UPDATE: this also about online harassment and the failure to address it.
One of my fan-boy science interests is anything to do with people digging bones out of the ground to learn stuff. I never completely forgot the childhood desire of a geeky kid to be a paleontologist, and as an adult I'm still amazed with field anthropology and the science of human origins.
And so there's a quite a contrast between that idealistic view of the science and what I learned in recent years, that women in this fascinating work were routinely betrayed and harassed by their superiors, instead of supported by them. Fieldwork was an opportunity to isolate women students and early-career academics, and prey on them.
That bring us to another fan-boy science interest of mine, astronomy and exoplanets. A giant of that area, Geoff Marcy, harmed the career of women academics, harmed the progress of exoplanet science by driving them away from the field, and finally torpedoed his own career and reputation.
A very sad story, well-known by this time, but of course Marcy isn't the only one. Female astronomers it turns out knew both about his reputation and about other astronomers, learning they needed to share this information with each other to know who to avoid.
One of my favorite podcasts is The Weekly Space Hangout, and last week dealt with all this. The reason why I'm rehashing all this bad news is that there's some good as well. In the Hangout, the women are saying that men in their field are asking what's going on, who are the problem academics, and asking what needs to be done. Maybe astronomy can clean up its act.
So then there's climatology - I'm not an academic and don't know about harassment problems in this area, but there's way too many people involved for it not to happen, and the harassment finding against the former head of the IPCC isn't encouraging, even considering that Pachauri wasn't a climatologist.
What I hope is that there are enough people - women and men - in positions of authority to act against harassment in climatology. Hopefully they can draw a lesson from what they're learning in astronomy, and that junior academics and undergrads can go to more senior ones, knowing they'll get a response.
One other suggestion from Michael O'Hare at Same Facts is relevant:
What went so wrong here, and who are the authors of this episode? Simple: there were many moments at least a decade ago when some members of the astronomy faculty, perhaps clued in by students, were aware that they were harboring a ticking bomb. That was when a chair or dean, or maybe just a peer pal, should have taken Marcy aside and drawn a diagram:
Everyone knows what you are doing. You have to stop, now, forever, because you are damaging not just these young women but all of us and yourself as well. If you don’t, here are a series of things that will happen to you, in sequence of increasing severity, and to show how serious this is, I expect you to ask for an unpaid leave from teaching next semester. That’s half your pay. Next step will be to inform the department of the reasons, and so on.
Instead, one after another of his friends and colleagues decided that it was more important to avoid an awkward moment than to (i) try to save their friend from a suicidal path (ii) protect their young colleagues.
Pachauri was bad enough. Let's hope it stops.