The Italian physicist Alessandro Strumia has been removed from his position in the European laboratory of particle physics CERN after offering a conference that said that "physics was invented and built by men, you can not access it by invitation".
Strumia's talk was held last Friday and was framed in a symposium on high-energy physics and gender in which equal opportunity was discussed in this field. "[Marie] Curie etc. They were welcomed after showing what they were capable of and they won the Nobel Prize, "added one of the transparencies of their conference.
The prestigious institution that brings together more than 10,000 scientists from 22 countries and houses the most powerful particle accelerator in the world announced yesterday that had "suspended the scientist of all its activities with immediate effects while conducting an investigation into what happened."
The presentation, "with its attacks on specific people is unacceptable in any professional context," says CERN
In her talk Strumia argued that there is no discrimination against women in the field of physics and suggested that sometimes women have preferential treatment. One of his slides cited names of two physicists who had fixed positions despite the fact that their studies had fewer citations than the author himself, according to the presentation. "Physics is not sexist against women. In any case the truth does not matter because it is part of a political battle that comes from outside [del campo]. It is not clear who will win, "said Strumia in his conclusions.
The presentation, "with its attacks on specific people is unacceptable in any professional context and contrary to the code of conduct," said CERN. The presentation has been removed from its servers. There is a video with the full talk, but a spokesman said the agency will not be made public because it will be used in the investigation, which must be carried out "calmly and not as a public trial".
"Brief summary of Strumia's talk: women are not as good as men in physics and have been given too much funding / have been promoted unfairly. He said this in front of an audience of women who study STEM [Ciencia, Tecnología, Ingeniería y Matemáticas]" he wrote in a tweet Jessica Wade, physicist at Imperial College London after attending the presentation. The lecturer assures that Strumia was absent from a good part of the symposium conferences, to which he returned later to hold his own talk. "When people with power in the academy behave like this, they expel from science a whole generation of underrepresented groups and also send the message that it is good to propagate this ideology," added the scientist in the social network.
Short summary of Strumia's talk: women are not as good at physics as men and they've been allocated too much funding / been promoted into positions of power unfairly. He said this to an audience of early career #womeninSTEM. pic.twitter.com/HqZATl8Wal
– Dr Jess Wade ??? (@jesswade) September 30, 2018
Strumia holds a prestigious research grant from the European Research Council (ERC) endowed with 1.8 million euros. "Although we select scientists based only on the excellence of their research, we also expect them to respect the highest standards of professional conduct," ERC president Jean-Pierre Bourguignon said in a statement. "We are going to ask CERN, which is the institution to which the aid is linked, about the details of last week's incident," he added. The EU body has not clarified whether Strumia can lose this funding based on the results of the investigations.
The University of Pisa, where Strumia is a professor of Physics, has also opened an investigation on the grounds that it has "violated" the "fundamental values of the university community." The investigation has been entrusted to the Ethics Committee and may lead to a disciplinary file, as reported by the institution in a statement.
Contacted by Matter, Strumia defends his presentation and blames the controversy on the "manipulation and attack of the media [de comunicación]", Although, according to him," more and more honest people realize what is happening. "
The University of Pisa, where Strumia is a professor of Physics, has also opened an investigation
His lecture was "an attempt to respond to people who, especially from outside physics, point out that there is strong discrimination against women, showing that the data does not support them". The scientist tries to explain the meaning of his controversial phrases about the "invention" of physics. "It means that physics began in 1600 and was invented by men, who developed the culture. No one is invited to physics, everyone (men and women) are free to contribute and can receive support depending on their scientific results, not other aspects. Many women began to enter physics after 1900 and their merit was recognized, as [Marie Skłodowska] Curie, (and today another Nobel). As the participation of women was a novelty, they had some problems, and many good physicists looked for ways to avoid sexist practices in some cloisters. That's bad, but in those old days men faced other gender problems, like receiving a bullet in a world war. "
Women are a minority in the highest positions in science and their percentage is especially low in physics. They have also been historically of the most prestigious awards. For example, only 1.5% of all Nobel physics winners since 1901 are women. Numerous institutions, including the Government of Spain, have highlighted the importance of paying attention to sexist biases in the selection committees.
The case of Strumia has raised a wave of criticism on social networks. In a letter published yesterday, three heads of the Department of Astronomy at the University of California at Irvine They discredited the statistical data compiled by Strumia. "Despite Strumia's comments there is substantial evidence that the most prestigious scientists, both men and women, suffer considerable unconscious biases against women," write James Bullock, Tim Tait and Mu-Chun Chen. "A lot of studies in sociology they show that in science women are systematically evaluated as less capable even though their aptitude is identical to that of men. The evidences in this sense go back several decades, but the field [de la física] It has only begun to take steps against gender inequality, which has caused negative reactions like the one we have seen at CERN. "