It’s spring break and I’m ostensibly on vacation. This means I’m working, but I’m doing so while looking at the ocean and as a marine biologist that’s not a bad way to do things.
While checking Twitter this morning I saw an article in the Journal of Proteomics raising a stir. Like many journals JoP has graphical abstracts, essentially a single figure which is supposed to best sum up the science being done. The reason why this article was causing a stir had absolutely nothing to do with the science, rather the authors had decided that a scantly clad woman holding two coconuts would be the best way to describe the science contained in “Harry Belafonte and the secret proteome of coconut milk****”.
There are so many things wrong with this that I’m not even sure where to start. Let’s go with the obvious. In a world where women face systematic and personal barriers to success in science (p.s. not new, check out this one from 1970), representations of women will have a chilling effect on women going into those fields (here here and here). That the authors, the peer reviewers and the editors would each ok that image speaks to deeply rooted cultural illness, one that is damaging to the future of science.
Second. If the best image to represent the science is the image of that woman it really makes me question how good of science I would find if I were to (as the figure caption urges) “have a look at the report inside” Good science should stand on its own, and while I have no problem with researchers advocating for their own work, or even using non-traditional means to bring research to the public, this abstract does not really convey a feeling of serious scholarship. To be honest I’m not a biochemist and I do not have the necessary skill set to evaluate the science inside. Let’s just say however they’re not packaging the science in such a way to make me feel like a lot of serious science went in.
Lastly, the image is copyrighted (image number 79 if you want to go here). Given the alacrity with which Elsvier goes after its own copyrighted material being posted on the web (here), I hope they look at their own house too.
Ok, so as I was writing this, the EIC wrote me back, saying……
It’s a victory my friend, but one that shows that we have so much work to do.
[Update Isis has a nice write up here]
*** The editors have taken the article down, however I have a screen shot of it here: