In evolutionary biology research, we often approach questions on males and females differently. Sometimes there may be good reasons for this. However, it may also be an outcome of gender biased assumptions. For instance, in evolutionary biology we commonly study sex differences and how these result from natural selection. We study this from both genetic and environmental perspectives. We may, however, often times assume that males and females have fixed trait abilities determined by their past evolutionary history, despite the fact that evolution is an ongoing process. Emanating from what is considered well known patterns, our assumptions may turn out to be biased by our expectations of gender. Examples from this can be found in sexual selection research where we increasingly find diversity in how this force operates on males and females, which can be contrasted with more simplistic views that “males compete and females care” as an evolutionary rule (in this context, it should be noted that the Bateman gradient paradigm has been under debate for quite some time). Furthermore, in medical and scientific textbooks, gendered assumptions have been identified and analyzed. For example, gendered views are apparent in textbooks when depicting egg, sperm, cervix, mucus, and semen, with active wordings for the male part and passive, objectified words for the female part — despite the fact that, scientifically, we know mucus activity is a vital part of the fertilization process. Similar gendered biases have also been found in sexual conflict studies. And when plasticity is found in male and female traits, there is a tendency to stick to firm sex differences despite contrary evidence – as, for example, in neuroscience. More recently we have seen in the news how, after DNA testing was conducted, the remains of a Viking leader were found to be those of a woman. This had been indicated previously but was not considered likely, probably due to pervasive gender biases. This provides an illustrative case of how researchers’ gender biased assumptions can affect scientific knowledge.
In this two day workshop, funded by ESEB’s equal opportunity initiative, we seek to identify and discuss such gender biased assumptions in scientific publications, as a gateway to more deeply analyze the way we make inferences in our scientific reasoning. The aims are to have two seminars and primarily spend time to analyze and discuss specific research papers that the participants themselves will select. Such papers can be either recent or older, theoretical or empirical, and should be about evolutionary biology somehow. The workshop itself will be oriented around two axes: a critical axis, where participants will identify, in the papers they chose, (i) biased assumptions, (ii) biased inferences and reasoning, and (iii) gaps in literature references; and a constructive axis, where participants will, based on these analyses, put forward guidelines and tools for specific activities of the scientific research process: from literature research and hypothesis building, to data gathering and analysis, to conclusion drawing and result discussions. The guidelines will then be published on this website and be linked on ESEB’s webpage as well. We wish to increase awareness around the underlying assumptions when we do science, and how this matters to what questions we ask and how we approach them. We hope these guidelines and tools will ensure the greatest scientific rigor of evolutionary biology research.
We are aiming for 25 participants – PhD students, Postdocs and researchers in evolutionary biology. We also welcome participants of other backgrounds (philosophy, humanities, statistics, etc.) with an interest in evolutionary biology. Participants will have to arrange travel and housing themselves (for cheap accommodation, check https://www.hostelworld.com/).
The workshop will take place at the Evolutionary Biology Center of Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden, on 12-13 of April 2018.
To participate, send an e-mail to Ingrid.Ahnesjo [at] ebc.uu.se before the 15th of March 2018. Number of participants is limited to 25. Participants will have to arrange travel and housing themselves (for cheap accommodation, check https://www.hostelworld.com/).
Participants can apply for the ESEB congress attendance aid grants (http://eseb.org/prizes-funding/equal-opportunities-initiative/congress-attendance-aid-grant/) before 16 February 2018.