Monday, May 12, 2008

Sixteen Women Elected to National Academy of Sciences - Chronicle.com

On April 29, the National Academy of Science announced their newly elected members, and 16 of the 72 inductees were women. The Chronicle of Higher Education points out that this is a significant increase over last year, when only nine women were elected, but still lower than the 2005, when 19 women were elected. The women who were honored:


  • Frances H. Arnold: Dick and Barbara Dickinson Professor of Chemical Engineering and Biochemistry, department of chemistry and chemical engineering, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena.
  • Emily A. Carter: Arthur W. Marks '19 Professor, department of mechanical and aerospace engineering, Princeton University, Princeton, N.J.
  • Maureen L. Cropper: professor of economics, University of Maryland, College Park
  • Margaret T. Fuller:Reed-Hodgson Professor in Human Biology and professor of genetics, department of developmental biology, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, Calif.


  • Gail Mandel: investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and senior scientist, Vollum Institute, Oregon Health & Science University, Portland
  • Claire E. Max: professor, astronomer, and director, center for adaptive optics, University of California, Santa Cruz
  • Carol L. Prives: DaCosta Professor of Biology, department of biological sciences, Columbia University, New York City
  • Lisa J. Randall: professor of theoretical physics, department of physics, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.

  • Anjana Rao: professor of pathology and senior investigator, Immune Disease Institute, Harvard Medical School, Boston
  • Johanna Schmitt: Stephen T. Olney Professor of Natural History, department of ecology and evolutionary biology, Brown University, Providence, R.I.
  • Theda Skocpol: Victor S. Thomas Professor of Government and Sociology, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.
  • Elizabeth A. Thompson: professor, department of statistics, University of Washington, Seattle
Five of the 18 elected foreign associates were women:

  • Anny Cazenave: senior scientist, Laboratoire d'Etudes en GĂ©ophysique et OcĂ©anographie Spatiales, Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales (CNES), Toulouse, France (France)
  • Anne E. Cutler: professor, Institute for Cognition and Information, University of Nijmegen, and director, Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, Heilig Landstichting, Netherlands (Australia)
  • Caroline Dean: associate research director, John Innes Centre, Norwich, United Kingdom (United Kingdom)
  • B. Rosemary Grant: research scholar, department of ecology and evolutionary biology, Princeton University, Princeton, N.J. (United Kingdom)
  • Janet Rossant: chief of research and senior scientist, Hospital for Sick Children, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario (Canada and United Kingdom)
While it's great to see talented female scientists gaining recognition, it's still appears that women are underrepresented. As Zuska points out, there are a number of arguments that keep getting trotted out in support of the status quo.

One of the favorite arguments seems to be that the percentage of women elected to the Academy is commensurate with the percentage of female science faculty members, so there must not be any discrimination. While it might seem reasonable, my biggest problem with that argument is that it assumes that if the percentage of women scientists elected to the Academy are representative this year, the numbers elected have always been representative. That simply hasn't been the case. According to the Membership Directory, in 1980 only a single women was elected, in 1985 there were only four, and in 1990 and 1995 only five*. In fact less than 10 years ago, in 2000, only 6% of the National Academy's members were women. Some of the recently elected women almost certainly were overlooked for membership in previous years. At the rate they are adding new members, they may never catch up.

* 1980: Eloise Giblett; 1985: Mary-Dell Chilton, Mildred Dresselhaus, Sandra Faber, Martha Vaughan; 1990: Gertrude Elion, Esther Conwell, Nina Federoff, Sarah Hrdy, Cathleen Morawetz, 1995: Clara Franzini-Armstrong, Lily Jan, Judith Kimble, Anne Krueger, Carla Shatz

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3 comments:

Lisa said...

Seriously, Lisa Randall just being elected this year? What the hell? Maybe partly because we have a similar name, I like to follow her in the news. I read somewhere (maybe here) she is the fifth most cited theoretical physicist. I always assumed she had been elected to NAS a long, long time ago. I'm going to see if I can quickly find how many of the top 10 most cited theoretical physicists were already in the NAS. . .

Lisa said...

I was wrong. She was the MOST cited theoretical physicist in 2004. This is in an article and on her Harvard page.
The h index was proposed as a measure of research output (Hirsch, PNAS 102, 2005, 16569)
Here is a quote from that paper:
"From among newly elected members of the National Academy of Sciences in physics and astronomy in 2005,
I find h=44, sigma=14, highest h=71, lowest h=20, and median hm=46."

ISI calculates Randall's current h-index as 36. Perhaps I am not getting some of her articles, though, as a blog post from 2006 claims her index is 38. (it can't decrease over time) Her citations seem to really increase starting in 2000. I guess it's not obvious whether she should be in the NAS just by that number, but she is certainly a very big name in the field of theoretical physics. I just looked at her CV and am wondering if there are more hours in her day than everybody else's.

Peggy said...

I was also surprised that Randall hadn't been elected before this year. From what I've read (on Wikipedia) the h index has limitations as a measure of productivity. Since the number increases over time, it puts younger scientists at a disadvantage. If Randall is younger than the other theoretical physicists who were elected, it's not surprising that her h-index is in the middle, rather than the high end of range for physicists elected to the academy.