Wednesday, March 15, 2017

The CSWA Workplace Climate Survey, Two Years and Counting

Data collection for the CSWA Workplace Climate Survey was completed on March 15, 2015—two years ago today. On November 12, 2015, Christina Richey presented preliminary results of the survey when she accepted the Division of Planetary Sciences' Masursky Award. She presented them again on January 6, 2016, at the annual meeting of the American Astronomical Society.

No write up of the survey has yet been made public. I gather from rumors on social media that the paper has been rejected by (or withdrawn from) one journal and is being considered for publication by another. All my questions about the survey's methods and analysis and all my requests for a draft of the paper have been rejected. This post is just to mark the current state of things.

[Added at 12:18 PM: The reason I'm so uptight about this is that Richey is withholding data about an important subject. I'm not saying she has to share her data openly—although that would be nice—but that she should present the data in a way that affords others opportunities for replication and criticism.

The questions "How many women have been sexually harassed in astronomy?" and "How often are women sexually harassed in astronomy?" are good and serious questions. They deserve serious and careful study. When Richey says something like "People hear sexist remarks over 40% of the time," she is making a serious, empirical statement. But it appears to be based on a set of data that really shows that 56% never hear such language, 25% hear it rarely, 15% hear it only "sometimes" and only 4% hear it often. She is counting people who say they rarely hear such language to support the claim that people hear it 44% of the time. Likewise, when a journalist says that "32% of women report being verbally harassed," they are citing a study that actually found that under 2% of respondents reported experiencing gender-based verbal harassment often and 11% reported experiencing it only sometimes. That is, over 60% of the "reports" (around 20% of all respondents) described such harassment as "rare".

Or that's what I think is going on, judging by her slides. I can't be sure because she won't show me her paper and won't answer my mails. Something is happening to 32% and 44% of astronomers. Something worse is happening to 9% percent of them. The problem is that Dr. Richey refuses to tell us what it is. It's as if she said "something" from outer space is coming our way "fast" and "might" hit us, but she's not going to help us understand whether it's a comet or a photon or how likely it is to miss. And she does want you to help her "do something" about it "now".]

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