature.

    I'm not convinced. The paper is very long on speculation and very short on evidence. If the maleness and colonialism of glacier studies have given us a blind spot in our understanding of what glaciers are, then give at least one example.

    Even in the paper, female mountaineers and female scientists are mentioned. If the study of glaciers somehow rejected these women and their contributions, the paper doesn't give any examples.

    Also I reject the paper's idea that the word "glaciology" should be expanded to include sociological and feminist context. It seems like a transparent attempt to latch fuzzy SJW ideas onto a natural science. Ice really is just ice; people can study ice without studying how society reacts to ice.

  • by nintendoeats ( 1370249 ) on Tuesday March 08, 2016 @05:57PM (#51661937)

    If our choice is between feminism and libertarianism, as the end of the article proposes, I think that I will take living in the woods growing my video games in the garden and sucking my internet from bark.

    Being serious for the moment, I think this is an example of the sort of academic isolation which eventually got Turing arrested. If you work at the history department of a university where all you ever hear about is culture, gender and activism, it is unsurprising that you might forget that we live in a world of physics bouncing around and doing things, not really interested in how we percieve it. What's really annoying is that there is a grain of truth in the idea that we need to consider the cultural impact of geological events. We are people and so are primarily interested in how the world affects people. It is sensible for us to consider the social ramifications of our phsyical discoveries. This guy is not doing that or actually encouraging others to do that, at least not in an intellectually honest way.

    One final note: Whenever a feminist says something along the lines of "science and engineering have been done in a masculine way, squeezing out female viewpoints" I want to shake them. We do STEM the way we do it because it is the way that works. New viewpoints are welcome, but our standard for success is interaction with the physical world. If a feminist viewpoint doesn't meet that standard then it is just as wrong as one which proposes that 1 + 1 = 1. My girlfriend is a doctor, her sister a bio-chem researcher. Neither of them has even a moment for feminism.

  • by Locke2005 ( 849178 ) on Tuesday March 08, 2016 @06:12PM (#51662037)
    "That report linked flooding from a glacial lake with an increase of sexually transmitted infections in women." Once again, repeat after me: correlation does not prove causation!
  • by shugah ( 881805 ) on Tuesday March 08, 2016 @08:24PM (#51662789)
    Because even climate scientists can use a sandwich.
  • Good and bad (Score:5, Insightful)

    by imidan ( 559239 ) on Tuesday March 08, 2016 @10:12PM (#51663413)

    I read the actual journal article. What the authors seem to be talking about is the low credence that scientists in the past have given to indigenous knowledge about glaciers, which is a valid complaint and one that has been leveled at various branches of natural resources sciences of late. Why recognizing that knowledge counts as 'feminist' I cannot say. There are also observations that women have been excluded from glaciology in the past, and that had women been more involved, we may have done more and different research on, for example, the relationships between indigenous people and glaciers. I think those points are okay, as far as they go.

    It's not a 'science' article in the quantitative sense. It's a survey of the state of the domain. It is clearly identified as such in the text. And it was published in a journal where such an article is appropriate.

    People are making much of the $400,000 price tag. That money is distributed over the course of 5 years. I don't know what UO's institutional overhead rate is, but it is a reasonable guess that the Carey (the lead author) gets access to around $50,000 per year of this money. He has some budget worked out for that money that likely includes funding some number of hours of his own time, some hours for a graduate student, and then things like computer equipment and travel and so on. This particular paper is not the sole product of that money. In fact, it's not even listed as one of the intended outputs of the project. It is likely something that struck his interest as he was researching, and he chose to write it and see if anyone would publish it.

    I do think the writing is florid. Sadly, that is the academic style right now. I believe that he could have made his point with half the word count. I also think that focusing on feminism rather than broader ideas of inclusiveness is likely to cause complaint, and, indeed, that is what we see here on Slashdot and in the reason.com write-up.

    I don't think it's a bad article for what it says. I think how it says it could be improved. And I think the press coverage does a disservice with straw-man arguments. They're click-baiting people into raging about positions that the paper doesn't take.

  • by TheRealHocusLocus ( 2319802 ) on Tuesday March 08, 2016 @10:19PM (#51663457)

    1. Glaciers, Gender, and Science--A feminist glaciology framework for global environmental climate change [sagepub.com] is published, after a review process that is itself currently under review.

    2. The paper generates a backlash among those who are fed up with social issues (such as feminism) intruding into the sciences; also those who strive for pure social discourse on gender issues unsoiled by what they see as a gateway to a name-calling tabloid fixation on some group. It generates a frontlash among those who think it sounds cool, and 'like' it on Facebook. No one else bats an eyelash.

    3. It is suggested that it is in fact complete gibberish. Everyone is embarrassed as they gaze back in horror at the tomes of intricately crafted backlash they have written about it. They respond with indignation towards the process that permitted it to be published.

    4. It is suggested that the paper seems like gibberish to the un-initiate but is actually a philosophical 'Chautauqua' of stream-of-consciousness ideas, a process that was described in Robert M. Pirsig's 1974 work Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Those who accepted that it was gibberish are embarrassed anew (after looking up Pirsig) but now, in horror, they realize their vengeance on the publisher merely exposed their ignorance of an accepted art form.

    5. It is suggested that the paper is merely before its time. Someone suggests that it is a seminal work Everyone who is ready to let the whole affair go away, and others who (merely) cannot find anything else like it, just agree.

    6. A new wave of readers encounters the paper after seeing this broadly stated but vague praise, and when they research back to the initial reactions they become suspicious, as it looks like an attempt to deliberately suppress the paper. The claim this, and in order to refute any such allegations, the publisher cleverly avoids controversy by simply 'calling for additional papers' on the topic. They expect that this will reveal them as unbiased and it pays off... and everyone thinks this is finally the end.

    7. Unexpectedly --- other papers are submitted. Some that are obviously mere re-arrangements of words in the first paper, some are on completely different topics but written in the same dreamy style. The publisher has indemnified itself from a position of judgement so they all make it. Oddly enough a group has formed that studies and discusses each in turn, a liberal arts college offers a 'workshop' on the collective works.

    8. But now everyone who ever held a firm opinion of the original paper, in light of all this, is starting to doubt their own mind.

    9. It is suggested that certain kinds of scented candles assist in the appreciation and understanding of these works. A stream-of-consciousness rationale for this is given, and since the style of the suggestion is so similar to that of the original paper, it is taken as a natural extension of the process. Soon chants and other (comfortably traditional therefore non-threatening) rituals are meshed as well. Rolling Stone presents it as a 'movement'.

    AVG Antivirus identifies the original paper as an Ancient Sumerian Nam-Shub Virus [slashdot.org] . But it is too late.

    Millions of people are now gathering around the world in groups to sit nude in large circles, chanting each syllable of the works and improvising new ones while making elaborate hand gestures.

The party adjourned to a hot tub, yes. Fully clothed, I might add. -- IBM employee, testifying in California State Supreme Court

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