Hurries for humans in physis

I was asked to comment on a blog post by particle physicist Sabine Hossenfelder about open access, however I decided to comment first on her recent post Hurdles for women in physics.



Bee wrote: “As I have said many times before, I don’t understand why academia basically doesn’t have the normal middle ground of average-pay permanent contracts.”

A main problem in this whole discussion seems to be the question: “How do I deal with “unproductivity”*? (due to pregnancy, sickness, age, care for others etc.)”

That is the tenure was sought on one hand as a mean to give “good” researchers more freedom for (in terms of possible profitable outcome: high risk) research (however if the teaching load is exorbitant high then “being tenured” doesn’t help much), on the other hand tenure is a kind of social insurance (mostly against unemployment, old age or sickness unproductivity and old age poverty). So if one focuses on the aspect of social insurance the “getting tenured” process is with respect to this aspect a big gamble on getting a good social security (or not) within a certain time slot. And if women want to have children then those women clearly have less chances to compete in this “gamble”, since they more or less need to get pregnant within this time slot. It is also clear that if people should get “unproductive” (like by being pregnant, by having to care for small children, by having long term sicknesses etc.) then it is easier to get rid of them with short term contracts.

Without an exeption, all women I have talked to and who have succeeded in math/physics academia either managed to get a permanent or social secure position (Sabine how likely is getting tenure at your place?) before getting pregnant (rather rare) or had a partner with enough social security (i.e. a good job). I think this should also be statistically visible.

So clearly there is a “hurdle” (as Sabine calls it) which affects women more than men, because on average up to now there are more women getting pregnant than men :) .
There are of course also other aspects, but I leave these out for the moment.

In my case one of my short term academic contracts ended right after the birth of my second child, so the corresponding department didn’t need to deal with a possible “unproductivity” on my side, like due to child care. Problem solved :) .

I would though be cautious with “the normal middle ground of average-pay permanent contracts”. These are country-wise VERY different. I have a girl-friend who was recently “fired” after many years of work on such an “average-pay permanent contract”. (The reason for the firing seems to have been a “restructuring” within the company, that is she was not the only one who was fired but a whole section of that company was “fired” including parts in Britain and Germany). She was fired in the sense that she was escorted out and wasn’t even allowed to get her lunch packet from her office. The corresponding fired people of that section in Germany however were back in their office after 3 hours due to the current german employment/firing regulations which the mangement seemed to had somewhat forgotten about :) ) .

I actually also got the feeling that since the overall job market got fiercer and since the social nets are more and more eroding that there were/are more people – who might be less suitable for the respective academic tasks – who have been trying to take part in that “tenure social insurance gamble”.

* I had made the quotation marks, because “hard work” and “productivity” are quite debateable terms.

remark added 13.12.2017:
I wrote: “Without an exeption, all women I have talked to…”
here is a typo: an exception -> any exception

another omittance to be corrected:
who have succeeded in math/physics academia ->
who have succeeded in math/physics academia while having (a) child(s)

That is I know women, who didn’t have any childs.
I don’t know any women in math/physics academia who had adopted a child.

51 Responses to “Hurries for humans in physis”

  1. L. Verstrauch Says:

    I think she is provoking you again. That is she posted a link to an open access journal where

    The APC is £3,150 or $5,200 +VAT (or local taxes.)

    APC is article processing charge.

  2. morphnoch Says:

    I think she is provoking you again. That is she posted a link to an open access journal where

    The APC is £3,150 or $5,200 +VAT (or local taxes.)

    That sounds as if there is a problem with an APC?

    That is you can always look for sponsorship, if you a re a distinguished scholar than this should be no problem and for newcomers there are many competitions like for example the Brain Corporation Prize by Brain cooperation (not to confuse with “smart brain cooperation” :) ).

    For scholarpedia, which as I understood is owned by Brain Coporation, to receive sponsorship seems even a prerequisite! But I don’t know how much of that goes into an APC.

    Or with the words of Leo Trottier before he started his “Clever Pet Kickstarter”: on the scholarpedia blog:

    After Gutenberg built his printing press it took more than 200 years before the first scholarly journal was established. The chief obstacle to learned inquiry in those times was not inadequate media, but instead the practices and conventions of researchers. Boyle solved the problem of his age by introducing new modes of scholarly communication that encouraged greater openness and trust, and in doing so helped spark the Age of Enlightenment. Perhaps the solution to our challenge is similar.

    By the way scholarpedia is looking for volunteers.

  3. Joe Says:

    I think she is provoking you again.

    I think nad doesn’t want to answer because she is jealous that the video promoted
    on her blog, the time video has not had even 400 visitors and Sabine Hossenfelders video got within a few days already 600 youtube views.

  4. Silvia Says:

    L. Verstrauch wrote:

    I think she is provoking you again. That is she posted a link to an open access journal

    Joe wrote:

    I think nad doesn’t want to answer because she is jealous that the video promoted
    on her blog, the time video has not had even 400 visitors and Sabine Hossenfelders video got within a few days already 600 youtube views.

    This post has nothing to do with open access or music videos. It is about women in science. I find it thus more annoying that in the post it is not mentioned wether nad is pro a women quota or not. I think Sabine Hossenfelder is against a quota and I agree – a quota would mean that you artificially force scientific institutiions to take from the pool of “inefficient” (that is how nad called them themselves!). There is a good reason that Grosse-Böhmer said here:

    “Wir haben konkrete Vorstellungen, was sein sollte und was nicht sein sollte. Nicht sein sollte eine weitere Belastung der Wirtschaft durch die Frauenquote”

    . (We have concrete imaginations about what should be and what should “not be.” It should “not be” that economy is further burdened by a women quota.)

