Living Science: The voice of evidence

Brandeis University News

The first time I remember literally losing my voice I was in Kindergarten at the age of 5. The teacher took attendance by calling our names and we were supposed to respond with “here”. I had laryngitis and my “here” was silent. At the end of roll call the teacher announced that I was absent, so I got out of my chair and walked to her desk to tell her I was there. She was annoyed with me as I gesticulated that I had lost my voice, but she did mark me present. The five-year old me experienced very deeply the invisibility that came with losing my voice. To this day, I still get laryngitis and completely lose my voice every so often. When this happens, my husband laughs while pretending to be sympathetic, because he knows that my voice will soon return. Only once have I had to cancel a seminar because I couldn’t croak out a talk.
As a senior woman scientist, I have felt it part of my mission to encourage my more junior colleagues to “take their voices” as scientists, scholars and citizens in the larger scientific community and in the world. But recently, in the Trump and Brexit eras, I feel that I am shouting into the wind of a cacophony of lost souls. How does one effect change when truth has no currency? How do I counsel postdocs that scientific excellence is more important than Journal Impact Factor when so many of my senior colleagues continue to tell them the opposite? How is it possible that, ten years after we came to understand the fallacies of the Impact Factor as a metric to judge individuals, scientists are still making important decisions based on it? Why haven’t we collectively renounced this slavish obedience to perceived excellence rather than real excellence? Why do we still …

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