I was in a minority last night, and not just because I was one of the few men at #talkfest, the third such event hosted by the Biochemical Society. Last night’s affair was addressing diversity in blogging.
I’m not going to write a meeting report, but if you weren’t there (or even if you were) you could do worse than see what Elaine Westwick had to say about the proceedings.
It was somewhat disappointing, to be honest. Yes, it was a good conversation, and yes, it was a blast down the pub, catching up with old friends and making new ones, but I think the event failed its own brief:
We hope to continue this discussion, but also broaden the debate to talk about women in science and writing and to consider diversity in an appropriately ‘diverse’ way. What about other hot-button topics like race, class and sexuality?
There was a little bit of discussion about politics and religion—mainly to point out that your typical science blogger is a left-wing atheist—but hardly any discussion on race, and what was said about politics or faith centred on how other groups were clever in how they recruited diverse types to get their message across. Elaine writes,
1. There are not enough women science bloggers
2. Women that do blog are not as celebrated as their male counterparts
But equally (assuming science blogging is a ‘good’ thing),
1. There are not enough black science bloggers
2. Blacks that do blog are not as celebrated as their white counterparts
1. There are not enough Christian science bloggers
2. Christians that do blog are not as celebrated as their atheist counterparts
1. There are not enough working class science bloggers
2. Workers that do blog are not as celebrated as their bourgeois counterparts
And so on and so forth for Asians, Tories, Jews, disabled, whatever. For a diverse crowd, it was pretty narrow. I doubt very much that it was representative of the pool from which science bloggers could be drawn—there are a lot of Asian, for example, scientists. (The two hands in the room that indicated a right-wing identification were probably, actually, pretty representative of numbers in science.) As far as I know, there might be lots of gay black Christian working class Tory scientist bloggers—it’s just that we’ve never heard of them, which amounts to the same thing, more or less.
But really, does it matter?
That question was raised last night, and an answer was given that yes, it does, because of outreach. People are more likely to respond to people like them. Now, I’m not totally convinced—not least because I seriously doubt whether the majority of science bloggers are into outreach at all (oh yes, they might claim it, they might intend it, but practically? No way). But I also think the argument that like has to outreach to like is specious. Part of outreach, or at least one definition of it, is reaching people who are not like you.
I think diversity—of all types—is important because it demonstrates that, as I keep telling my girls, you can do it. Your sex, colour, creed, family background, number of legs—whatever—doesn’t matter. Diversity is important, to show that science blogging, and more importantly science itself, is not just for the white, left-wing, middle class. Not just the practical doing of it of course, but the relevance and application of the scientific process.
That’s it, I’m done. Your turn.