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Grant Details

Grant Number: 5R01GM088530-04 Interpret this number
Primary Investigator: Valian, Virginia
Organization: Hunter College
Project Title: Gatekeepers and Gender Schemas.
Fiscal Year: 2012
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Abstract

DESCRIPTION (provided by applicant): The proposed studies aim to understand the structure of the decisions that affect success in academic science and academic medicine via quantitative analyses of recommendation letters, evaluations of candidates for junior tenure-track positions, and the awarding of marks of distinction like prizes. The application focuses on the interaction between gender schemas and gatekeepers in order to understand the mechanisms of decisions that affect the careers of men and women. The ultimate goal is to improve the accuracy of recognition and reward of talent in the sciences. The proposed research will give search committees and award committees research-based information about how to improve evaluations in three areas: Letters of recommendation. Do letters of recommendation for job candidates in cancer medicine and research differ systematically as a function of sex of the person for whom the letter is being written or the sex status of the letter writer? What objective characteristics, as detailed in curricula vitae are related to characteristics of the letters? Short lists. What objective characteristics of candidates determine the composition of short lists in cancer medicine and research? What role does sex play? Characteristics of letters of recommendation and CVs will be correlated with search committee decisions. Awards and prizes. What objective characteristics determine conferrals of distinction, such as membership in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the National Academies, and discipline-internal prizes and awards? What role does sex play? Are there sex differences in productivity, citations, and awards that cannot be attributed to structural factors such as location at an elite research university or institute? Are there differences by field, as a function of the percentages of men and women in the field or as a function of how "technical" the field is perceived as being? Two fields - neuroscience and immunology - are targeted. A unique feature of the application is collaboration across fields and institutions. Social science concepts and methods are used to understand the causes of women's lesser representation compared to men's in academic science and to improve women's advancement. The four principal investigators are in a) cancer medicine and research, b) cognitive psychology c) industrial-organizational psychology. The proposed team will conduct basic research, yielding quantitative data, with applications to careers in cancer medicine and research. PUBLIC HEALTH RELEVANCE: The studies address the following principal question: how is merit assessed in science and medicine? The answer is important on both theoretical and applied fronts. Decision-making about human abilities, competence, and promise requires integrating qualitatively different pieces of information from a variety of sources. How people integrate such information, what objective indicators they use, and what predispositions they come to the evaluation setting with, are little understood. On the applied front, there are important consequences of the small number of women in positions of power and prestige. First, if women do not get their fair share of prizes and awards, their good but unrecognized ideas cannot move their fields in productive directions. Second, younger women may be tacitly discouraged from a high-powered career upon seeing how few women occupy positions of power and prestige. Third, gatekeepers may make mistakes in evaluating candidates for positions, promotion, awards, and positions of distinction, failing to recruit and retain the best talent.

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Publications


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