  5. Rogg'n Roll Says:

    think nad doesn’t want to answer because she is jealous that the video promoted on her blog, the time video has not had even 400 visitors and Sabine Hossenfelders video got within a few days already 600 youtube views.

    I just say: Sabine is about 17 years younger than nad…..

  6. quota Says:

    I think nad doesn’t want to answer because she is jealous that the video promoted
    on her blog, the time video has not had even 400 visitors and Sabine Hossenfelders video got within a few days already 600 youtube views.

    This post has nothing to do with open access or music videos. It is about women in science.

    I think in some sense there is a connection through connectivity. Sabine Hossenfelder appears to be well connected in the scientific community, so (especially since her videos are science related) she will probably gain youtube viewers faster than nad who is -as I understood- now a housewive and I don’t know about Tim. So the number of youtube viewers may not necessarily be related to the quality of the videos.

  7. Dr. Seltzam Says:

    So the number of youtube viewers may not necessarily be related to the quality of the videos.

    Well – it is an “open secret” here in Berlin that this “time” videofilm is a fail. In particular you might want to know that the video was submitted to the

    23. International Music Video Clip Competition by the Federal Association of Film authors (Bundesverband Deutscher Film Autoren and it received grades which were not even in the mid range.

  8. Dr. Seltzam Says:

    by the way here a link to the winner clip by Cosma Nova

  9. quota Says:

    Dr. Seltzam wrote:

    it received grades which were not even in the mid range.

    The webpage of the 23. International Music Video Clip competition doesn’t list any grades or other rankings than the winners, so your assertion is unproven and it could be rather reputation-damaging.

  10. Rogg'n Roll Says:

    …..and nad is rather at the breaking point – scales-wise….

  11. Silvia Says:

    Sabine Hossenfelder ist not only against a women quota, but also against
    women-only positions in particular in physics:

    https://twitter.com/skdh/status/939386660583854080/photo/1

    I already said above that I think that nad should say, what she thinks about
    quotas for women in science.

  12. Silvia Says:

    I mean I guess I don’t need to inform about the situation like at US universities:

    https://www.aps.org/programs/education/undergrad/faculty/making-the-case.cfm

    In this era of tight budgets, university administrators and state higher education boards have been taking aim at physics departments as a means to cut costs. Physics programs have been closed or have faced threat of closure in states such as Texas, Louisiana, Missouri, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Idaho.

    more details here:
    https://www.aps.org/publications/apsnews/201112/backpage.cfm

    The Crisis

    49% of all public institutions

    58% of all institutions

    100% of all public Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) (and all but two of the private HBCUs)

    These are the percentages1 of undergraduate physics programs that would be closed if the recently enacted standards in Texas are applied throughout the country.

    What was the criterion used? For an undergraduate program to survive, it must graduate 5 majors per year averaged over the past five years.

    Nobody wants to study physics and by the above it becomes clear that especially woman and minorities feel repelled!

  13. spieglein, Spieglein außer Rand und Band Says:

    @Silvia said:

    Nobody wants to study physics and by the above it becomes clear that especially woman and minorities feel repelled!

    Sorry but then why do you think that quotas mean to “take from the pool of inefficient”? – as you said above?

    Because it is clear – what is missing are role models.
    So it is good that the european comission has compiled
    a website of profiles of successful young female scientists, like for example
    mathematician, physicist and philospher Lisa Schowe says:

    I did not face any problems to enter the world of science as a girl. I don’t think there are any big differences.

    That is encouraging !

    And although it received many critics, I also find that this promotion video shows that science can be cool. Good (audio)visuals are key!

  14. Silvia Says:

    speiglein above:

    “Sorry but then why do you think that quotas mean to “take from the pool of inefficient”? – as you said above?”

    Women and minorities feel repelled because it is difficult for them. See for example the discussion about James Damore.

  15. nad Says:

    Silvia wrote: “I already said above that I think that nad should say, what she thinks about
    quotas for women in science.”

    I think quotas are sometimes justified, but one has to be very careful in how they are i applied.

    So -sorry I can’t give an easy yes for a pro-or-against quota statement, and likewise not for the female professors.

    When I was a student and postdoc at TU Berlin’s math department there was a women quota and I was supportive of it and a few times I even substituted our “Frauenbeauftragte” (something like a gender equality official). The “quota” was however not a simple percentage quota as the ones usually discussed, like in politics. The quota was based on the given “pool”. That is if there where 10% female students then the there was a quota of 10% female assistants (which were on step up the ladder of professional maturity and hierarchy), if there were 7% assistants then there was a quota of 7% professors. By this mechanism it was clear that there were enough “capable” females, because of course it may happen that a given pool is too small for a quota to be fulfilled in a meaningful way. I should add that at my time there were no female professors, neither in math nor in theoretical physics at TU Berlin.

