ENG – The gender talk at CERN

On 28/9/2018 I presented data at a CERN workshop on “high energy theory and gender” that attracted the attention of media.

I am now opening this web site to clarify facts, which are different from what is represented by some media.

After having received unjustified and often unjustifiable attacks, I decided to publish my results, hoping that – with a cold and less preconceived head – it could be evaluated serenely and with unbiased reference to what I actually tried to say in my research work.  I was too optimistic, given that somebody took the opportunity of March 8, International Women’s Day, to return to publicly attack me as a sexist, novel Möbius of the 21st century, who justly deserves to be pilloried without the possibility of appeal.

This is too much,  and I am no longer willing to provide alibis to those who manipulate the reality of facts in order to obtain, without any effort, an easy mass consensus.

With my modest tools I am now trying to put those interested in the condition to learn about this reality, and then hopefully criticize me.   And I will protect myself by all legal means from more fake news about what I said at the conference.

I presented data about publications, references, authors and hires in fundamental physics world-wide in the past 50 years.   Simplifying, data show that people able of doing good research are recognized regardless of gender. The scientific literature on the subject finds similar results. For example, a recent review concludes: “the overall picture is one of gender neutrality in GEEMP fields [P is physics], notwithstanding frequent claims to the contrary” (check the link).

Why some media and workshops insist that sexism and discriminations are everywhere?  Because this is the narrative imposed by identity politics, which presents some groups as victims in order  to get their vote. In North America this ideology led to divisions and to the intolerance of “political correctness”.  To make my position unequivocal, I am in favour of equal opportunities, in the sense that the “the most qualified person should get the job”, regardless of his/her gender, race, political orientation, etc.   However the quoted sentence is now considered as micro-aggression (check the link) in several Californian Universities. Slogans such as “diversity, inclusion, equality” can conceal a political ideology that does not want equal opportunities, but equal outcomes, which means discriminations that make more equal than others those groups elected as victims by this politics.

In practice, equal opportunities means checking that over-represented groups do not take advantage of their position.  Equal outcomes means imposing quotas by attacking over-represented groups trough victimisation narratives and misunderstandings of human differences.

Many persons, worried by how this politics is damaging our societies, are trying to speak  out, thus exposing themselves to being falsely attacked as sexists, racists, fascists, nazis…

Knowing that presenting data in contrast with this narrative is dangerous, I chose to follow the ethics of science: I presented the data and ended my talk by predicting that it would cost me dear. Unfortunately, the prediction was right.

Data

Here are my slides, here an unofficial recording of my talk (CERN removed the slides and did not give me the video) that somebody used to produce this:

Here (link) is the preprint of a scientific paper with details of the analysis (which I am not allowed to post on the  preprint bulletin arXiv…).  Somebody writes that this data is discredited: if this were true, they would not work so hard to prevent this data from being seen.

 

Press campaign

After presenting the data, a campaign started trying to shift the focus from science to propaganda: the ideology is right because it is powerful, anyone who disagrees must be portrayed as sexist, not sparing distortions, defamation and threats.

Even the innocent head of CERN theory division received some threats, which started when somebody erroneously wrote that I am “head of theory @CERN”.

Let me show an example of distortions: some media extracted out-of-context the sentence “Physics invented and built by men, it’s not by invitation”, that was in a slide with title “Discrimination against women”, and was followed by “Curie etc. welcomed after showing what they can do, got Nobels…”.  Journalists who tried to manipulate the meaning of the slide underestimated the intelligence of their readers who found on internet the slides removed by CERN; they understood the true meaning of the sentence, and commented outraged at having been deceived.  As an example, just read the comments on this video, or watch this video.

Historically, modern physics was invented centuries ago by Galileo, Newton and other men.  We know that at that time most people (especially women) did not even have the possibility to study.   So men started building the necessary institutions developing a culture based on integrity and scientific merit. Nobody has privileged access, everybody is welcome to try and will be appreciated based on achievements, not based on gender/race/etc.   Marie Curie is an example of how successful women have been appreciated in the physics community since many years now. Despite the fact that at the time it was unheard for a woman to even study physics, thanks to her outstanding work she was awarded not one, but two Nobel prizes.

Other media attributed me, in quotations marks, sentences that I never said.   Correcting everything would be too long: I limit myself to some titles.  According to Corriere della Sera (2/10/2018) I said: «physics is not for women»…

[A list of Italian newspapers is omitted from this translation]

“Il post” writes on 1/10/2018 that «Strumia’s presentation went far beyond the content of his slides and was even more sexist and offensive».  The recording of my presentation shows that these insinuations are not true.  The recording also shows that it’s not true what written in a complaint received by Pisa University President, according to which «Strumia … in a talk at CERN … insulted Prof. Giannotti»: I never mentioned the CERN Director General Gianotti.

Taking the move from this complaint, Pisa University opened an ethical proceedure, which concluded that some sentences attributed to me by some journals are unethical.  Therefore, I state that I never said what Corriere Fiorentino attributed to me on 2/10/2018: «15 years ago I also had an evaluation of this kind for a university position. Despite my 31000 citations, a female colleague who was 3200 has been hired. And you know what has been contested? That I was too active scientifically».  What I really said was that at the CERN conference a speaker presented as unequivocal proof of discriminations against women the case of a female colleague judged too active scientifically for some position in Israel.  But these are troubles that can happen to everybody: just to make this point I mentioned that I myself got the same judgement 15 years ago such that less scientifically active men got the position I was competing for (and nobody had the citations erroneously written by the journalist).  Trying to persuade female colleagues that they are victims of sexist discriminations does no good to anybody.

[More Italian newspapers omitted from this translation].

Particles For Justice

Daniel Harlow, Chanda Prescod-Weinstein and other American academics opened the blog “particles for justice” questionably represented as “community statement”, where they propose a petition against me, and attack me personally making wrong statements, as I will show.

A physicist who has «chosen anonymity for fear of losing my career» published an article criticising “particles for justice”: «there are major problems with the statement we have, including unethical misrepresentation of Strumia’s talk, misleading citations, poor analysis, and unscientific attitudes».

Another physicist who preferred anonymity independently criticized “particles for justice”: «their outrage is misplaced and unsupported by the data they themselves cite». He/she wrote an email to alert the authors of “particles for justice” of their mistakes, putting me in CC.   In this exchange it came out that some “particle for justice” authors  had exchanged emails agreeing “we just ignore it and not give it any more visibility” instead of addressing the scientific criticism.

These physicists, who write about gender in a questionable way (in another petition, Harlow and others inform us that sex is not defined by genetics), attack me for being a physicist who gave a talk about gender and write «Strumia’s conclusions are in stark disagreement with those of experts».  This is not true: the experts (in psychology and economics, not in ideology) who reviewed the scientific literature concluded the overall picture is one of gender neutrality in GEEMP fields [P is physics], notwithstanding frequent claims to the contrary”, as I already said.   I hope that some scientific organisation will organise a workshop on gender in STEM where experts too are invited and can freely debate with activists.

Harlow et al. attack me writing: “Strumia’s arguments are morally reprehensible. Belittling the ability and legitimacy of scientists of color…” and “how grossly unethical it is to misrepresent the topic of one’s talk to workshop organizers”. These statements are false: I spoke only about gender, and the abstract of my talk was accurate. Since CERN made it unavailable, I reproduce it here: «I will present and interpret data about gender differences and discriminations that emerge from studies of bibliometrical data about high energy theory and fundamental physics».

I submitted this abstract months before the conference: next I computed, and results come out that were not politically-correct.  With colleagues we spent the summer discussing, checking data and exploring safe ways to present them, joking sadly about what would happen to the speaker, while discovering what really happened to other scientists in similar situations.  Data were right, but nobody wanted to speak; at this point I considered that I was the one with less assets to lose.

I was told that in the attacks received there can be extremes for legal actions and also complaints about defamation: I let it go. I do not care. I am only interested in showing the truth, hoping that those who attacked me in good faith understand that they have been wrong or have been deceived.

CERN

I received anonymous messages of support from people in CERN who recommended legal action. I preferred listening to those who suggested that I should better ask to leave, so that problems are quietly solved. I have not been informed of any disciplinary proceedings against me. CERN adopted a single formal act: the opening of an investigation to check if my talk might have violated rules such as “obligation to exercise reserve and tact“, “reserve in expressing personal opinions“, “communications to the public“. In this case a procedure would have been opened such that I would have had the opportunity to officially explain my reasons.   I asked to see documents, and CERN on 12/3/2019 replied that “CERN will not pursue disciplinary proceedings”.  In any case, I find it alarming that a scientific organisation has such flexible rules that subjectively restrict free speech. At the same time I would also be curious to know if those who signed with CERN affiliation the falsities contained in Particles For Justice have been treated in the same way.

INFN

I have been criticised for having mentioned as a case study in my talk the competition 10182 of Istituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare.  Somebody painted me as “envious looser” without knowing that, under INFN regulations, I could have got a position equivalent to that of the competition, as I had received an advanced ERC funding. Having presented data (accessible to the public) that contain names gave unfortunately the impression of a personal controversy, while my goal was to exemplify how the unpleasant situations discussed at length during the conference can happen to men too.

I focused on this particular competition because a commissioner was the same theorist who organises conferences according to which physics discriminates against women.  The competition was won by two female theorists, who, together with the commissar, signed open letters asking for the presence of more women in conferences.  All other theorists (about 43) were declared “unsuitable”.  Concerning myself, the final judgement is “optimal” but the practical conclusion is “unsuitable”: this discrepancy would be enough to open a court case, but again I am not interested in this.

INFN

I omit to publish bibliometric indices of scientific productivity of theorists who applied, but I can show (physicists can ask me privately for the data), that these “unsuitable” theorists are very good theorists.

Conclusion

Please check the slides and the data, don’t trust media.  Next, if you like, criticise what I said.  Not what I never said.  I thank many people who already understood the real state-of-affairs and wrote me to express their support.

Annunci