Women in Science
"Women in science" will be held at ENS on Friday 8th June 2018 at 11:30am with three guests: Lucie Charles,
post-doctoral researcher in Cognitive Neuroscience, University College London, Anne Christophe, CNRS Senior researcher, Unit Director (LSCP) and Aude Nyadanu,
PhD student in Chemistry, École Polytechnique & École Normale Supérieure, L'Oréal-UNESCO Prize "Pour les Femmes et la Science".
The organizers of the "Women in Science" panel tell us a bit more about this event. Nura Sidarus is a post doc in cognitive neuroscience at the Institut Jean Nicod; Naomi Havron is a post doc in language acquisition at the LSCP (Cognitive Science and Psycholinguistics Lab), where Si Berrebi is a PhD candidate in linguistics.
Why did you feel the need to organise this event?
We had a feeling that there were a lot of personal conversations about challenges people face, but no organized discussion. We wanted to create a space to have a more informed discussion about existing problems and difficulties faced by women in academia. We need to pull together existing resources and knowledge to find ways to go forward.
Our goal for this event was to create a platform to hear women from different career stages, generations, countries, and fields of research. Aude Nyadanu is a PhD student in Chemistry, at the ENS and École Polytechnique, with experience working both in academia and as an entrepreneur. Additionally, as a laureate of the L’Oreal-UNESCO “For Women in Science” Prize, Aude will share what she has learned while being actively engaged in promoting the place of women in science. Lucie Charles is a post-doc in Cognitive Neuroscience at UCL (University College London), having previously studied at ENS and completed her PhD at NeuroSpin, thus bringing an important comparative perspective of academia in these two cultures, and her insights as an activist for gender equality. Anne Christophe is the director of the LSCP, having also worked in different countries, and will bring her point of view as a successful and experienced scientist. Moreover, Anne has supervised many students, as well as served on various review boards and committees.
By bringing together these varied perspectives, we aim to get a better understanding of what we can do to reduce inequalities, as men or women, at all career stages, both at the individual and the institutional level.
The underrepresentation of women in sciences is a global problem that impacts the entire organisation of society. What are the causes of this state of affairs? Stereotypes and popular opinion?
There are many known reasons that foster inequalities. In the panel, we will touch on some of those - stereotypes, implicit biases, the additional burden and expectations faced by mothers. We will also address possible solutions and actions that people of all genders and career stages may take to improve the situation - for themselves and for others.
The problem of women in research seems to be universal. Have you, nonetheless, noticed differences between countries?
Although many of the problems are universal, there certainly is a lot of variability in awareness and visibility of the problem, and discussions around it, and in the institutional efforts made to improve the situation.
For example, Naomi feels that specific things are a bit easier in Israel than in France, as there are larger numbers of mothers who are students, and so there are more facilities for mothers in the universities (such as breastfeeding rooms, creches inside the universities). This, however, also highlights expectations from women to excel both as academics and as mothers. Nura, who previously studied at UCL, also feels that the issue of gender equality is more discussed in the UK, and that institutional efforts to reduce inequalities in staff recruitment (e.g. Athena Awards), or provide support, like mentoring programmes, are more evident than in France.
What difficulties have you faced (if any) as a woman in research and science?
Naomi : The difficulties faced by women became evident to me for the first time when I became a mother. There were many things before that, of course, but I had ignored them, thinking that if I work hard enough I could prove myself. Then, when I had to leave the lab early or miss a conference because of my children, I was judged differently from men. When it came to me, it was unprofessional, and proof that I did not give academia all I’ve got. When it came to my male colleagues, it was proof that they were devoted parents.
Si : I was the instructor of an academic reading class, and two terms which were charged with sexist and racist meaning were used in one class. I interfered, reminding everyone that first, the class should be a place where everyone is comfortable, and second, using such terms naively is scientifically wrong. This incident snowballed for a while, but the most valuable observation that I took from it was that students tended to judge me as less competent to talk about issues of gender and race, since I’m a brown woman; they considered me to be “emotionally involved” or “biased”, while in fact I was more informed, as well as their teacher
Nura : From personal experience, and talking to many colleagues, issues around self-confidence and the “impostor syndrome“ seem to be another insidious way for gender inequalities to come through. Women may be less likely to speak up, or ask questions, or may be less listened to when they do speak. This, in turn, may lead to a reduced visibility in the field, or missing out on networking and even job opportunities. I also think it’s important to remember that, even if we have been lucky, and haven’t personally noticed specific gender-related challenges, this should not lead us to be complacent with a system that is clearly disadvantageous for many. Moreover, many solutions for improvements have the potential to benefit everyone.