    Why was I supportive ? (I don’t know about the current situation there, but I could imagine that I still would be supportive even now)- Because of course if you have a group of a certain kind then this groups selects according to what it thinks would fit in nicely. And this makes sense, because finally these people have to work together. But it is clear that there is always a “selection bias”. Problems arise if the selections are not necessarily motivated by professional necessities. And this is not necessarily a gender problem. Like even Nobel Laureate Werner Heisenberg didn’t get a job in munich as a successor to Sommerfeld: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Werner_Heisenberg#Career

    Is it a professional necessity to e.g. have female professors? Depends. Female star mathematicians like Emmy Noether worked unpaid for years:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emmy_Noether#University_of_Göttingen
    Was she stupid? Was she just uncomfortable negotiating? (https://www.forbes.com/sites/lisaquast/2014/03/31/job-seekers-8-tips-to-negotiate-your-starting-salary/#78f070c53d4a) Not really. In particular -unlike as in many businesses- the quality of basic research is not so easy to evaluate, there are not necessarily fast “outcomes” etc. It is only through her (and some other females) in retrospect “valuable” contributions and -important- the acknowledgement of her male peers that their contributions were indeed valuable – that it dawned on (parts of) society that it might be stupid to leave out women in basic reasearch. So at least in Germany there is somewhat of a consense that one has to scrutinize and eventually counteract against “selection bias”. Quotas are a method, maybe not the most sophisticated, but it is not so easy and usually rather expensive to set up other schemes. And as described above there are different kinds of quotas.

    But yes even in Germany -it is a “still discussed” societal topic with highly diverging opinions about the effectiveness of quotas against “selection bias” and by the way still disputed whether there exists a possibly damaging selection bias.

    I will now describe one situation I experienced at TU Berlin math department in order to give you an insight about the involved controversies.

    At TU there were socalled “terminal rooms”, where computer terminals were alighned on tables along the wall. At these days the room was usually open, the terminals could be used by graduate students and other academic personel. I think I was a diploma student at that time, that is the terminal room was not that of the geometry group, but one floor below on the other side of the building. i.e. I am rather certain that this happened before I was a PHD student.

    I was sitting at a terminal writing up some scientific text. There was another male student sitting to my right at a distance of about 2m 50 at the same table row. He sat right at the window. If I remember correctly there was one empty seat between us. Back then I knew the student only fairly and I don’t remember who he was. If I remember correctly the room was empty otherwise. Suddenly one professor burst in the door, ran to me and placed himself very closely to my right, facing his front to my head (remember I was sitting and starring at the screen) and yelled at me the sentence: “Jetzt hat schon wieder jemand keinen Job gekriegt, weil er einen Schwanz hat” (translation: “Again someone didn’t get a job because he had a dick”) and then the professor rushed out.

    I remember how the other student made a comment like : “Jesus, what was that!” and I was just shock-freezed. I didn’t even know what the professor was referring to. It was only later that I learned that he probably must have just rushed out of a job candidacy meeting, where apparently his favoured male job applicant failed against a female one. At this time I put this incident mentally into the drawer: “OK he was in a rage” and tried to forget it. It was only very later after I got to know about other, in particular career harming incidents, which took place with this professor that I saw it in a different light in retrospect.

  16. Fempower Says:

    This story is very bad. Why didn’t you report?

    Was this professor a sexual predator of the Harvey Weinstein type?

    Is this sexual predator thing very common in math ?

  17. nad Says:

    Fempower wrote:

    “This story is very bad. Why didn’t you report?”

    Of course I talked with people about that incident, probably including the Frauenbeauftragte (if I knew about her existence back then, I don’t remember). This incident was clearly quite on the borderline of being acceptable, but then these were also other times.

    So for example at the beginning of my studies it happened not very often but it did happen that especially in physics lectures (I forgot wether this happened also in math) that when I went to the blackboard that male students would catcall behind me – just to give you an air of the overall atmosphere. That is this incident was rather regarded as a minor problem and as said I myself tried to forget it. You probably would have gotten get crazy if you would have brooded too much about all those incidents.

    Was this professor a sexual predator of the Harvey Weinstein type?

    Not that I know of. In his case the problem seemed to have been more or less mean, sometimes rather subtle and above all unpredictable agressions against lower ranks, which were somehow not behaving in a way he thought they should. The agressions could be in particular damaging as he excerted them also in evaluations. I should say there were also rumors that this type of agression was to a greater extend most often directed to females and by the way also to people, where male homosexuality played a role. I was actually warned of him and epecially this evaluation problem (like he would unexpectably issue bad grades), but I wouldn’t first believe it. Stupid me.

    Is this sexual predator thing very common in math ?

    I didn’t get around too much in the math world and thus didn’t get to hear too much. But it was strange that although the faculty in Berlin was at that time completely male-only that homosexuality was never mentioned. It was only at the end of my stay there, that there was a young professor who was openly gay. And despite there were very, very few women in math in Berlin I know of one case where a french guest professor most probably had an affair with his female PhD student and a case were a Berlin professor had an affair with a female postdoc which he had hired as far as I know, this affair resulted even in a pregnancy. So in my personal history this means two severe cases of sex with dependents out of a sample size of maybe about 10 females.

    In general all these things were not really discussed openly and by the way also not more general, non-relationship type cases of academic misconduct. And my impression is that this didn’t change much. The problem is, that groups know that if there is a problem of misconduct or even only a problem with discontent about procedures which becomes openly visible as a “group problem” then this would most probably result in funding problems for the whole group. So this is usually covered up.

  18. spermafrost delivery Says:

    Who do you think is interested in those old stories? – as if “Mother Nad” would be a role model of celibacy…

  19. nad Says:

    Who do you think is interested in those old stories?

    The grading procedures related to my Ph.D. thesis had an impact on my career path so for me this is not an “old story”, but I am more or less forced to deal with all the consequences.

    as if “Mother Nad” would be a role model for celibacy…

    Again mentioning the above cases was certainly not about forbidding agressivity, sex or relationships. On the contrary I do think that you even shouldn’t talk them away – that is it is necessary to discuss problems within those human components in a matter of fact way. Like in particular I do think that the extreme pressures some people are sometimes subject to may eventually have severe effects on those components and may lead to severe escalating problems, like it e.g. seems to be the case for Harvey Weinstein, who allegedly even threatened to kill. It is a question to be asked, how those escalating problems could have been averted, and in the case of Harvey Weinstein – despite all the media limelight.

