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The alpha males of physics

Two sets of events for Women in STEM: the theoretical physicist Alessandro Strumia, soon likely ex-CERN affiliated, decried feminist conspiracies and the discrimination against males like himself, in a workshop talk on gender. Right after, the Nobel Prize for physics was finally after 55 years given to a woman. Thing is: one of the other recipients, Gerard Mourou, made it clear in a 2013 video what the roles of males and females in physics are.

This week had two sets of events for Women in STEM: the theoretical physicist Alessandro Strumia, professor at University of Pisa in Italy and soon likely ex-CERN affiliated, decried feminist conspiracies, allegedly scientifically proven female intellectual inferiority and the discrimination against males like himself, in a workshop talk on gender at CERN. That rapidly made international news, and Strumia is now suspended from his CERN job and his €1.9 mn ERC grant is liable to same fate.

The next day after the Strumia scandal, Donna Strickland was awarded a Nobel Prize in Physics, first woman in 55 years. The Canadian (who incidentally is probably the only Nobel awardee of last decades not being a full professor) shares the Prize with two men, the US-American Arthur Ashkin and Gérard Mourou, institute director at Ecole Polytechnique in Paris area, France. And the laser optics physicist Mourou is apparently a kind of alpha male who doesn’t waste time on arguing about the alleged science of female inferiority in seminars, like Strumia does. Mourou made it perfectly clear already in a 2013 video what the roles of males and females in physics are.

This is the video.

The clip, titled “Have you seen ELI” (originally available on YouTube) was made by the French CNRS for and together with the ELI Delivery Consortium, which is funded by the EU and EU states with €850 million. Mourou is the coordinator, the main seat of ELI is at the institute he is director of: International Center for Zettawatt-Exawatt Science and Technology (IZEST) at the Ecole Polytechnique. Three other facilities are being built in Czech Republic, Hungary and Romania. A reader alerted me to the video with her tweet, as the world was celebrating Mourou’s Nobel Prize.

The science communication video starts rather pleasantly, with a small boy in his room showing interest in optics. At the end of the 4 minute film, Mourou takes the boy by the hand, leading him to what is probably a promising academic future in optics research. But in between, Mourou and his IZEST adjunct director Jean Paul Chambaret, show that they envision for girls in physics some other function.

Next scene: Professor Mourou is teaching students, a blackboard behind him, and an audience of young people sitting in front, learning. One young woman lowers her eyelids to show Mourou what she wrote on them: “I love ELI”.

Screenshot_2018-10-02 Have you seen ELI 3 - YouTube

Afterwards, the students, both female and male get up and dance. The eyelid messaging is obviously a hommage to some obscure film cliche where a young female student silently signals to her professor that she loves him. A classic French cineastic story probably ensues, of an old git having a invigorating and sexually experimentative affair with a young woman the age of his daughters. Good thing the young woman loves the ELI Consortium here, and not Professor Mourou, but it gets worse.

After an animation of Mourou being a genius who even cured cancer, we see the alpha male arrive at work, in a flashy two-seater BMW convertible. Apparently, to give us a good look at the director’s luxury sports car was important to understand how laser physics are done at ELI.

Screenshot_2018-10-02 Have you seen ELI 3 - YouTube 2

And then it gets really bad. Mourou and Chambaret dance with a bunch of their young female students. Two of them present their legs and other relevant bits and dance provocatively with the two important men. At the end they even take off their white coats, in the classical striptease-style, all for Mourou and Chambaret.

As I learned, these two ladies were professional dancers (let us hope they were just dancers) specifically recruited to impersonate students in this video. Yet the other young women in the dancing scene, all wearing dark glasses, are students of Mourou’s. One such former student told me she and her friend were approached by Mourou personally about participating in the dance scene, but they refused. I am not sure what is worse: two professional dancers paid to pretend being students who do sexy moves and undress for their professor, or actual students invited to participate in this degrading old men’s erotic fantasy.

Screenshot_2018-10-02 Have you seen ELI 3 - YouTube 3

Screenshot_2018-10-02 Have you seen ELI 3 - YouTube 4

One wonders: whom exactly was ELI Consortium seeking to recruit with such video presentation, and what exactly was on offer there for prospective male and female employees?

Back in 2013, Mourou was director at Laboratoire d’Optique Appliqué on the same Ecole Polytechnique campus. As that former student invited to dance for the man told me, the film was shot at the neighbouring Laboratoire pour l’Utilisation des lasers intenses (LULI), as I was informed, in a highly secured lab where one needs a special permit to enter. Or to dance? And again: the young women serving as background dancers for two fake students are real students of Mourou.

Now Mourou has a Nobel Prize and by this virtue he becomes a supreme demi-god above all criticism. You decide if this attitude towards women is OK or not, my comment section is below.

