Last week I had a fantastic chat with the Queer Science discussion group based at Memorial University of Newfoundland, which is also where I happened to do my PhD. One of the perennial questions when I talk about being an out scientist is how the LGBTQ+ side influences the science side, and vice versa. As someone not particularly versed in sociology, queer theory, or feminist studies, I lack the terminology and background to put my experiences in a broader context, so I said that I didn’t think it did (because that’s genuinely what I thought).
But I think I was wrong.
As one of the group members pointed out, they felt that some of my writing certainly came from a queer science view of the world, and after a bit of discussion, I think I agree. And seeing as this is a blog for some rambling thoughts, I present some rambling thoughts.
I’ve long been interested in the how of science, whether it’s pointing out that gender and sex are different things (and try as we might, we can’t know a bird’s gender, at least not yet), or looking at the ways in which the current science apparatus tends to disadvantage those who aren’t white cishet men. I’ve even managed a paper or two in this line of work, though the process was fraught with push-back and watering down of statements.
When I started my career as a scientist (which I benchmark as the start of my MSc in 2005), I made a folder on my computer for what I called “Thought papers” (and early readers here will recognize that as a category, though a much neglected one, of posts). These were things that challenged the orthodoxy of the science how, and who, and where, and why. This was initially driven my the philosophy of science course I took as a grad student (and which I did not appreciate nearly enough at the time), but the more I progressed in science, the more I could see its faults.
And I suspect I might not have explored this realm of science (or at least, not with as much effort) had I been straight. I mean, we’ll never know, but somewhere out in the multiverse may lie an answer. Who knows.
One of the more challenging, or frustrating things, though, is the amount of time I’m able to dedicate to this line of thinking. Many journals dismiss the manuscripts on how science is done (yes, there are exceptions, but that’s what they are… exceptions. And my laundry list of rejections will do battle with any anecdata any day of the week). And so the manuscripts take longer, sit longer, go out of date faster, and exact a greater emotional toll. So for some, I’ve just stopped, which is sad.
I still have a few of these half-formed ideas, outlined papers, formatted (but empty) spreadsheets, but the emotional labour to bring them to fruition is often (perceived to be) too great. At least by myself.
This is where you come in.
I’m happy to share ideas. Heck, I’ve been trying (though largely unsuccessfully) to give away data for years. So here’s my attempt for the meta-science (science about science) bits & pieces of languishing projects.
If you’re interested in making science a better place, in pulling back the curtain to see its (often) old, white, male face, and looking for solutions, and you have some time, or need a project, get in touch. It might not work out, but then again it might.