    So amongst others the above comments were to discuss who is entitled to what how and why and how to find ways to decide on all this without falling back on more or less atavistic power methods.

  20. Bibi Says:

    Don’t you think that it is a little exagerated to say that if your advisor is unhappy with your work and thus grades you accordingly that this is an “atavistic power method”? Especially since I guess there were possibilities to appeal against the grading.

  21. nad Says:

    @Bibi
    Its the procedures around the grading and not only the grade itself which play a role here. Moreover the grade itself is by the way not really bad -per se it is an acceptable evaluation- it is only that if your are below a summa cum laude, i.e. if you are “only” very good in Germany then things get already not so easy in academia and if you are on step below that it is considerably more difficult to defend your hiring.

    Moreover it was not that my advisor was unhappy with my work, and my evaluation was lowered only a few points as from what I expected, which however resulted in a different grade.

    But yes, back then I actually wrote a complain about the grading and went to that professor (who was not my advisor, but he was involved in the grading), who I mentioned above (the one who yelled at me) and told him that I think that I am going to make this into an official appeal against the grading. As far as I remember my complain was mostly referring to his written synopsis of my work. He told me that if I am going to do this then things will be way worse for me and that in particular if he would have been alone in charge for the grading then the grade would have been way worse and that everybody e.g. in the math physics community would agree with him, because it is very obvious that my work is flawed. I perceived his words as rather menacing.

    I refrained from handing in the complain and thus from appealing against the grading judgement.

  22. Fempower Says:

    and that in particular if he would have been alone in charge for the grading then the grade would have been way worse and that everybody e.g. in the math physics community would agree with him, because it is very obvious that my work is flawed. I perceived his words as rather menacing.

    I refrained from handing in the complain and thus from appealing against the grading judgement.

    Can’t believe that you finally bowed out like a scaredycat. This type of behaviour is really disappointing especially in view of global feminist struggles. You could have given a proof of how females are oppressed in this patriarchal, technocratists world. I mean he obviously tried to destroy your carreer.

  23. E.T. nach Hause Says:

    I think there is no reason to freak out just because ones marks are not supernice.

  24. nad Says:

    fempower wrote:

    Can’t believe that you finally bowed out like a scaredycat.

    I didn’t “bow out” because I was scared of his menaces. That is he said in that menacing context even something in the vein of that “he will let everybody know how bad the work is” (where you have to know that the involved math phys community in Germany is/was quite small and so people from other universities would eventually ask how this and that student is) and I was quite convinced that he would probably do so anyways, whether I file a complaint or not.

  25. nad Says:

    E.T. nach Hause wrote

    I think there is no reason to freak out just because ones marks are not supernice.

    Well the aspect of “freaking out” or let’s say the “surprise reaction” depends of course on expectations. A Ph.D. thesis grade is not about missing out some points on a problem set. That is usually there should be some kind of feedback before the thesis defense and I perceived a big difference between previous feedback and the final judgement after the defense.

    Another aspect is how much does such a grading block you in your plans (which are usually based on expectations). As I tried to outline above in Germany the grade does play a role in job recruitment and in particular it does play a role if the people who eventually want to hire you depend on the evaluators, like e.g. because they don’t know you (like for most industry jobs) and thus depend to a great deal on the judgement of the evaluators or because potential coworkers see that there is not everything perfect with the thesis evaluation for whatever reasons and so eventually better try to avoid any sort of trouble with the thesis evaluators etc. But as said the grade is not totally terrible so this is a greyzone. Moreover there are of course some workarounds against reduced job chances like leaving Germany or find a person, who is more interested in the concrete things you have done, than what grades you have etc.. There are of course also other strategies, which not so rarely happen especially in academia like brown-nosing – but these kind of strategies were never an option for me.

  26. Fempower Says:

    nad wrote:

    “I didn’t “bow out” because I was scared of his menaces. “

    It seems you had a 3 years post doc position right after your Ph.D. at the very same university (!). Surely it is not so pleasant to not be installed in such a position – like if one protests openly against overcome patriarchic structures!

  27. FITRGRRL Says:

    SMH

    @Fempower JZ good u found out!
    TMS ts time publicliy name crngers in comfy public jobs——–
    down with sickophancy
    shut up KYS nad
    YOYO!!!!

    pseudo whining CHX should be chopped AIR?
    fempower u shld post ts on rddt

  28. nad Says:

    @fempower
    @FITRGRRL

    I also didn’t “bow out” because I expected to (not) get a 3 years post doc position after my Ph.D. at the same university.

    In particular this position was financed by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) as part of a set of Ph.D. positions and postdocs and other money, which were part of a socalled “Sondeforschungsbereich” and as far as I remember this position was “ad personam” (if I understand correctly that meant the DFG wanted me to get this particular post doc position). I don’t remember though when exactly the expert jury had met. Back then I wondered about this strange “quota” and didn’t really know why it was there.

  29. Eheberatung Ditteriecht Says:

    nad wrote:
    “Back then I wondered about this strange “quota” and didn’t really know why it was there.”

    What do you mean by “quota” here? A quota is for a group like for females and not for a single person.

  30. Fempower Says:

    @Eheb…:
    Crucial question here is whether this is a gender quota and not what is the number of persons.

