Culture matters when it comes to science. An uncomfortable and regrettable incident at Duke University in Janurary sent shock waves through the scientific community when a professor and program administrator suggested that her Chinese students “commit” to speaking English in professional settings. Although the administrator later apologized, the incident continues to reverberate.
Cultural misunderstandings like this are growing as campuses internationalize. In recent interviews with scientists at Harvard, M.I.T., Boston University and other institutions, I found that respondents embrace diversity in their workplaces but also raise concerns about puzzling behaviors of their international students. They say that cultural diversity in research settings is crucial but point out that some international students are “too obedient” or “hard working yet lacking in originality.” Without training in cultural sensitivity, they are often surprised and occasionally make errors of communication.
We scientists must learn to work together with our differences and appreciate that we are as culturally unique as any other cultural group. Indeed, most scientists are unaware of the intricate ways by which cultural elements enter their lab, for they do so in subliminal ways. Culture affects the way scientists perform and document their work in laboratories, respond to reviews, and talk with their students. Scientists, after all, are bearers of culture—just as their international students are. For an effective meeting of minds, we need to understand how cultures actually form them.
Sinan Aral, MIT Sloan David Austin Professor of Management
Our latest installment of the MIT Sloan Experts Series includes a conversation about fake news with Sinan Aral, David Austin Professor of Management and author of the forthcoming book, The Hype Machine. We’ll discuss insights from the latest research from Aral and his co-researchers Soroush Vosoughi and Deb Roy of the MIT Media Lab which overturns conventional wisdom about how misinformation spreads, what causes it to spread so fast, and who—or what—is spreading it.
It is the largest study of its kind about fake news and is featured in the latest issue of Science, “The Spread of True and False News Online”, March 9, 2018.
Outstanding student debt has ballooned to $1.3 trillion and is now, aside from mortgages, most American households’ largest liability, according to the Federal Reserve. Last year alone student debt increased by almost $83.2 billion, or 6.7%. The price of tuition has risen an average 3.4% each year for a decade, markedly outpacing inflation.
Meanwhile, the U.S. faces a daunting skills gap in science, technology, engineering and math. Each year there are 1.3 million new openings in STEM fields but fewer than 600,000 new graduates. Is there a way to solve both these problems at once?
The culture of world-class data science teams is one in which team members (and their managers) are excited by what their teammates can do. Here’s how to create that kind of high-performing team.
Every team needs talented people. In data science, talented people need not only to be good at what they do individually but also able to challenge their colleagues to create effective new solutions to very hard problems.
How do you build data science team to attract and retain this type of world-class talent?
The gender imbalance in STEM fields is extreme. According to a 2010 AAUW report, boys and girls take math and science courses in roughly equal numbers in elementary, middle, and high school, however far fewer women than men pursue these fields in college. According to the National Science Foundation, 29% of all male freshmen planned to major in a STEM field in 2006 compared to 15% of all female freshmen.
Further, while 57% of undergraduate degrees are earned by women, only 12% of computer science degrees are earned by women. By college graduation, men outnumber women in nearly every science and engineering field.
This divide grows worse at the graduate level and is even wider in the workplace. GirlsWhoCode.com states that women make up half the U.S. workforce, yet hold only 25% of the jobs in the technical or computing fields. To quote from the site: “In a room full of 25 engineers, only three will be women.”