Skip to content

Woke Science: Diversity In Physics

“Physics is the least diverse of the sciences,” begins our article, a signal that we start in the depths, and have no choice but to begin the labor of digging our graves deeper.

Physics is the least diverse of the sciences, rivaling mechanical engineering and aerospace engineering for the least diverse fields within all of science, technology, mathematics, and engineering (STEM). Groups underrepresented in physics include Blacks, Latinos, Native Americans, and women of all racial/ethnic groups. Barely 5% of physics Ph.D.’s are granted annually to those identifying with an underrepresented racial/ethnic category; women earn only 20% of physics Ph.D.’s. The origins of these vast representation gaps are complex and include inequitable educational access from an early age, implicit bias in the classroom and research laboratories, deterrents to continuation for underrepresented groups (e.g., departmental climate and disciplinary culture), and stereotype threat. Expanding gender and racial participation in STEM is important for the development of a robust domestic scientific workforce…

This is the peer-reviewed opening of “Typical physics Ph.D. admissions criteria limit access to underrepresented groups but fail to predict doctoral completion” in Science. Rather, the full and perplexing name of the journal is Science Advances. Advances, I emphasize. Where is it going? Let’s see.

It doesn’t matter who wrote the paper: some group of earnest social justice foot soldiers, we can assume.

We can also imagine their statistics are correct, more or less. I accept there are more white males in the upper echelons of physics than diverse folks.

Now in saner times these statistics would be taken as proof that the group at the top are, somehow, better at physics than those not at the top. How else did these fine fellows get to the top if they didn’t have soaring abilities? Being at the top defines what’s best, n’est-ce pas? They certainly seem to have been demonstrating their superior abilities, judging by the output of physics this last century.

There are other explanations. It could be those at the top really weren’t best, but that a neglected pool of diverse folks were actually better. Perhaps a secret cabal of non-diverse physicists have been scanning diverse resumes over the past century, and when they spied potential diverse top performers, they sent out agents to convince these diverse persons to become dentists or accountants instead.

Lot of sneaky people out there, so this could have happened.

It’s not clear how they’re still hiding and carrying on their nefarious work, though, not when dedicated SJWs patrol school hallways from Kindergarten on up, handing out awards aplenty to diverse (and non-male) hopefuls. But that’s the thing about secret cabals. They’re secret. And cabals. So there’s no amount of mischief they can get up to.

Anyway, it appears our authors believe the solution to quantum gravity would be had sooner if those working on it were diverse. They may have a point. The non-diverse have been grappling with the problem for some years now, and all we hear about are multiverses held together by strings. Next thing you know these guys will claim we’re living in a hologram.

So let’s let the ladies in!

Alas, say our authors, we cannot. It seems “nontrivial barriers impede admission to Ph.D. programs for some demographic groups.” Nontrivial barriers are the worst kind of barriers, too. What’s needed are trivial barriers. Don’t know if we’re gonna get ’em, though.

Ready for the worst news? Here it is, with my emphasis, “Undergraduate grades, college selectivity, and GRE scores are the three criteria that best predict admission to U.S. graduate programs, but these parameters are not evenly distributed by race and gender.”

More doings of the cabal, I’ll bet! I’ve heard—we’ve all heard—of “redistribution”. Well, here it is in its ugliest form. Somehow portions of scores are being taken away from the diverse and being given to the non-diverse!

Friends, we can no longer allow this. Not if we are to achieve Entropy. There is nothing more important than Entropy. Think of the work that will get done with full Entropy kicks in!

Sorry: make that Equality.

Let’s be honest. We all know the true and only solution to achieving Equality is. Quotas. We need to promote people based on the diverse characteristics. No other mechanics but enforced quotas will do the job.

5 thoughts on “Woke Science: Diversity In Physics Leave a comment

  1. It’s STEAM now, not STEM. Seems it wasn’t diverse enough and “Arts” had to be added to the group.

    So diversity in physics refers to who gets into universities and research, not the allowing of insane theories not related to reality so all physicists will feel included? I am so bummed.

  2. You’ve got to love how non-scientists get to define what’s needed for a “robust domestic scientific workforce”.

  3. Is this a parody paper?

    – Admissions doesn’t predict completion? When has it ever for a Ph.D.? In my class, only about 3 out of 20 made it.