    @nad:
    then why didn’t you sue him?

  31. Eheberatung Ditteriecht Says:

    “..and not what is the number of persons.”
    @Fempower
    What ?!?!?!
    So nad got a “quota” because she’s e.g. from an ethnic minority which consists of one person? Sorry but that makes no sense. Ever seen a tribe with just one member?

  32. nad Says:

    nad wrote:

    Back then I wondered about this strange “quota” and didn’t really know why it was there.

    Eheberatung Ditteriecht wrote:

    What do you mean by “quota” here? A quota is for a group like for females and not for a single person….Ever seen a tribe with just one member?

    As said I don’t know why this position was assigned to me as “ad personam”. Maybe this was due to me being a female, maybe there were other reasons.

    It may sound strange that a “group of people” should be able to consist of no or just one person, but mathematicians prefer to refer to a “group” (here having more a set in mind than a mathematical group) more like as a thing that could “group together” any number of people, including 0 and 1. Sorry for the mathy view.

    Surely it is not so pleasant to not be installed in such a position – like if one protests openly against overcome patriarchic structures!

    As I described above there were strong indications that the evaluation of this professor could at least partially have been based on gender bias, but I knew that there were also other aspects. Like in particular he was disapproving of the work I did in this article. That is after I gave him a 90 min explanation of what I had done there, he said something that he thinks this is no useful work (I think that even the word “bullshit” was used) and that he thinks this is not appropriate for a publication. I published it later against his advice, last but not least because another professor found it interesting and thought it should be published.

    So scientific disagreement about the relevance/usefulness could eventually also have led to downgrading and this was -at least back then I think- an apriori valid argument.

  33. Fempower Says:

    nad wrote:

    scientific disagreement about the relevance/usefulness could eventually also have led to downgrading

    By the way -I don’t know whether you have already seen this but Sabine Hossenfelder had just released a book about “scientific disagreement problems”.As far as I understood Sabine Hossenfelder thinks that theoretical physicists has been so unsucessful in the last 40 years because scientists were relying too much on the fact that the “math” should look beautiful.

    In a post on her blog she writes:

    Theory-development in particle physics for the last 40 years has worked mostly by what is known as “top-down” approaches. In these approaches you invent a new theory based on principles you cherish and then derive what you expect to see at particle colliders. This approach has worked badly, to say the least. The main problem, as I lay out in my book, is that the principles which physicists used to construct their theories are merely aesthetic requirements. Top-down approaches, for example, postulate that the fundamental forces are unified or that the universe has additional symmetries or that the parameters in the theory are “natural.” But none of these assumptions are necessary, they’re just pretty guesses.

    I can’t believe that you both fail to see how much antifeminst and in particular patriarchic thinking is behind those disagreements.

  34. spieglein, Spieglein außer Rand und Band Says:

    So scientific disagreement about the relevance/usefulness could eventually also have led to downgrading and this was -at least back then I think- an apriori valid argument.

    As I wrote above☝ the success ☀ of your theories depends also on their presentation ♨ If you look at science talks Ⓜ then they are rather inaccessible ♿ and boring ⛔ You need a right branding strategy ✨ Already the intermixable logics of australian realism tell you that Andrea Nahles doesn’t like black swans.
    Have a coffee ☕ – keep cool ☺

  35. nad Says:

    @spieglein, Spieglein außer Rand und Band

    The 90 min explanation was not only a presentation. That is it was apart from presenting parts of my thesis to him (as said he was to co-grade the thesis) more a question and answer session, like I could ask you now what “australian realism tells us about why Andrea Nahles doesn’t like black swans” and you could answer that -and so on. But frankly I don’t have time to listen to that. I would also like to add that the mathematical methods in this article were almost school math, i.e. easy to apprehend, so this was probably really more a conceptual disagreement.

    @Fempower
    Yes I saw the book and I read some posts and articles about it. A bit of self-reflection is not bad and she provides this for the high energy community by chosing this interview/commentary style – so I bet there is a lot of interesting things in there to be found!

    I have though different opinions about most of what she writes about beauty and elegance and what she thinks are the reasons for the”crisis in particle physics”**, in fact I already do not agree with her description of “elegance” in this article:

    …elegance, the third and most elusive aspect of beauty. It’s often described as a combination of simplicity and surprise that, taken together, reveals new connections. We find elegance in the ‘Aha effect’, the moment of insight when things fall into place.

    But that is OK. One doesn’t need to agree all the time. In fact disagreement can be helpful like sometimes something what you think looks like an edgy view point, looks edgy to you because there is something elusive in your own view. Sometimes disagreement can fortify your own views. I think the old greek may even had a word for the latter – this feature is at the core of debates.

    If everybody can chose their own ways then disagreement is probably on average more good than bad. Things however get difficult if this is not the case, like if there are constrained ressources. Example: Imagine there is a crossroad and there are two people in a hiking group who very much disagree about which way to take and the others in the group have no opinion. Apriori there is no problem here: everybody might just choose the way they like to go or follow the person they like to believe and see if they make it in time for dinner.

    Things would though be differently if this would not be a hiking group but a sightseeing tour and there is only one car and thus only one part of the group would get to drive further. In this case you have to develop something like a “group think” (so here again something I disagree with Sabine Hossenfelder) that is you have to say: we are e.g. the majority and we think we go this way and you are the minority who wants to go the other way, so we get the car and you have to walk. In fact this flocking behaviour in academics is often called a “rope team (“Seilschaft” in german).” And in fact in most cases it doesn’t make much sense to leave the car rotting at the crossroad for the sake of justice. But of course in this way it also might be that noone is in time for dinner – the car group not because they took the wrong way and the walking group not because they had no car.