Mourou’s colleague, the theoretical physicist Alessandro Strumia on the other hand fell deep because of his attitude to women in science, and will likely lose the grant money and prestige he used to have. He might even lose his academic job. This was what Strumia did:

He gave a talk, on 28 September 2018, as part of 1st Workshop on Energy Theory and Gender, at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research located at Swiss-French border and featuring some of the world’s most powerful particle accelerators. The talk was titled: “Bibliometrics data about gender issues in fundamental theory”, and the audience were largely female early career researchers.

The presentation was quickly removed by CERN and the video was never released. Others made a copy and shared the slides on Twitter, I made my own backup here.

It was a confused rant against women and equality in science, and in one slide Strumia even made clear what his problem was: a woman got a position he applied for. He used cartoons from a notorious misogynistic website, claimed that it is really men who are discriminated against, because, because… they are sent to fight wars where they can get killed.

screenshot-drive.google.com-2018.10.02-21-51-17

Strumia insisted science was on his side: to him, bibliometrics prove that men are cited more often than women simply because they are better scientists, and anyway, women are just no good in sciences, that being basic physiology. Here is one of his slides where Strumia invokes science to prove him right and defend him from being accused of “Thoughtcrime according to Minister of Truth and PC Thought Police“:

screenshot-drive.google.com-2018.10.02-21-40-54

CERN quickly issued a press release (now updated), distancing themselves from Strumia and his talk. He was presented initially as an “invited scientist”, but in reality Strumia works at CERN since at least 2015, when he received an ERC Advanced Grant of €1.9 mn, of which €1.5 mn were allocated to CERN, the rest to the University of PISA. After CERN declared Strumia as “suspended [..] from any activity at CERN with immediate effect, pending investigation into last week’s event“, ERC announced that they will now decide together with CERN what to do about Strumia’s grant. The University of Pisa, where Strumia is professor, also announced an investigation, including an “eventual Disciplinary Board involvement“.

All this likely happened because CERN, ERC and University of Pisa were overrun by journalists, after a huge Twitter outcry. Big media quickly reported the scandal: BBC, Guardian, Washington Post, basically everyone. When journalists call, research institutions can act very decisively.

What now about that institutionally filmed, official women-degrading dance video with the Nobel Prize winner Mourou, who also happens to preside over a €850 mn research project? When you are a Nobelist, the world dances for you.

Or maybe not. As I was writing this, I was alerted to this Le Monde article, by the fearless journalists David Larousserie and Hervé Morin, who are used to report those French research scandals the authorities prefer to remain buried. Le Monde writes:

This sophomoric video, shot in 2010, exhumed and revived on Twitter by the German journalist and blogger Leonid Schneider is sure to raise a few eyebrows. CNRS, credited as producer, said that “the direction of the CNRS communication has not been involved in the development of this film, initiated and directed by the researcher and his team from the laboratory. We have been informed after the fact in and have never relayed. “

Screenshot_2018-10-02 Have you seen ELI 3 - YouTube 5

Update 5.10.2018. This article had quite an impact, so here some updates on the Mourou affair.

A commenter who identified as “a member of the intense-laser-community and CNRS” said:

” As far as I know, the video was financed with money from a (european) grant for the project preparation and “lobbying” phase.”

To that, Allen Weeks, Director General of ELI replied to me:

“I don’t know who paid for the video and I am not disputing if it was paid for with public money. Still, I do know it was not paid for by the ELI Delivery Consortium”.

Motherboard found out this was not the only video of the kind Mourou had made:

“Several people said that Mourou appeared in other videos that have not yet become public. “The ELI project suppressed the distribution of the video for obvious reasons,” one person told Motherboard anonymously out of fear of professional retribution.

“Mourou came to give a lecture in Prague two or three years ago, where he presented [a different video], which had a similar flavor.”

Huffington Post France reported a reaction from Sweden:

“On the eve of the anniversary of the movement #MeToo, the Nobel Committee of the Royal Academy of Sciences has condemned the video this Thursday, Oct. 4, while reiterating its support for Gérard Mourou.

The video “echoed the attitudes that the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences does not share,” its general secretary, Göran K. Hansson, told AFP, stressing that the filming took place long ago.

In any event, this does not change the choice of the Academy, and the statutes of the Nobel Prize do not allow to withdraw an awarded prize. “We have honoured the fantastic discoveries and inventions of Professor Mourou (…). No other aspect comes into play. It is not a prize for videos of films, it’s a prize for science.” he added.”

On 5 October, CNRS issued a press release:

The Ecole Polytechnique, ENSTA and CNRS specify that they have neither ordered nor funded the film.

Update 6.10.2018. Another reader pointed me to this brand new video of Mourou discussing how he made his Nobel discovery: he was skiing, when he suddenly had a stroke of genius, drove back to the lab where he and his “very good student” Maurice Pessot went to work straight away. No mention of what input Mourou thinks his PhD student (and the other Nobel awardee Strickland) had there.

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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92 comments on “The alpha males of physics

  1. Monica Säter

    Interesting to see and read about, as always. It is absolutely impossible to understand why this crap exist. I don’t think they used their own money to produce the garbage. If not produced by private money, this should be investigated and the researcher should be responsible for that. Misuse of funding’s for research is a great problem for society. We are dependent on an ethical use of research funding’s to solve the tough questions of tomorrow. The way researcher use funding’s is by that of the utmost importance. Awful video, really awful.

    Like

  2. Quite unbelievable that in this day and age these people didn’t realize that videos like this are an absolute no-no. The dancing scene and to a slightly lesser extent the scene in the library (which mostly suggests that the women are there to find books and journals for the guys) are bad taste at best.

    Like

  3. Just a comment

    Not to downplay anything you’ve written about, but the eyelids scene was actually a nod to a scene from Indiana Jones, which is not that obscure. What ensues is the end of the classes, and Indiana embarking on some new adventure instead of a “classic French cineastic story of an old git having a invigorating and sexually experimentative affair with a young woman the age of his daughters”.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Leonid

    I hate to be that guy but here it comes:
    Immediately stop with the fake fainting couches and that pearl-clutching!
    Have you all gone mad, and not seen the most egregious insult happening here?

    There was a workshop at CERN about gender!! This is such a stupid, bullshit term, that disqualifies anybody from being take serious. This is nothing but fodder for the SJW!

    Science is a meritocracy, and this should never be forgotten.
    Any preference because of sex, race, skin color, religion, orientation, economic status, etc.
    does not have a place in Science. And btw, any preference because of those attributes is a
    discriminaton against white men. Think about it.

    Call me a neanderthal.

    Cheers, Oliver

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Oliver,
      the CERN workshop was NOT about gender sciences, which are indeed a controversial issue.
      It was mostly about physics and also women in physics. Here some talk titles:
      – Understanding young women’s science aspirations
      – Gender in academic recruitment and selection
      – On the road to equality

      All rather valid issues, and then came Strumia.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I find it very curious how nobody who criticizes Strumia ever bothers to actually engage with the data he presents.

        Given the theme of the workshop and the data he presented. it was very much on topic. His English is not good (but let’s not forget that it would be a “microaggression” to mention that with respect to representatives of other, “less privileged” groups), and he went overboard with the “Cultural Marxism” slide, which makes his presentation a lot less persuasive than it might have otherwise been, but the data is quite difficult to argue with.

        By the way, this has been anecdotal common knowledge for something like a couple decades now — everyone is so desperate to hire women and show that they care about “diversity”, and there are so few good women in math, physics, and CS that very different standards apply for women than for men.

        It is also an empirical fact that there are all sorts of fellowships, awards, programs, etc. that are solely reserved for women.

        Anyone who does not engage with the empirical facts is only providing further evidence for his thesis that politics is corroding the integrity of science.

        Like

      • a CMS scientist

        Replying to GM: there have been several replies from within the High Energy Physics community regarding his usage of statistics.

        I leave you two good ones.
        https://t.co/pro48f5cZU (Tomaso Dorigo, CMS professor and well know author & blogger)
        https://t.co/6yOufBkq5z (John Butterworth, ATLAS professor and also well know author and columnist)

        Examples in case you are too lazy to open the links:

        1) His usage of Ncit in a field like HEP is simply wrong. It is a metric that does not work when dealing with experimental HEP collaborations (young postdocs in ATLAS and CMS can have a similar Ncit to Strumia, just by belonging to the collaboration). He glosses over this metric problems in his slide 5, but essentially, his conclusion that he can go ahead just dividing by author is not accepted by the majority of us, working in the field, who have read the slides. This means that after slide 5 his conclusions are not considered good (in other words, this would not ever pass peer review, purely based on statistics, not touching the rest of the matter).

        2) Correlation does not equate causation. He ignores this in a number of slides.

        3) His data analysis is pretty badly done. Few notes: CI is disacredited within sociology as a measure of genius (it measures more your ability to pass tests than your inteligence). Slides like 16 where he just jumps to the conclusion and ignores sociological facts like the mere lack of women in physics with over 40 years of career are very problematic. Slides like 12 which show untreated data and derive conclusions without taking into account uncertainties nor explaining the peculiarities of the data (eg: do we also want to derive that there is a extremely significant change in the carreer of male scientists between 20 and 25 years in the field? there is a huge jump on citations there… Or is it just that he hasnt finished doing the analysis properly here?). Where are the raw numbers of hirings? Etc
        –> the fact that he is comparing the maths in this slides to the work that went into the statistic treatment of the Higgs observation is an insult to the experimental HEP community (female and male alike) and a testimony of his hubris

        4) Some of the points in his slides are just self-contradictory: “Why female-only physics speakers at “gender equality” conferences?” – he was speaking in the conference, no? :). And the speaker after him was also a male professor…

        In all, these slides are simply badly done. His data was not analyzed properly. His study is not good science. He’s a brilliant phenomenologist (this is certainly true), but that does not make him brilliant at statistics or sociology. Lets move on.

        I tried to leave uncommented all his points about women vs men purposefully.

        Please go read the two links at the top if you want more details.

        Liked by 2 people

      • athanagore porphryrogenete

        replying to “CMS scientist”.
        I went through the two links. They are just two guys jumping around and saying that this is wrong because its wrong and that many good people said this was all wrong, especially in sociology. With all due respect, sociology – a discipline that still has to discover genetics, biology and accept human as a regular mammal – is not really a valid source of information when it comes to science.

        Moving on:
        1)you are arguing that Ncit is not a good metrics, but you only support this with the fact that on big papers students and PIs get treated the same. Quite right, except that with enough papers, the good ones always end up on the good papers, and things eventually build up – or not. This is certainly the case in biology flagship papers. The main reason why nobody like Ncit – including me – is because as an individual, it works against you having collaborations. The reason is therefore political not scientific. Without Ncit you can eat cake and give cake to your friends… For some reason, most people feel good about multiplying cakes.

        2)Correlation does not equate causation. Yes, right… Here we go… In experimental fields, like biology, correlation is considered necessary but non-sufficient to prove causality. Then it becomes a matter of statistics and possibly of perturbating the system. But doing so merely increases your statistical power, nothing else. So yes, sorry to bring you the news, but medicine is all about correlation. Still, with all due respect, drawing a causality conclusion on a correlation is much more accurate than claiming the correlation is spurious because of some mysterious social bias.

        3)IC, IQ and all these measures of intelligence. Yes, IQ is full of problems and issues but remains a pretty good estimator of how good you will do in the kind of problems physics is based upon. The literature you refer to establishes that IQ is not a very good predictor for how well one succeeds in life (especialléy the extreme ones), but life in Academia is not exactly that, is it?

        4) gender balance at gender conferences. We can see that you probably never went to a gender balance conference. Yes, it is dominated by women. Of course the only numbers currently available are those for conferences not dominated by women.

        So as a summary, the guy knows his statistics as well – probably better actually – as most of us do, and as far as sociology is concerned… well, I thought we were trying to be rigorous here… are you not the one who was complaining about correlation not being causality… welcome to sociology my friend, the published heaven for correlations that did not survive Bonferroni corrections….

        Liked by 1 person

    • Prof Warren Buck, PhD

      You are a Neanderthal and unable to wake up!!!

      Like

  5. Tiziana Metitieri

    Yesterday Alessandro Strumia was interviewed by journalist Alessandro Milan on Radio24 – the radio of the Italian national daily business newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore – and repeated his contradictories theories and false claims regarding women in science and in physics. He said that the newspapers are exaggerating his situation at CERN. His recurring sentences were “just look on the internet”, “just look on Wikipedia”. When asked if he was worried about his position at Pisa University he added that his university has just celebrated the Jewish scientists persecuted by the racial laws of 1938: he is like those scientists and in 100 years the truth of his theories will be recognized. No criticism at all from the journalist https://www.radio24.ilsole24ore.com/notizie/cern-alessandro-strumia-fisica-103735-gSLADKabqC?refresh_ce=1

    Like

  6. Smut Clyde

    Perhaps it was intended as a homage to the golden age of Benny Hill skits. Was ‘Yakety-Sax’ playing as background music?

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Indeed this video is not super #metoo friendly but I think you overreact. Why didn’t you mention the references and cinematographic wink? It’s full of it. It is of course not a great video, and yes, there are concerns about moral or sexual harassment, sexism in science, and it is very widespread. I think we’ve all been witnesses before. And it is right to fight and denounce these practices, but be careful not to fall into the opposite excess an be more puritan than the priest or to scream wolf.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Till Bruckner

    Regarding Strumia, you wrote that “Strumia insisted science was on his side”. And then you leap straight to the backlash against him, without first taking apart the science he presented.

    That’s exactly what I’d expect from the social media and the mainstream media, but in a blog called “For Better Science”, this attack-the-man-not-the-argument approach (and tone) is deplorable.

    I prefer scientists to be judged by the quality of their data and reasoning, rather than by the social or political acceptability of their conclusions.

    (And, by the way, if you’d written a blog defending Strumia through ad hominem attacks on his critics, also without looking at the quality of their data and reasoning, I would have written the same comment. Either you’re allowed to openly speak your mind, or you live under censorship. I personally don’t think that censorship promotes “Better Science”.)

    Like

    • Dear Till, I updated my article with this tweet by David Smith https://twitter.com/professor_dave/status/1047011082349502464?s=19
      Hope this helps!

      Like

      • Till Bruckner

        Yes, thank you.
        David Smith makes some excellent counter-arguments with reference to the literature. And, crucially, he adds “I could go on – there is so much good evidence that can be presented to REFUTE OR COUNTER Strumia’s claims. [emphasis added] But I think those tweets cover some of his main points.”
        That’s precisely what I mean by scientific debate. Scientists’ car brand of choice shouldn’t feature in such debates, let’s leave that to the tabloids.
        BTW, I can’t recommend Flynn’s book “What is Intelligence?” enough. Very insightful tome.

        Like

      • Well, it looks like this blog does not accept the commonly accepted tags, so now there is no formatting and no indication of what was a quote, and what was not…

        Trying again:

        And once again we come back to the startling and extremely disturbing observation that only a small part of people working in science are proper scientists, for it appears that they exhibit some combination of the following fatal mental flaws:

        A tendency to give their political biases higher importance than cold hard rational thinking
        Poor scientific training, plain and simple
        A tendency to be outright dishonest

        Those tweets are a case in point

        2. Presenting data on the woman who beat you to a job (sample size, N=1) as evidence of discrimination against men is nonsense as science. Further, the only metric used is how many times she (and he) was cited – in no way a good measure of the talent/ideas of a young researcher.

        Except he did not present N=1 data. First, that slide came after several slides with much more general statistics, and second, on that very same slide there were numbers about the average number of papers and average raw and normalized citations for male and female CERN fellows (males beat females by a factor of ~2 according to those metrics)

        Yet that person conveniently failed to mention that. As a result, someone who has not actually seen the slides, may easily think that the vile misogynist Strumia was sloppy and dishonest, when it was in fact the proud gay adoptive dad David Smith who acted that way.

        3. Listing male physicists who died in wars as evidence of societal discrimination against men is nonsense. What about the great female thinkers who were denied an education, married off to spend their lives bearing children, and prevented from working.

        Males are widely seen as disposable. From “women and children first”, to who serves in the military, to who fills the ranks of homeless. Empirical fact.
        There were no great female thinkers who were denied an education, because the act of denying women an education made sure that they did not become great thinkers. You are not born a great thinker, you become one over many years of reading, writing, and arguing with other people. Curiously, these are the same people who will otherwise viciously attack anyone who does not accept the blank slate view of human nature…

        4. Now to the data: This paper demonstrates that if the identical CV for a technical science job goes out with male or female gender, the male applicants were rated more highly.

        And this paper:

        http://www.pnas.org/content/112/17/5360

        Reported a 2:1 bias in favor of women when it comes to people’s hiring preferences.

        Of course, then we can start arguing about methodology, but that applies for the paper he cited too

        Also, it is perfectly natural to be biases against females and minorities if females and minorities are on average of lower quality than males. It’s called Bayesian thinking. Life is short and one has to make decisions based on imperfect information most of the time.

        5. The paper below provides the biggest ever analysis of the performance of male and female students, and finds, contrary to the older data shown by Strumia, that the supposed gender differences between high-performing STEM students are not there. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-018-06292-0

        Except that this is mostly irrelevant to the subject at hand, because Strumia is not talking about students, but about researchers. The abstract of that paper states:

        In line with previous studies we find strong evidence for lower variation among girls than boys, and of higher average grades for girls. However, the gender differences in both mean and variance of grades are smaller in STEM than non-STEM subjects, suggesting that greater variability is insufficient to explain male over-representation in STEM. Simulations of these differences suggest the top 10% of a class contains equal numbers of girls and boys in STEM, but more girls in non-STEM subjects.

        However, the composition of the top 10% of the class is not relevant here, it is the top 0.1% that matter when it comes to who will be come a top physicist. This wasn’t a study restricted to MIT and Caltech.

        8. As for the argument men in STEM are the ones facing discrimination – it just doesn’t match experiences. In a major workplace survey women were far more likely to experience discrimination. The survey also showed the more ‘male’ the field, the worse. http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2018/01/09/women-and-men-in-stem-often-at-odds-over-workplace-equity/ ….

        So self-reporting of entirely subjective experiences is now considered solid reliable data. Makes perfect sense (and I am not even being ironic)…

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Rix Rictor

    God damn, Leonid what a scoop. I always thought people driving BMW’s are arselochs.