    – Quant scores don’t predict Ph.D.? Really? Perhaps because everybody is really high to begin with?

  4. Did anybody, here, actually read the study?

    Basically what it says is that Ph.D. program rank and student undergrad GPA (UGPA) are consistently associated with Ph.D. completion (with UGPA being the ONLY parameter that remained statistically significant across all models), AND, that GRE-P & GRE-V scores were NOT associated with Ph.D completion in ANY model, and, that GRE-Q scores were associated, weakly, with Ph.D completion in only two of the models.

    The study was addressing Ph.D completion (what’s the dropout rate — by some measures/programs/schools as high as 50 percent…?). That alone seems to be a significant issue, in conjunction with other factors (e.g., proficiency and later contribution, etc).

    The conclusion was that since many of the schools (some 40 percent) use GRE-P and GRE-Q with hard cutoff requirements, maybe they shouldn’t as these do not correlate with Ph.D completion at all, or only very weakly. (key excerpts from the published study are presented below)

    If the authors had left their study to that level of detail, one suspects that this article would have been passed by here, or, some objective factors might be analyzed objectively.

    Alas, since the authors noted, roughly a sentence, that use of GRE-P and GRE-Q disproportionately blocked minorities (including women of all races), use of these criteria might be problematic from a discriminatory perspective — and because of this an emotional response, worst-case scenario (or course) was provoked.

    One might have hoped that such a reference would have prompted an objective analysis…perhaps an analysis that would influence how the above study might be interpreted and applied…an analysis that might have resurrected any of/multiple examples of many studies that show that measures of intelligence do not correlate well, or at all, to actual “intelligence” or future productivity, etc. Here’s one such example: http://wmbriggs.com/post/26142/

    Do GRE-P and GRE-Q have predictive merit for Ph.D completion…and perhaps/also contributions in the form of original research? We certainly do not know from anything presented here, today.

    Bummer.

    Another lost opportunity, wasted on presumptive assumptions that this study will be added to others that prompt quota systems. While that’s a valid concern, why not exercise some real intellectual heavy-lifting and bore into the merits, or limitations, or complete lack thereof regarding GRE tests used as hard discriminators for acceptance to Ph.D programs? That should be a rhetorical question unworthy of a question mark, by the way.

    SUMMARY OF KEY STATEMENTS MADE IN THE PUBLISHED REPORT
    (one reading the following might have a hard time believing that, and Briggs’ essay, are in any way linked to each other)

    The goal of this study was to ascertain which of the common quantitative admissions parameters in physics are significantly correlated with Ph.D. completion.

    Starting with U.S. women, the only factors found to correlate with Ph.D. completion are UGPA and graduate program ranking.
    The results for an aggregate sample of U.S.-only students resemble those for the U.S. male sample.

    UGPA is the only parameter that remained statistically significant across all models

    GRE-P scores were not associated with Ph.D. completion at the 0.05 level of statistical significance for any of the models.

    GRE-Q scores were associated with Ph.D. completion in two models: all students (P = 0.003) and U.S. only (P = 0.048).

    GRE-V scores were not associated with physics Ph.D. completion in any model and were consistently the weakest predictor among the admissions criteria in the model.

    Among the parameters studied in this sample, we find that Ph.D. program rank and student UGPA are consistently associated with Ph.D. completion, and we find consistent null results for the validity of GRE-V and GRE-P. GRE-Q has a significant relationship with Ph.D. completion among U.S. students as a group and all students (independent of citizenship) but not in samples of U.S. females or U.S. males separately.
    The parameter with the strongest, consistent relationship with Ph.D. completion is program rank, with probability of completion significantly higher for more highly ranked programs.
    Implications
    These findings have significant implications for shaping the future of physics in the United States because the GREs are deeply entrenched in the culture of physics. Despite compelling arguments against the use of cutoff scores by the test maker itself, roughly 25% of physics Ph.D. programs have stated minimum scores for admission on the GRE-P and GRE-Q. Perhaps more concerning are recent research findings that suggest that up to 40% of U.S. physics programs use cutoff scores in practice

  5. @ken,
    That was the basis for my comment above. Gre-Q is not tuned to the high end students. In my experience, everybody has a high score in, say, graduate statistics programs. The physics students were as high and used different maths. There is not enough range in a generic test like the GRE; to demonstrate much of an effect.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *