But then, OMG, then, the confirmed speaker list and the conference organizers.
That is a 25:1 ratio. Pathetic. Embarrassing. The sponsors – UC San Diego’s Division of Biological Sciences and BioCircuits Institute, San Diego Center for Systems Biology, the University of Hawaii and the Office of Naval Research – should all be ashamed.
For other posts on this topic see
UPDATE – I have now submitted an abstract to the meeting. The abstract I submitted is available here and posted below
The probability of having one out of twenty six participants at a scientific meeting be female
A quantitative analysis of gender bias in quantitative biology meetings
Jonathan A. Eisen
University of California, Davis
(Note – new title suggested by John Hogenesch)
Scientific conferences have key participants which I define to be the speakers and the organizers. Such key participants can be divided into two main classes based on gender: male and female, which I denote here as M and F, respectively (I realize there are other gender classes and I regretfully am not including them here). The number of key participants (which I denote as KP) for conferences varies significantly. For this analysis I focused on meetings with KP = 26. This value was selected for multiple reasons, including (a) that it is the number of letters in the English alphabet (b) that its factors include the number 13 which I like, and (3) because in email announcements for this meeting KP= 26. I sought to answer a relatively simple question – what is the probability that, for a meeting with KP=26, that F = 1. I chose this because this seemed extreme and because F=1 in the email announcements for this meeting. Using the probability mass distribution formula as below:
n = NP = number of participants
k = f = the number that are female
p = percentage of f in population being sampled
I have calculated Pr (F=1) for KP = 26. Assuming for the moment that p = 0.5 (i.e., that the population to be sampled is 50:50 male vs female) then Pr (F=1) = 3.8743E-07. This is highly unlikely by chance alone. However the assumption of p = 0.5 is certainly off in some fields. I therefore calculated P (F=1) for different frequencies of F in the population (i.e., what is the expected ratio of females to sample from).
Thus for a meeting with NP = 26, only when the frequency of F is ~0.16 does P (F=1) exceed 0.05. So a question is then, what should we use for p for this meeting? An informal survey (John Hogenesch, posted to Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/jonathaneisen/posts/10151208978630767?comment_id=24634832&offset=0&total_comments=15
) suggests that in qBio the percentage is about 20%. However that may not be an ideal estimate since this meeting is specifically about synthetic biology, I do not have a any estimate of p for this field. However, examination of key meetings in the field (e.g., see http://syntheticbiology.org/Conferences.html
for a list) reveals a percentage of perhaps a bit higher. For example at SB5 the ratio was about 35%. I conclude that it is likely that p > 20% in Synthetic Biology. Given that for p = 0.2 the Pr (F=1) < 0.05 I therefore conclude that the null hypothesis (that having one female out of 26 key participants) can be rejected – and that this meeting has a biased ratio of males: females.
UPDATE 2: Here is the full email I received, just for the record
ABSTRACT SUBMISSION DEADLINE 09/15/12http://w-qbio.org/abstracts.html
THE FIRST ANNUAL WINTER Q-BIO MEETING
Quantitative Biology on the Hawaiian Islands
February 18-21, 2013http://w-qbio.org/
The Winter q-bio meeting brings together scientists and engineers who are interested in all areas of q-bio. Each year, the meeting will rotate on the Hawaiian Islands with a different thematic focus within q-bio. The focus for the meeting this year will be Synthetic Biology, with about half of the invited speakers chosen as renowned experts in this area.
SPONSORED BY:UC San Diego’s Division of Biological Sciences and BioCircuits Institute
San Diego Center for Systems Biology
University of Hawaii
Office of Naval Research
2013 CONFIRMED SPEAKERS:
Jim Collins, Boston University
Johan Elf, Uppsala University
Michael Elowitz, California Institute of Technology
Timothy Elston, UNC Chapel Hill School of Medicine
James E. Ferrell, Stanford University
Martin Fussenegger, ETH Zurich
Leon Glass, McGill University
Terry Hwa, University of California, San Diego
Roy Kishony, Harvard Medical School
Galit Lahav, Harvard University
Andre Levchenko, Johns Hopkins University
Wendell Lim, University of California, San Francisco
Andy Oates, The Max Planck Institute, Dresden
Bernhard Palsson, University of California, San Diego
Gurol Suel, UT Southwestern Medical Center
Chao Tang, Peking University
John Tyson, Virginia Tech
Craig Venter, The J. Craig Venter Institute
Chris Voigt, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Ned S. Wingreen, Princeton University
Bill Ditto, University of Hawaii
Jeff Hasty, UC San Diego
Bill Hlavacek, University of New Mexico
Alex Hoffmann, UC San Diego
Brian Munsky, New Mexico Consortium
Lev Tsimring, UC San Diego
***REGISTRATION NOW OPEN***
Registration fee covers conference venue, opening reception, banquet, coffee & snacks.
EARLY BIRD ($450.00) REGISTRATION DEADLINE: December 1, 2012
REGULAR REGISTRATION ($550) DEADLINE: February 5, 2013
REGISTER NOW: http://w-qbio.org/abstracts.html
HOTEL: A block of rooms have been reserved for registered conference participants available for a negotiated rate of $199 per night at the Hilton Hawaiian Village in Waikiki. The rooms are available on first come first serve basis and will be available soon, so book early!
CONTRIBUTED TALKS: If you wish to present your work at the conference, either as an oral talk or a poster, you must submit an abstract through the conference website by the September 15th deadline. Abstract guidelines and submission information at:http://w-qbio.org/guidelines.pdf
ABSTRACT DEADLINE: September 15, 2012
Accepted abstracts will be announced October 31, 2012.
We encourage you to forward this message to any colleagues that may be interested in taking part in this exciting event.
Questions should be emailed to: firstname.lastname@example.org