    Like

  10. Bonjour à vous Tous et Toutes. Je suis surpris par les amalgames écrits et diffusés par des êtres qui sont censés avoir une lecture critique et une analyse supérieure au commun des mortels. La vidéo que nous avons réalisé était sans arrières-pensées sexistes. Vous suintez et déclinez des réflexions qui sont et doivent se cantonner à vos élucubrations et fantasmes. Soyons sérieux! Je comprends vos ressentiments; néanmoins l’abnégation est une démarche pour accéder à la sagesse. Si vous voulez des précisions sur l’histoire de ce clip, vous auriez du me questionner, comme l’a fait, Hervé Morin, journaliste du Monde, le 2 octobre 2018. Pour conclure, je vais paraphraser le grand auteur si mal lu, Molière:; “Qui se sent morveux, se mouche…”.

    Like

    • Rix Rictor

      No offence the language of science is English….here is a google translate:

      “Hello to you all. I am surprised by the amalgams written and broadcast by beings who are supposed to have a critical reading and an analysis superior to ordinary mortals. The video we made was without sexist backgrounds. You suine and decline reflections that are and must be confined to your dreams and fantasies. Be serious! I understand your resentments; nevertheless abnegation is an approach to access wisdom. If you want more details on the history of this clip, you should have questioned me, as did Hervé Morin, journalist of the World, October 2, 2018. To conclude, I will paraphrase the great author so misread, Molière :; “Who feels brat, flies …”.”

      Like

    • Le fait que vous êtes apparemment inconscient de la caractère misogyne et sexiste de votre vidéo (en particulier la scène avec les danseuses) illustre bien le travail encore à faire…

      Like

      • Rix Rictor

        gTranslate “The fact that you are apparently unaware of the misogynistic and sexist nature of your video (especially the scene with the dancers) is a good illustration of the work yet to be done …”

        Like

    • Hello unnamed friend,
      It is a pity you only speak French.
      I am afraid nobody is interested in how you think you meant that video to be humorous . What we are interested in, is why CNRS and ELI commissioned and paid it with public money, and why they decided to release it instead of destroying it.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Sylvain Bernes

      Autant citer Molière correctement alors: “Qui se sent morveux, qu’il se mouche” (L’Avare, Acte I, scène 3).

      Like

      • Rix Rictor

        gT: “As well to quote Molière correctly: “Who feels brat, that it flies” (The Miser, Act I, scene 3).”

        Like

    • Tout à fait d’accord avec vous ! Je ne sais pas qui est ce Leonid Schneider, un inconnu aigri et frustré, certainement… Il y en a marre de ce genre de personnages mal baisés qui sont incapables de voir les choses au second degré. Ils n’ont rien à faire de leur triste vie alors ils critiquent les autres… c’est pénible… Bravo au Professeur Mourou pour ce prix Nobel… Son clip n’a absolument rien de dégradant ni de vulgaire… bientôt avec des individus comme Schneider on ne pourra plus rire de rien, plus s’amuser… quel triste monde… que votre vie doit être triste et banale, Schneider… je vous plains… vous êtes petit, tout petit, sans intérêt…

      Like

      • Once you learn a foreign language, we want to see you dancing for your boss like this, mate.

        Like

      • Dear L. Schneider,
        “Once you learn a foreign language (…)” Sich über jemanden lustig zu machen, weil er sich in seiner Muttersprache ausdrückt ist schon sehr schwach. Welche Motivation steckt dahinter? Das Gefühl geistiger Überlegenheit? Vorurteile gegenüber nicht Englisch sprechenden Leuten, oder einfach nur in die Falle getappt zu sein bei persönlichen Angriffen ebenfalls auf sachhaltige Argumente zu verzichten?
        Für jemand der über gesellschaftlich sensible Themen spricht ist das schon ziemlich unsensibel.

        PS: um nicht falsch verstanden zu werden: Mein Kommentar ist unabhängig vom Inhalt von Maxime’s Nachricht (den ich keineswegs gutheiße) zu sehen. Indem Sie persönlich werden begehen Sie den gleichen Fehler wie er.

        Liked by 1 person

  11. It’s really sad to read people’s comments trying to write arguments to blur the real fact.
    And the real fact is that this video was recorded long ago, that almost every single person in ultra intense laser community saw it, and knows it, and frankly speaking, almost everybody finds it (at a minimun) highly inappropiate.
    One can try to look at the small details to see if it is in the politically correct border or not… but when you see it almost everybody has the same questions regarding how such a consortium could allow presenting this kind of video.
    The most accepted answer is that emotional intelligence is something not really common among scientific people, believe it or not.
    And this is quite fair, one cannot have everything… if you are clever with numbers and mathematical tools, then probably you are not going to be so clever doing sports or cooking or in this case… dealing with people.
    It is sad to say but science is crowded with persons (women, men… whatever) in high-level scientific positions with really surprisingly poor social skills or tools for dealing with people and this is a very very clear example of that.
    And other true fact is that scientific people like arguing, presenting arguments, data whatever.. if they can create a controversial topic, then it is great. But clearly speaking… this video was not a good idea.