By creating the “Mission for the Place of Women”, in 2001, the CNRS was the first research organization in France to have a dedicated structure to advance professional equality between women and men. Awareness-raising actions and measures to increase parity have been implemented. Progress has been made at the CNRS over the past ten years, but there is still a long way to go to make professional equality between women and men a reality. Is the goal of "Women in Science" to participate / advance the debate?
Yes, our goal is to join and promote this debate. The “Mission pour la place des femmes” of the CNRS is clearly a necessary and important institutional effort in the right direction. Nura attended the recent workshop for women in science organised by the CNRS, held on the International Women’s Day (8th March), and heard about various programmes promoted by this initiative. We have also recently heard about the existence of a “référent parité” at the ENS, and we are looking forward to hearing and seeing more from them. We think there’s room for all of us to be active, one initiative doesn’t exclude others! It is great that our panel is just one of many opportunities for people to take part in this important discussion.
What will be the format of the event?
The event will start with a brief introduction, to present statistics and studies that demonstrate the current gender inequalities in science. This will be followed by a panel discussion, wherein each panelist will share their perspective. We will finally invite the audience to participate in an open discussion about their experience and suggestions on this topic.
We invite everyone, whatever their gender, career stage, or academic field, to come join this discussion!
For logistical purposes, please register her.
Académie des sciences morales et politiques - Daniel Andler received a ceremonial sword
Daniel Andler was appointed at the Académie des sciences morales et politiques in the philosophy section. He has received the
ceremonial sword at the Institut de France on May 28, 2018.
Daniel Andler started his career as a mathematician, specializing in model theory. He taught mathematics at Université Paris Diderot and other universities for about twenty years. His interests then turned to the philosophy of science, in particular in relation to cognitive science. He taught successively in Lille, in Nanterre, and at the Paris-Sorbonne University (Paris IV), where he created the research unit "Science, norms, decisions". He is currently Professor Emeritus and Honorary Member of the Institut Universitaire of France. At the École Normale Supérieure, he was the founding director of the Department of Cognitive Studies from 2001 to 2005. In 2006, he created the Compas Group, a think tank devoted to the relationship between education, cognition, and new technologies.
Académie des sciences morales et politiques
Copyrights : Juliette Agnel
Stefano Palminteri has been appointed as a 'Lead Author' to contribute to the Joint Research Centre (JRC) Enlightenment 2.0 flagship report (European Commission science and knowledge service).
The aim is to understand and explain the drivers that influence policy decisions and political discourse in order to understand how policymaking can be best informed by scientific evidence.
Stefano Palminteri is researcher and "Human Reinforcement Learning" team leader at the Laboratoire de Neurosciences Cognitives Computationnelles. His main research topics are reinforcement learning and decision making.
More info about "Enlightenment 2.0".
More info about Stefano Palminteri
The project "Detecting Intentions, Predicting Actions: An exploratory pilot" led by Alda Mari (Institut Jean Nicod) has been chosen by the Centre des Hautes Études du Ministère de l’Intérieur (CHEMI)
At the cross-roads of formal semantics and computational linguistics, the long-term aim of this project is to analyze and extract users’ intentions, desires and plans from social media texts with the goal of predicting their likely actions. We want to ultimately produce: (1) A highly accurate understanding of how intentions and actions are expressed in language; (2) A new data collection of social media French texts annotated according to the writer’s intent; and (3) New solutions to automatically infer future actions relying on a strong synergy between Natural Language Processing (NLP) techniques, and in-depth formal semantic analysis of intention signals.
The pilot project, which is developed for the Ministère de l'Intérieur has the more restricted goal of covering these three goals for a limited amount of intent expression in texts centered on crisis management during crisis events like hurricanes, terrorist attacks or earthquakes (intentions to help, to advise, to criticize, to support, to evacuate, etc.).
The project "Detecting Intentions, Predicting Actions: An exploratory pilot" will be led by Alda Mari (Institut Jean Nicod) in collaboration with Farah Benamara from the Institut de Recherche en Informatique de Toulouse (IRIT).
Joelle Proust on France Culture
Joelle Proust will be the guest of Etienne Klein in «La conversation scientifique» that will be brodcasted on June 9 at 4pm to talk about the theme of the nature of mind.
Webpage of «La conversation scientifique»
The Babylab on France2
A documentary of Laurence Beauvillard about the BabyLab of LSCP with Anne Christophe (Director of LSCP) and Mireille Babineau (Postdoc at LSCP) has been broadcasted in the show "Télématin" on France 2.
Dautriche, I., Fibla, L., Fiévet, A.-C. & Christophe, A. (2018), Learning homophones in context: Easy cases are favored in the lexicon of natural languages, Cognitive Psychology, 104, 83-105
Résumé :Even though ambiguous words are common in languages, children find it hard to learn homophones, where a single label applies to several distinct meanings (e.g., Mazzocco, 1997). The present work addresses this apparent discrepancy between learning abilities and typological pattern, with respect to homophony in the lexicon. In a series of five experiments, 20-month-old French children easily learnt a pair of homophones if the two meanings associated with the phonological form belonged to different syntactic categories, or to different semantic categories. However, toddlers failed to learn homophones when the two meanings were distinguished only by different grammatical genders. In parallel, we analyzed the lexicon of four languages, Dutch, English, French and German, and observed that homophones are distributed non-arbitrarily in the lexicon, such that easily learnable homophones are more frequent than hard-to-learn ones: pairs of homophones are preferentially distributed across syntactic and semantic categories, but not across grammatical gender. We show that learning homophones is easier than previously thought, at least when the meanings of the same phonological form are made sufficiently distinct by their syntactic or semantic context. Following this, we propose that this learnability advantage translates into the overall structure of the lexicon, i.e., the kinds of homophones present in languages exhibit the properties that make them learnable by toddlers, thus allowing them to remain in languages.
Fort, M., I. Lammertink, S. Peperkamp, A. Guevara-Rukoz, P. Fikkert & S. Tsuji (2018), SymBouKi: a meta-analysis on the emergence of sound symbolism in early language acquisition, Developmental Science, 2018;e12659
Résumé : Adults and toddlers systematically associate pseudowords such as "bouba" and "kiki" with round and spiky shapes, respectively, a sound symbolic phenomenon known as the "bouba-kiki effect". To date, whether this sound symbolic effect is a property of the infant brain present at birth or is a learned aspect of language perception remains unknown. Yet, solving this question is fundamental for our understanding of early language acquisition. Indeed, an early sensitivity to such sound symbolic associations could provide a powerful mechanism for language learning, playing a bootstrapping role in the establishment of novel sound-meaning associations. The aim of the present meta-analysis (SymBouKi) is to provide a quantitative overview of the emergence of the bouba-kiki effect in infancy and early childhood. It allows a high-powered assessment of the true sound symbolic effect size by pooling over the entire set of 11 extant studies (six published, five unpublished), entailing data from 425 participants between 4 and 38 months of age. The quantitative data provide statistical support for a moderate, but significant, sound symbolic effect. Further analysis found a greater sensitivity to sound symbolism for bouba-type pseudowords (i.e., round sound-shape correspondences) than for kiki-type pseudowords (i.e., spiky sound-shape correspondences). For the kiki-type pseudowords, the effect emerged with age. Such discrepancy challenges the view that sensitivity to sound symbolism is an innate language mechanism rooted in an exuberant interconnected brain. We propose alternative hypotheses where both innate and learned mechanisms are at play in the emergence of sensitivity to sound symbolic relationships.
Su, M., Zhao, J., Thiebaut de Schotten, M., Zhou, W., Gong, G., Ramus, F., & Shu, H. (2018).
Alterations in white matter pathways underlying phonological and morphological processing in Chinese developmental dyslexia. Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, 31, 11-19.
Résumé : Chinese is a logographic language that is different from alphabetic languages in visual and semantic complexity. Thus far, it is still unclear whether Chinese children with dyslexia show similar disruption of white matter pathways as in alphabetic languages. The present study focused on the alteration of white matter pathways in Chinese children with dyslexia. Using diffusion tensor imaging tractography, the bilateral arcuate fasciculus (AF-anterior, AF-posterior and AF-direct segments), inferior fronto-occipital fasciculus (IFOF) and inferior longitudinal fasciculus (ILF) were delineated in each individual's native space. Compared with age-matched controls, Chinese children with dyslexia showed reduced fractional anisotropy in the left AF-direct and the left ILF. Further regression analyses revealed a functional dissociation between the left AF-direct and the left ILF. The AF-direct tract integrity was associated with phonological processing skill, an ability important for reading in all writing systems, while the ILF integrity was associated with morphological processing skill, an ability more strongly recruited for Chinese reading. In conclusion, the double disruption locus in Chinese children with dyslexia, and the functional dissociation between dorsal and ventral pathways reflect both universal and specific properties of reading in Chinese.