    So in short: If ressources are scarce you usually have to make group-decisions about which ways to take and which ways not to take and when it comes to math/physics questions the groups are usually not purely male or female. Note: this doesn’t exclude that there may be gender-related ways of thinking and acting.

    **which might be due to the fact that she has worked for over ten years in particle physics and I have basically no background in particle physics. That is I had a 2 hrs/week class in experimental particle physics for my physics diploma and briefly listened to something like five of Schraders 2 hour quantum field theory lectures. I don’t know how to calculate a Feynman integral. (Despite all this I did at one point after my Ph.D.actually really think about whether to work in theoretical high energy physics or not.)

  36. Gierschlundleider Says:

    Some corrections: A sightseeing group would usually take a bus and not a car. The term car is reserved for smaller vehicles.

  37. Dr. Bongischmontz Says:

    Despite all this I did at one point after my Ph.D.actually really think about whether to work in theoretical high energy physics or not.

    Astonishing that you got this idea – but then I guess you knew that with your knowledge of that subject (what you described above) this would have been career-wise a rather dangerous undertaking. It takes years of hard work before you can think of making tiny contributions.

  38. Fempower Says:

    I would like to add that Sabine Hossenfelder waived her job chances by speaking out about her disagreement with scientific practises. She wrote

    “By writing [this book], I waived my hopes of ever getting tenure.”

    As for the reasons she wrote in her blogpost Lost in Math: Out Now. that:

    Now imagine you work at some institution which has a group in my research area. Everyone is happily producing papers in record numbers, but I go around and say this is a waste of money. Would you give me a job? You probably wouldn’t. I probably wouldn’t give me a job either.

    So you both got no jobs because you critcize male dominated structures and you both seem to fail to see this, quite unbelievable!

  39. nad Says:

    @Fempower
    Nuclear physics is not solely male. So for example Marie Curie developed the theory of radioactivity, Lise Meitner was with her cousin the first to theoretically describe nuclear fisson, Emmy Noether detected a mathematical feature, which is at the core of modern nuclear theories, Maria Goeppert-Mayer proposed the nuclear shell model. That those women were not paid for all their work (so for example Wikipedia writes that Maria Goeppert-Mayer worked 9 years without payment for John Hopkins University) doesn’t mean that their work wasn’t “valuable” per se, it just means that it was not “monetarily valuable” within the framework of the given socio-economic system.
    I understand that Sabine Hossenfelder is concerned about tax-payers money and yes there might be some inefficiencies, but I think it might also be worthwhile to compare with other sectors. So for example a rough estimation (adding the bars quickly by eye I see from 1970 to 1994 an average of 1000 TWh and from 1994 to 2016 about 2300 TWh so about 24*1000+22*2300TWh=74600TWh=74600*10⁹ KWh of energy produced with nuclear fission altogether. If one takes 15 Euro cents per KWh then this is 74600*15*10⁷Euro=1119000*10⁷Euro=11190 billion Euros. Of course a lot of this economic “gain” went into engineering tasks, accident costs and a lot should go (and doesn’t) into an appropriate waste management and I have big problems with commercial nuclear fission energy production but still -I bet in comparison to the costs for the nuclear researchers which contributed to this development this probably appeared to be a kind of jackpot for the rest of mankind….and we talk here only about nuclear fission, think of nuclear medicine etc. (but also do not forget the costs of nuclear weapons…) So in retrospect nuclear researchers were probably not adequately paid for their economic contributions – if one looks at nuclear science in terms of economic gains.
    Compare also the giant costs of the LHC, which may by now be in the range of 30bn Euro (?) to that sum and also what (some) taxpayers pay for Formula 1 (2016 team costs about £1.3bn = 1.54bn Euro) or lipsticks and other cosmetical things.

  40. Fempower Says:

    Wow! You still fail to see how male dominance suppresses women! These women you listed worked without payment? Crazy! Every common business coach could have told them how to negotiate their salary!
    And I see there are women professors in Germany which excert bad pressures if young researchers get pregnant:
    http://www.spiegel.de/lebenundlernen/uni/max-planck-gesellschaft-doktoranden-werfen-direktorin-mobbing-vor-a-1221885.html

    Are all females now brainwashed in Germany?

  41. Business expert Says:

    In Wikipedia it is written about Goeppert-Mayer (nuclear shell model) that

    Three German scientists, Otto Haxel, J. Hans D. Jensen, and Hans Suess, were also working on solving the same problem, and arrived at the same conclusion independently. Their results were announced in the issue of the Physical Review before Goeppert Mayer ‘s announcement in June 1949.[38][39] Afterwards, she collaborated with them.

    This sounds like efficiency problems due to particle-scientist-overproduction.

  42. nad Says:

    @Fempower

    I don’t know the reasons for what happened in this case of a female director of a Max-Planck-Institute, which was described at that Spiegel Online link you provided. In fact I have no idea who is meant. So I can also only guess.

    I don’t know what you mean with brainwashed.

    But yes there could be psychological pressures, like a lot of female academicians in Germany are without childs, because it is hard to stay in academia with kids, and if you perceive being childless as a sacrifice to your job then it is bitter to see others being supported in getting both – a desired job (were you can care for your brain childs) and real childs.

