Laborious Links: Patenting, Urban Geology, and Gratuitous Toilet Analogies
The first cure for blogger’s block: post some links!
- The second edition of Panta Rei, the blog carnival of heat and flow, is up. If you’ve ever needed to know about Carnot engines, or the difference between milk and sewage, you must go read.
- Walking Berkeley has a note up on how Berkeley’s Northbrae rhyolite affects the city landscape.
- RIP Steve Irwin:
[A]n Earth scientist who says that the incurious deserve what they get is just as narrow-minded and callous as a plumber who thinks that homeowners ignorant of a good Teflon winding deserve to have their toilet overflow.
- Women in the life sciences don’t patent their work as often as men – why? (subscription-only link to Nature):
Stuart sums up the reasons for the discrepancy in two words: attitudes and networks. “We go all the way back to the 1970s, in the recombinant DNA period, when patenting was really frowned upon,” he says. In interviews, Stuart found that older women expressed a lot of reservations about patenting. They knew their careers weren’t as secure, so were hesitant about doing something that ran counter to the norms of the group. “And the men just seemed to be much better networked into industry,” he says.
Laurel Smith-Doerr, a sociologist at Boston University and co-author of one of the Journal of Technology Transfer studies, has another theory. She looked at patent quality, as well as quantity, in the life sciences: “We also find that women patent less, but for women who patent, their patents are cited more often and more widely, in more areas of the life sciences. So perhaps they are patenting for quality.”
The other Journal of Technology Transfer article sheds light on where women fall out of the patenting pipeline. Jerry Thursby, an economist at Emory University in Atlanta, and his wife Marie Thursby, an economist at nearby Georgia Tech, studied the gender difference in disclosures, the paperwork that is filed with the university on a possibly patentable invention. “We were trying to figure out who is interested in licensing,” says Jerry Thursby. Their result? A man is 43% more likely to have disclosed an invention to his tech-transfer office. This means that many women aren’t even beginning the process.
But perhaps the most compelling observation comes from Kjersten Bunker Whittington, Smith-Doerr’s co-author, who is researching the question for her dissertation. She finds that women without children patent at the same rate as men. So the gender gap is really a gap between women with children, and everyone else.