    Like

  12. Pewpewpew

    Hello,

    Just a few quick corrections from a member of the intense-laser-community and CNRS:
    1) Gerard Mourou is in no way the director of the ELI consortium, or even in affiliated with it. He was instrumental in launching the project and lead the “lobbying” effort to get it financed, but then was no longer involved when ELI really started to get implemented.
    2) The video was never officially “published” because the CNRS objected to it, for obvious reasons. But, well, it got out and has since been a rather awkward running gag in the European intense-lasers community.
    3) As far as I know, the video was financed with money from a (european) grant for the project preparation and “lobbying” phase. A promo-video was certainly within the scope of this – but the result turned out to be as terrible as you’ve all seen.

    Like

  13. “As I learned, these two ladies were professional dancers (let us hope they were just dancers) ”
    Your writing in this post is jumping on the “liberal” political correctness/SJW train in general, but between the lines (or: brackets) one cannot help noting a puritan devaluation of a certain group of (female) people.

    Concerning Strumia: he was probably invited deliberately to give an opinion besides the boring mainstream. Predictably, the social media people couldn’t handle that, just like last time with Tim Hunt. So well, you’re not going to hear those opinions in the future.

    Why does everybody feel the need to shout down opposing views and trying to negate some inconvenient facts? It’s not a secret that we currently have affirmative action in science at various places – it’s quite open and official, in hiring as much as in price selection committees.

    Why don’t you take, for example, an unbiased look at the cases of scientific fraud in relation to gender… I thought women were doing quite well recently, particularly in Germany. Or would this be an off topic topic (= Denkverbot)? I found it interesting that in this (http://retractionwatch.com/2018/07/02/reports-of-misconduct-investigations-can-tell-us-a-lot-here-are-more-than-a-dozen-of-them/) post at retraction watch, the 12 cases discussed came over as quite “diverse”.

    Like

    • Concerning the last paragraph: I don’t claim to know if certain groups are over-represented, but I wonder if it would even be possible to take a look at it without reservation.
      The cases I had in mind also relate to recent mobbing “scandals” at German and Swiss research institutions, where “woman did quite well”.

      Like

      • Rix Rictor

        Its an important point, there are several SPECTACULAR cases. Again cluster B’s are distributed relatively equally across the genders in terms of total numbers, the specific traits are sometimes biased on gender….

        Like

    • Smut Clyde

      Concerning Strumia: he was probably invited deliberately to give an opinion besides the boring mainstream.

      Nope. ‘Alessandro Strumia applied to give a presentation on “Bibiliometrics data about gender issues in fundamental theory”. The committee was skeptical of his motivations but decided to allow him to give a scientific presentation on data analysis.’
      https://indico.cern.ch/event/714346/timetable/

      Like

  14. athanagore porphryrogenete

    found today on Scopus

    Gerard Mourou: 652 publications, 26,706 citations, H-Index: 76
    Arthur Ashkin: 101 publications, 21,707 citation H-Index: 51
    Donna Strickland: 76 publications, 4,904 citations, H-Index 16

    and for good measure

    Alessandro Strumia: 181 publications, 19.341 citations, H-Index 64

    Like

    • Several additional factoids:

      There was an article in Nature last week about how the Nobel committee will start making a conscious effort to give more prizes to women
      It turned out Strickland did not even have a Wikipedia page
      This is now used as evidence for “sexism” by Wikipedia.

      Note that I am in no way suggesting Strickland did not deserve the Prize, I am not in that field, I cannot judge people on the basis of their contributions as I do not understand them.

      But it is also true that by openly stating that more prizes will be given to women simply because they are women, the Nobel committee has made sure that for the foreseeable future any prize given to a female scientist will have an asterisk behind it. A deeply regrettable outcome for everyone involved and science as a whole.

      Like

      • 64? I have 91 – Give me that Nobel Prize now!
        Seriously, h-index cannot be compared across fields. If it means anything at all. (In my field it’s a pretty good measure of age.)

        Liked by 1 person

      • athanagore porphryrogenete

        Quite right. There was no reason for a person who had a very average academic track record to have a Wikipedia page. I guess that she will now have one. Unfortunately, I doubt her track record will improve since Nobel prizes have been shown to have a rather negative effect on productivity unless you are Marie Curie or Fred Sanger. And BTW, to be exhaustive, here are the numbers of Chemistry:

        Arnold Frances 334 publications, 27,034 citations, H-Index 94
        George P Smith 309 publications, 23,223 citations, H-Index 63 [not 100% sure scoops disambiguation works here]
        Gregory P Winter 202 publications, 29,834 citations, H-Index 83

        I do not think ANYONE would argue Frances Arnold is there because she is a woman. She is there because she is Frances Arnold. Period. I have no idea if women are better or less equipped than men in that specific field of research. I simply know that Frances Arnold is better equipped than most people, regardless of their gender. Your gender is a poor proxy for who you are.

        This shows that fairness does not need the protection of ideology. Quite the opposite.

        Like

      • Quite right regarding Arnold, but your “anyone” refers to people who know who she is. She is sufficiently close to my fields of expertise for me to know that

        But the average person on the street? Perhaps not so much.

        So why in the world did they feel they have to proclaim openly they will start giving the prize to more women? Then they immediately give to someone few have even heard of who does is not even a full professor at a university that is good but is also not Stanford or MIT (again, I am in no position to judge that decision scientifically, but those are the optics). They could have done it without telling everyone and thus avoid poisoning everything.

        Like

      • athanagore porphryrogenete

        @Patrick: sorry Patrick, your scopus H-Index is 62, not 91. You probably confused the Google H-Index – that collect about anything – with a curated H-Index., like Scopus or WOS. This being said, 62 is quite respectable in your community and yes, you probably belong to a small group of people that would be eligible for a nobel. But I quite agree with H-Index being mostly your age, which is why it needs to be combined with the total citation count and the total number of publications. As you may know, too many publications is not a good sign. I think Sanger had a total of 20 or 30.

        Aside from this, I am not sure I understand your comment on fields. Are these three people not working in the same domain?

        Like

  15. Pingback: Le Oche, i premi Nobel e #MeToo - Ocasapiens - Blog - Repubblica.it

  16. athanagore porphryrogenete

    About the video. I find it terrible, and I would be surprised they don’t. Then again all PIs reading this thread will know how difficult it is these days to resist the “dance your lab” trend, that produces equally embarrassing videos (just google it and you will see an endless streams of future Nobel prizes in equally embarrassing setups, if not worse). The same crowd knows how much pressure we are under, to engage the general public in doing science, with one dedicated Workpackage required in about every EU application. Now, I would not be surprised that in order to do so, some members of this consortiums asked advice from some local teenage son or daughters who said, a real clip would be cool, and they did it. If it had been very good, and good taste and all that, nobody would ever have heard of it or seen it. Now, thanks to the bad buzz it will be seen by many non-scientific people, some kids may like it – yes it is possible – thus fulfilling the original goal, which was most likely to engage the general public. Can anyone rule out that in 50 years, a 7 years old girl will have turned towards physics because the dancers looked cool on the video and that she (or he) thought science was about dancing in labs? As Boris would say, “whatever works”.

    Like

  17. 20 years ago I took a break from the lab to do some lobbying and consulting on various subjects, including evaluation of research outputs. We predicted at the time that impact factors and citation tracking would become a total shit show, a prophesy has come through in spades. Using such “evaluations” for individual hiring decisions is mere pandering to bean-counting, but what’s much worse is that it has also swayed funding, hiring and promotion decisions at the institutional and field level. Millions for big physics, cancer, plant and nanotech research and institutes, with the expected bloat of bogus and irrelevant nonsense (e.g. try to think of anything impacted by gravity waves or superstrings). Chump change for researchers studying infections that kill millions each year, species that vanish each day and planetary changes that will kick humankind seriously in the ass someday soon. The impact of “science of the shiny-shiny” is not just frustrating, it’s tragic. Saucy videos are just a bit of comic relief.

    Like

  18. Monica Säter

    Who cares and everything works? NO. If you get public funding’s for research or to introduce research to an audience, this must be about science otherwise there is a misuse of the funding´s. There is nothing scientific in the message from the video, and by that, the video doesn’t work at all. Nevertheless it is an old video there is no scientific reason to communicate dance in the lab, no one whatsoever, and that is of course a criteria for the use of resources for research. Funding´s should be used, to in a true sense, communicate and engage by the strength of the research.

    Like

    • Rix Rictor

      I agree this is an unacceptable spending of scientific funding, its scientific misconduct in that perspective. There should be filed formal complaint about this to the funding agencies and host institutions.

      Like

  19. Somebody else

    It’s funny that some people posting here give importance to the H-index, which should be considered as part of the mismanagement of science. The mismeasurement of science is the main cause of fraud.

    Like

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