    But on the other hand -as I already pointed out in the blog post, being pregnant, having small childs is usually reducing your efficiency in a job, in particular there are tasks which you can’t delegate or whose delegation/substitution would be quite detrimental to your childs health, like e.g. breast feeding. So in principle it is a delegation “problem”, where I wrote “problem” in quotation marks because too much delegation can also be problematic, because you have no good feeling about what happens at the “base” and being left with pure managerial tasks might also be bad, if you are a scientist. So I actually have some problems with what Marcel Tanner said:

    “Statt engagierten Nachwuchs auszubilden, schnitzen zu viele Professoren lieber an ihrem eigenen Monument – das ist eine schlimme Attitüde.”

    That is professors need to be able to keep doing research themselves. In particular there are professors who write their names on student papers and have very few ideas about the actual content of the paper. So they might even “look” as if they are caring for their students, but in fact they don’t.

    In german there is an expression, for which I couldn’t find a translation, that something is “auf Kante genäht” (literally: sewn to the edge), if a little more stress leads to collapse. That is “auf Kante genäht” means literally that you have to economise fabric to such an extend that you can’t leave seams and so your fabric might more easily tear. We also have the expression “Durststrecke” (“thirst stretch”) for periods where things are going badly. And yes you wouldn’t suspect that a director of a Max-Planck-Institute might would have so terrible ressource problems that a pregnancy of one or two employers becomes a problem, so you wouldn’t expect that things there are “auf Kante genäht” or a “Durststrecke”, but this actually can happen if you are expected or you expect from yourself to deliver (there is a very high peer pressure on Max-Planck Diectors and consequently you may have problems to downsize already by this reason) but you have delegation or health problems yourself.
    Like in the case of that professor we were discussing above stress of that sort could have been also a factor for his behaviour. He had a lot of problems with secretaries, if I remember correctly. But I don’t remember or never knew whether this was also the case at the time of my thesis defense.

    As a matter of fact it is also delegation problems which play a big role in this gender debate that is increasingly women try and often need to try to get away from the “low-profit” job of raising children, doing housework etc. and so men have increasingly problems to delegate these tasks.

  43. Business expert Says:

    OK. Incapable secretaries, possibly backed by trade unions, can draw any strong man into the abyss. I bet he couldn’t hire them, but they were installed by a socialist-like university administration.

  44. nad Says:

    OK. Incapable secretaries, possibly backed by trade unions, can draw any strong man into the abyss. I bet he couldn’t hire them, but they were installed by a socialist-like university administration.

    I don’t think there is a fundamental difference between the employment terms and conditions for secretaries at larger businesses and universities in Germany. That is they are usually hired according to some Collective agreement. There might eventually be a difference in salary though. So I think secretaries at this university were placed according to necessities, but researchers had some possibilities to ask for a different workforce.

    Anyways in the above case I don’t know whether the “secretary problems” mentioned here where solely due to incapabilities on the secretaries side. That is the professor in the mentioned case would once in a while rather loudly yell at subordinates, like secretaries – inlcuding me, as I was also doing administrative work at his university environment. I remember one occasion very vividly and I describe it now to give you a sense for the athmossphere.

    I was amongst others in charge for the preprint server, so people would send me their preprints which were then not only stored online but also printed on paper and bound. I had the preprints which were to be printed usually in one certain folder, so if people wanted to change something and had access to the folder then they could do so basically until the last minute before paper print. This professor had send in a preprint. For some reason,which I don’t remember, I had to use another folder for storing the to be printed preprints and so I had informed him -I think both via email and even direct told him- into which folder he should place a newer verision of this preprint, in case there was a newer version. Anyways he had either forgotten about this or not noticed this change of procedure and had put a newer version into the old folder, so that in the end an older version of his preprint was printed. When he found out about this he was really freaking out, he yelled at me so loudly (“totally incapable” etc.) for quite some time that after he was gone people would come from the other rooms and ask me what had happened and of course some would probably not believe that this what had happened was the reason for such a fuss.

    I am used to yelling people so I sat there, took a couple of deep breaths and more or less calmly waited until he was gone, but of course this leaves traces and some subordinates might have been not that “robust”. It probably also feels less severe if you know that if things get too bad then you can still leave . For an elderly secretary leaving might not be such an easy option and so all this might built up to a scathing work environment.

    In principle this story reflects a disagreement of what should be part of your job and what not. That is I found that being yelled at -especially without reason- was not part of my job and he obviously thought a secretary/administrative worker can eventually be used as a kind of punch-ball (“Blitzableiter” in german). In that sense I also remember that the question whether secretaries should type reasearch work in LaTex was a topic of discussion. That is most secretaries at the math department at TU Berlin refused to do that, while some professors thought it should be part of their job. I actually got the impression that the question in how far e.g. secretaries should balance out IT and similar technical problems is also in other work environments quite often a cause of disagreement.

  45. Business expert Says:

    That is I found that being yelled at -especially without reason- was not part of my job and he obviously thought a secretary/administrative worker can eventually be used as a kind of punch-ball (“Blitzableiter” in german).

    -especially out of reason- REALLY?!?!

    What you just wrote strengthens my point that secretaries can knock off the strongest man.
    It is clear that a manager can’t keep all details in mind, so by unsolicitely changing a common procedure you have the duty to not just inform but to make sure that this this change of procedure was approved!

    And by the way when it comes to your complaint that this man was eventually loosing self-control, then what I understand by the comments above, you yourself seem to have a lack of self-control, or how should I understand Rogg’n Rolls comment:

    …..and nad is rather at the breaking point – scales-wise….

    Since you were discussing this in connection to videos by you and Sabine Hossenfelder – here an advice by her that rituals might help for treating eating disorders.

  46. Fempower Says:

    @Business expert

    This discussion is not about particular IT problems but about a guy who abused his power and destroyed nad’s career – in case you haven’t noticed yet!!
    I bet most of the harassed secretaries were female.

  47. Business expert Says:

    @Fempower

    When it comes to IT problems then there usually is a clear right or wrong. You fail to see that not being able to follow simple communication standards is a problem.

  48. nad Says:

    Business expert wrote:

    When it comes to IT problems then there usually is a clear right or wrong. You fail to see that not being able to follow simple communication standards is a problem.

    The problem in the described situation was that there was no “agreed communication protocoll” that is he thought that he should have been better reminded of the address change and I thought that providing the information of the address change (plus I think I reminded him once – but I am not sure) should be enough.

    A lot of business conflicts are due to different evaluations about how a task should be done concretely and how the result should look like. And discrepancies in evaluation may occur the more likely the specifications are not very detailled and/or pre-agreed. On the other hand this is one of the great advantages of humans over machines. For machines (Let’s take AI aside for the moment) it holds that every little detail has to be programmed and designed in advance, there is no “OK decide how you do it”.

    Fempower wrote:

    This discussion is not about particular IT problems but about a guy who abused his power and destroyed nad’s career – in case you haven’t noticed yet!!
    I bet most of the harassed secretaries were female.

    He didn’t “destroy my career”. That is he clearly reduced my career options, but he didn’t kill off all of my professional life. And even if he would have been able to put my career to a halt, I am not sure whether he would have done so.

    Until now I actually don’t know what his motivations were, whether he really just thought that I am too incapable for a job which needs a lot of math/physics, whether he wanted to punish me as a “female” (like in the above described incident) or something entirely different. It was probably a mixture of all sorts of things. He actually suggested -after I had done my Ph.D.- that I should think about taking part in the set-up of an elearning platform which I think he co-lead as an EU project. Hence I guess that at least he wasn’t thinking too badly about my IT/administration capabilities.

    After my Ph.D. he started to work with another researcher on some specific result I had in my thesis (i.e. the thesis he had just “degraded”), luckily this other researcher let me know about it and after some discussions a kind of settlement for this conflicting situation was found. So in short- although (as described above) he disavowed the usefulness of some topics in my thesis he -at least after my Ph.D.- had found something usefuil there.

    I bet most of the harassed secretaries were female.

    As far as I know there were also problems with some of the male subordinates. But as said there were also people who got along with him, or at least didn’t more or less openly complain.

    In german there exist the term “Sippenhaft” -a kind of kin punishment.
    So although there were clearly situations were he “took me into Sippenhaft”, i.e. were I was “punished” (in the above case “only” yelled at) solely based on me being a “female” I wanted with this thread to emphasize that it is necessary to think in similar conflicting situations also about other factors, such as delegations problems, professional disagreement etc. and I mentioned his case in this context and not for the purpose of discussing about this particular person.

  49. Business expert Says:

    nad wrote:

    The problem in the described situation was that there was no “agreed communication protocoll that is he thought that he should have been better reminded of the address change and I thought that providing the information of the address change ”

    You seem to have forgotten here a major fact : HE IS THE BOSS.

    …luckily this other researcher let me know about it and after some discussions a kind of settlement for this conflicting situation was found.

    what was here a “conflicting situation? Isn’t it normal that people and especially scientists build on each others work? Like the artist “Scriptique” whose programming work you had just videotaped: As you had said he had built his artwork on a program by Mohdali.

  50. nad Says:

    Business expert wrote:

    You seem to have forgotten here a major fact : HE IS THE BOSS.

    He was a leading figure in this research project and so he had somewhat executive powers and could order things but he was not “my boss” that is I was in particular also paid to do research and not only burocratic things. In particular the fact that he could rehand in preprints and that he got reminders was already somewhat a kind of extra service for the “higher ranks”. But actually all those facts were not the main point when I described this incident that is I wanted to tell about the yelling and illustrate with it the overall work atmossphere. I should may be also add that I prefer yelling over no immediate feedback. i.e. there are worse ways to channel anger than yelling.

    what was here a “conflicting situation? Isn’t it normal that people and especially scientists build on each others work?

    Yes if a scientific work is published then by nowadays rules it can be used by everyone.
    For software this is different, there are licenses, the software by Mohammed Ali (mohdali) has a MIT license.
    The situation was a bit different here.
    The researcher came to me and asked me about a certain topic in my thesis, which was already also published in a journal by then and we started to discuss it on a kind of regular base.”Regular base means that you meet for one or two hours and explain and discuss and then meet again after a couple of days and so on. In such discussions one can explain details, which might be cumbersome to retrieve from an article, and one might discuss ideas and even work out together some things etc. I knew that the researcher was adjoined to the research group of that professor who’s behaviour we are discussing here. What I didn’t know though was that the professor had suggested to him to write a paper together with him (I.e. 2 authors), which was thought to include the topics we were intensively discussing. After quite some couple of meetings with me the researcher finally told me about this plan of the professor, because he felt very uncomfortable with the situation. We had a discussion with the professor and it was concluded that my contribution was be big enough so that I should be coauthor.
    So this problematic situation of possibly misattributing my work on this topic was resolved in an academically correct way.

  51. Business expert Says:

    So concluding: you didn’t exercise your duties to the full satisfaction of your bosses, but they nonetheless gave you – after your apparently not so good Ph.D. thesis – a second chance by making you apparently even a coauthor. I don’t quite see what you are complaining about and what this discussion is for.

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