Category Archives: organizational culture

Male Scientist Writes of Life as Female Scientist

By Shankar Vedantam, Washington Post Staff Writer, Thursday, July 13, 2006 or 2006/07/12/AR2006071201883.html

I hope this article gets widely noticed (I also need to find the original). Two primary points–

Barres said he has realized from personal experience that many men are unconscious of the privileges that come with being male, which leaves them unable to countenance talk of glass ceilings and discrimination.

This is a very difficult concept to express to others (especially to men who honestly believe they don’t discriminate against women). I have tried to use the example of colleagues, or mentors and proteges, who discuss their project animatedly and enthusiastically, while on the way to the restroom….

Barres said the switch had given him access to conversations that would have excluded him previously.

If one wants to know what majority institutions and governments think of ethnic minorities (i.e., Native and non-Native or Hispano and non-Hispano) ask an Anglo / Gussack / Pakeha trained in participant / observation who’s been in “both worlds”.

“Science is a human activity”

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Public involvement references

I put together a set of references on the technical field of public involvement, risk communication, etc.
Getting Results from Your Experts –

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Developing Minority Community Capacity in Environmental Health & Hazardous Substances

M. Pamela Bumsted, Julia T. Abeyta, and Karen S. Young

Beyond Boundaries—Developing Minority Community Capacity in Environmental Health & Hazardous Substances.

Minority communities need to develop a capacity in all aspects of environmental health, including administrative, scientific, educational, and governmental. Minority communities are nearly always viewed as supplicants or targets by outside agencies, individuals, or institutions. Heretofore, communities have not participated as autonomous institutions in collaborative studies nor been the ones to develop or run the agency’s public involvement. Our programs are designed to provide permanent information and expertise within the communities related to environmental health and hazardous substances, to enable them to make informed decisions about their future.

Principal— M. Pamela Bumsted, Ph.D.

Affiliations 1 & 3—Northern Pueblos Institute,
Northern New Mexico Community College 2—American Indian Affairs,
Northern New Mexico Community College

Paper given 30 March 1995
Society for Applied Anthropology, March–April 1995 Annual Meeting, Albuquerque, New Mexico

Abstract published in annual meeting program, page 52.

Session—Chemicals, Culture, & Health (Lynette Benson, organizer, Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR)

“Management Style”

The philosophy which directs my interactions with co-workers and employees is non-hierarchical, collaborative, consistent, and adaptive—problem oriented, not rule oriented. I integrate viewpoints, skills, and expertise of those I work with and for. I am able to create new combinations of old ways to apply to a problem. And, from all that I learn, I am able to come up with new ideas for old and new problems (and for those problems yet to be visible). Yet, I accept my responsibility as leader, whether that responsibility is personal, professional, legal, or ethical.

“Teamwork” is the trendy slogan. Teamwork for me doesn’t mean “I crack the whip and you all jump.” The problems I work with are complex and require collaboration with others—whether they be janitors, retirees, government officials, or program managers. The idea is to involve people as needed, including myself, but not to burden them with the minutiae which keeps them from more important responsibilities. Continue reading

Science is a human activity

Victor Weisskopf, the Nobel laureate, used this expression in a retrospective of the 40th anniversary of the founding of Los Alamos National Laboratory. C.P. Snow has elegantly discussed the void between “Two Cultures”, sciences and the humanities.

But the UC-LANL entity is of multicultural, not biocultural origin; it is really communities of diverse peoples, often conflicting in values, language, goals, etiquette, even dress.

The University of California/Los Alamos National Laboratory is multicultural in that a greater divide exists between the University and the Laboratory than that between disciplines, such that it interferes with cross-institutional collaboration of people within the same academic cultural origin.

There are two further senses of multicultural which are overlooked in discussions of “science” and “society”, even explicitly so in the University’s own rhetoric, such as the 1989 Science advertisement for a “Coordinator [to] promote… research between Laboratory staff and campus faculty and students…” [emphasis added]. Above all else, Los Alamos National Laboratory is a community of people: who are “technical” and “support” employees, “staff” with a status enhancing “S” on the badge and “nonexempt”, paid by the University of California and by Johnson Controls and PTLA.

But essential to its very establishment and to the continuing of a fundamental, generative (life-enhancing) core of its existence, Los Alamos National Laboratory is a community of diverse peoples who themselves have lived among los alamos for thousands of years, made the pilgrimage of Holy Week for hundreds of years, took over the Boys Ranch five decades ago, and graduated from our universities this spring.

It is only because of the Pueblo way of life, its successful adaptation to the upper Rio Grande and its consequent influence on later arriving cultures, that the world has seen in the past 50 years—

  • nuclear weapons used only twice for mass destruction and
  • up to now, such irresponsible and criminal acts of betrayal to the environment, employee safety, and community health on the scale of Rocky Flats and Hanford occurred there, and not in New Mexico.

But, the Laboratory’s core being can be overwhelmed or disintegrated through even small ignorant changes in institutional management, compounding those of the past. It can be demonstrated scientifically that the basic support for those who challenge assumptions and directions, who push for quality and meaning of research and policy at Laboratory and national levels, has come from the essential human ecology of the Pajarito Plateau, Rio Grande Valley, and Jemez Mountains.

In 1986, the Laboratory director argued that he would not add a cultural scientist to the Laboratory staff because “I already have four political scientists” to tell him what was going on in Washington, DC. Less than three years later, the Secretary of Energy in his nomination testimony said there had to be a cultural revolution in the national nuclear weapons complex. To date, the UC-LANL director, and the Laboratory, still has difficulty using this elementary science term correctly in a sentence, equating something as one-dimensional as “safety” or “open” to all the richness and complexity of Pueblo or Hispano culture. The Laboratory’s new environmental ethic is demonstrated by the new water tank blocking one’s first view of the magnificent Jemez-someone did think to decorate it with the 50th anniversary logo.

In 1985, the Laboratory director, in a colloquium on creativity in science, Management’s Challenge: Nurturing Creativity At Work, responded unfavorably to the suggestion that freedom of choice in research or even when to do research tasks, such as that enjoyed by postdoctoral fellows and Laboratory Fellows, might be extended for a short period to a larger segment of the staff as a reward for creativity, in addition to the traditional salary and certificates. The Director would not consider this for fear that at a mission-oriented Laboratory, members might wish to do “irrelevant studies such as poetry”.

In 1986, the Laboratory director said the only reason there was a life sciences division at the Laboratory was because there was a Nobel prize in the field, and the Laboratory needed someone who could keep up with the news from that area. In 1989, UC looked for a liaison between LANL and the University in order to enhance UC-LANL interactions. In responding to the question of whether the very few women who had applied were from the life sciences, the Office of the University of California President answered yes, “but, of course [those sciences] are irrelevant” to UC-LANL.

In 1986, a senior Laboratory scientist wrote to the head of the UC-LANL Center for National Security Studies of the need to overcome barriers between scientists (and their institutions) and the general public, “this hostility to science as the enemy….” He went on to say “To call the problem educational is to underestimate it…. It has not always been thus, and it may be possible for science to rejoin the human family…. [A program such as human ecology] could make a contribution to this problem, which is one of the most serious problems that the Laboratory or science itself faces for its own survival”.

Northern New Mexico people do value the statement “Los Alamos National Laboratory operated by the University of California”.

But the relationship must be revitalized to become more relevant than a letterhead graphic, an exchange between senior management, and a news item every five years about faculty discussions. From a single mission at its origin, the collaboration must realize its multidimensional responsibilities for the future. The current interaction of laboratory, university, and community is not successful.

It is a University’s responsibility to remind all of us that “beauty”, “charm”, and “elegance” are also attributes of sub-atomic particles and theoretical physics; that the sensitive dependence on initial conditions of non-linear dynamic systems is a “butterfly effect”; that the behavior of coherent light (LASER) is described by the language of mathematics and within Diné view of nature; that some of the finest contemporary art is done at home in Santa Clara by those Lab employees that separate our transuranic waste. It is time UC-LANL turned to its cultural roots.

(c) M. Pamela Bumsted 1989, 1993

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