social science

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We’ve often heard that Facebook and Twitter are making it too easy to encase ourselves in bubbles of like-mindedness. We’ve been told that these echo chambers are fueling political polarization and that we should be exposed to differing opinions.

New research shows that idea might be wrong.

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The idea of what it means to be American has been a central theme in our increasingly polarized political landscape -- from immigration policy to the controversy over NFL players taking a knee during the national anthem.

Of course, you can find people on both sides of any of these debates playing the “it’s un-American” card. So, what factors do Americans actually believe are important to the American identity?

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Religion has been part of the human experience for as long as anyone can figure out. Religious behavior, in general, has declined in many parts of the world, but it tends to bounce back when there is a tragedy of some sort. And recent computer models suggest that religious beliefs are unlikely to disappear anytime soon. What else could computers tell us about this deeply human phenomenon?

A new project aims to get scientists to take another look at work that can't be reproduced.
Elsa Partan

It’s not easy to admit that you’ve been wrong. But everyone makes mistakes and scientists are no different.

But when a researcher makes a poor choice in the lab or misinterprets his or her results, and that becomes part of the permanent scientific record, that can have far-reaching implications.

  

A few weeks ago, we spoke with a young ocean researcher who was struck by the lack of diversity among her colleagues and decided to dig deeper. Emily Cooperdock and a colleague got their hands on four decades worth of data and found that years of talk and diversity initiatives have done little to actually increase the representation of women and minorities in earth and ocean sciences.

It's no secret that the majority of scientists have historically been white men. A lot of effort and attention in recent decades has gone into making science more diverse and inclusive. Emily Cooperdock is a post-doctoral scholar at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and co-author of a study on the topic. She spoke with Living Lab Radio about science's progress on diversity in 40 years. 

World Cup soccer fans in Russia have been laughing, crying, and screaming as their favorite teams win or lose. But Russians themselves aren't known for their emotional displays. In fact, in the lead up to the World Cup, Russian workers actually got training on how to smile at visiting fans. Which raises a question: Why?

This week, the journal Nature released a survey of 3,200 scientists that showed many feel science is a friendly and collaborative field. Unfortunately, there is a sizable minority that find their labs are tense or even toxic. The good news is that the survey also points to several things that universities can do to systematically improve the academic workplace.

northwestern.edu

There’s new evidence that gender stereotypes of scientists are changing. Researchers looked at drawings of scientists made by more than 20,000 children and found that 28 percent drew their scientist as a woman. That’s a dramatic increase from the .6 percent researchers saw 50 years ago, but there’s still room for growth.

There is a long and troubling history of science – or at least pseudoscience – being used to justify racism and discrimination. The nineteenth century practice of phrenology is a commonly cited – and thoroughly debunked – example.

Northeastern Illinois University

Cindy Voisine grew up in Fort Kent, Maine – a small town with a strong French Canadian influence. Her family is bilingual, and she was the first in her family to go to college. She grew up thinking she would become a medical doctor, the only career she knew of that would satisfy her interest in biology. But her ideas changed when she got to Bates College.

Ione Fine

Scientific journals don’t track the gender of their authors. That made it that much trickier for University of Washington psychology professor Ione Fine and her colleagues to uncover a surprising fact: that women scientists are significantly under-represented among authors of studies published in top-tier journals. 

themozhi / bit.ly/2C5OjmO / Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

MIT is the latest in a string of prestigious universities to reveal ties to slavery that go back to the founding of the institution. The information comes from an undergraduate research course called “MIT and Slavery.” 

Jerry Kiesewetter / bit.ly/2EjOCZE

It’s not every day that protests actually change people’s minds. In fact, social scientists say it’s pretty rare. But that’s exactly what happened a year ago, after President Trump announced the first executive order barring entry into the U.S. for individuals from certain countries.

The Brookings Institution is studying the geography of happiness.
Elsa Partan

It’s no secret that there are deep social and political divides in the U.S. What’s less clear, is what is driving the polarization.

Carol Graham has spent the past decade studying quality of life and happiness around the globe. She’s the Leo Pasvolsky Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution and College Park Professor at University of Maryland’s School of Public Policy.