Friday, June 05, 2015

Guest post on Yet Another Mostly Male Meeting (YAMMM) - Programming for Biology

I have posted on Twitter and other places saying that I would be willing to share here anonymous postings about meetings with skewed gender ratios.  I generally am not overly fond on anonymity on the web but realize it has some very important and powerful uses, including protecting people from retribution.  So in the case of meetings with skewed gender ratios, I know from personal experience that posting about them can lead to serious vitriol, threats, and possible repercussions.  I feel confident enough in my status and position to mostly ignore these responses but I know that not everyone is so blessed.

So - here is one such anonymous post I received.
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Last year I was looking around for good workshops to learn programming for biology
(http://programmingforbiology.org/index.html) and
about genome assembly and annotation. I came across the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
course called "Programming for Biology" and applied as they have a good reputation.
I was happy to get in and overall really enjoyed the course. I learnt how to program in
Perl (not Python what I regret a bit), a lot of background on downstream genome analysis
and had a mostly pleasant time. An interesting slogan of the meeting was
"It's not only what you learn here, but also who you meet that makes this workshop so special"
(I am paraphrasing here a bit). Great! But wait are all big players in the field of bioinformatics
guys?

Out of the 10 Guest Lectures ALL were male.

  • Scott Cain             Ontario Institute for Cancer Research
  • Brian Haas            Broad Institute
  • Winston Hide        Harvard School of Public Health, South African National Bioinformatics Institute
  • Tomas Marques     Universitat Pompeu Fabra
  • Barry Moore          University of Utah
  • William Pearson    University of Virginia
  • James Robinson     Broad Institute
  • Michael Schatz      CSHL
  • Jason Stajich          University of California, Riverside
  • Paul Thomas          University of Southern California
Only 2 out of the 7 instructors and tutors were female

  • Simon Prochnik DOE - Joint Genome Institute, Walnut Creek, CA
  • Sofia Robb         University of California, Riverside
  • Steven Ahrendt University of California, Riverside
  • Dave Messina Cofactor Genomics
  • Shawn Rynearson University of Utah
  • Deborah Triant University of Virginia
  • Ken Youens-Clark University of Arizona


This means only 2 out of 17 teachers were actual women. This together with the fact that
the meeting was also sold as 'who you meet here is important' was the most disappointing
fact. There are so many talented and great female bioinformatics out there it would be
great to see at least some of them present at this workshop in 2015.

P.S.: Don't get me wrong Simon and Sofia are great and organize a lovely meeting. So this
goes under the category 'even when it hurts'.

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