Most people believe that scientists have high levels of objectivity and integrity – and scientists themselves share these positive views of their own profession. But according to scientists, not all researchers are equally upstanding, with male and early-career scientists being seen as somewhat less trustworthy than others.
That’s according to a new paper from Dutch researchers Coosje Veldkamp et al.: Who Believes in the Storybook Image of the Scientist?
Based on a series of studies in samples of scientists as well as highly educated non-scientists (as control groups), the authors conclude that:
Our results indicate strong belief among both lay people and scientists in the storybook image of the scientist as someone who is relatively objective, rational, open-minded, intelligent, honest, and communal. However, while the stereotypical image predicts that older, male scientists would be believed to fit the storybook image best, our results suggest that scientists believe that older, female scientists fit the image best.
Here’s the results on researchers’ views of male vs. female scientists:
Both male and female scientists felt that female scientists (light bars) were more objective, intelligent, etc. than male ones (dark bars), although the differences were larger when it was female scientists making the ratings.
Regarding the respondents’ opinions of scientists at different career stages, senior (“established”) scientists were generally seen as having the most integrity and rationality. Strikingly, though, early-career scientists were rated as having less objectivity, integrity and open-mindedness than PhD students – or so thought the senior scientists.
Junior researchers, however, saw themselves as being slightly superior to PhD students…
Veldkamp CL, Hartgerink CH, van Assen MA, & Wicherts JM (2016). Who Believes in the Storybook Image of the Scientist? Accountability in Research PMID: 28001440