Two weeks ago the story of the feminist glaciology paper spread rapidly throughout the internet and even reached the mainstream media such as the WSJ — see the updates at the end of our 3 March post for some of the articles that appeared after ours. A few common themes arose in the comments about the paper. Firstly, many people seemed genuinely confused about whether the paper was supposed to be a serious piece of academic research, or was intended as a hoax or spoof, something I unwisely joked about in my article. Secondly, many of the pieces, including the Cliscep one, said little about the article but merely quoted sections from it. Finally, when it became clear that it was supposed to be serious, there was concern that it was funded by the National Science Foundation, rather than the National Sociology Foundation or the National Self-indulgence Foundation — see, for example, today’s The Settled Science of Grant Snaffling by Tony Thomas.
The lead author Mark Carey has found a sympathetic interviewer from the magazine “Science” to talk to about the response to his paper. The article is worth reading carefully, as are the comments underneath. First off we are told that they were targeted by “conservative-leaning blogs” — hear that Geoff and Ian? If you criticise repetitive jargon-filled waffle you’re a conservative. See responses here and here.
Mark Carey says that “What is surprising about the brouhaha is the high level of misinterpretations, mischaracterization, and misinformation that circulate about research and researchers”. What is surprising is that Carey fails to provide any examples of the mis-anythings that he claims to be at a high level, despite being given the opportunity to do so. As already noted, most of the publicity about the paper just quoted chunks of it. One possible misinterpretation could have been that some people were suggesting that the whole $412k NSF research grant was spent on this particular paper, which is not the case.
Carey’s misinterpretation continues: “The good news is that people are talking about glaciers!” Err, no, it’s not the glaciers that people are talking about. He says they chose the title “to provoke discussion” and that they wanted “to start a conversation”, but he and his colleagues are failing to take part in the conversation. This talk of the need for dialogue, discussion or debate, and then failure to take part in any such discussion is a regular occurrence, see for example here, here and the beginning of Ian’s video.
As noted in the comments under the interview, one of the interviewer’s questions, asking whether there are any concrete example of how feminist geography has improved our understanding of the environment, was met with more waffle about sexism but no real answer.
Andrew Follett has written a response to the interview, Feminist Glacier Guy: You’re Not Educated Enough To Get My Research, that concentrates on Carey’s statement that his research can be misunderstood by nonspecialists, with the implication that the work is too sophisticated for the general public to understand.
There’s an attempt to support feminist glaciology here, by a blogger who was “shocked, baffled and appalled” by the reaction to the paper, and expresses her concern over “the Eurocentric heteropatriarchal academy and its resistance to feminist pedagogies.”
After writing this post, I came across a superb and very detailed blog post by Jerry Coyne, a geneticist at the University of Chicago, Postmodern Glacier professor defends his dreadful study as “misunderstood”. It wasn’t, criticising both the original paper and Carey’s softball interview. He also talks briefly about the possibility of it being a Sokal-style hoax, and has quite a lot to say about the NSF funding. He comments on the poor writing, confirmation bias, and anecdotal cherry-picking in the paper, and much more.