Science in Germany

Sabine Dippel sabine at
Thu Nov 21 12:34:13 EST 1996

In article <56vc68$rmp at>, bonifer at 
(Constanze Bonifer) writes:
... stuff deleted...
|> No, the problem is somewhere else. I had a discussion with an important (?) 
|> professor yesterday about all these problems and he really was saying, 
|> well , you know, you probably never went to these local German meetings. This 
|> is very important. People have to know you. This is much more important than 
|> going to all these flashy international meetings and even more important than 
|> to publish a paper in, lets say, JBC (one of our latest).
|> I thinks, thats sums it up.
|> I have to admit, I have gone to one or two meetings a year, mostly because I 
|> was invited to speak. I have teaching to do, I do a lot of research and 
|> experiment myself. I simply did not have time to hang around at these meetings
|> and kiss some important male´s ....well, you know what I mean.
|> Yes , I am guilty. I spent my time hanging around on Gordon conferences, 
|> Keystone meetings, FEBS meetings,Cambridge Symposia and all kinds of 
|> unimportant gatherings.
|> So, what does this mean? It means that sticking your nose everywhere and 
|> creating a lot of hot air is much more important than good science. And 
|> networking is something a lot of women have problems with. Being the only women in 
|> a lot of faculty and lab would not believe the way these guys 
|> interact.  I just hate it!

But this is exactly how people get faculty positions - here in Germany and 
probably in other places as well. Actually, I also know quite a few men who
are disgusted with this and are drawing different consequences from it:
- leave science
- play the game
- go on with a style they are comfortable with and hope their work is so 
  good that they will get a job without behaving as you described above

Unfortunately, only those who choose the second possibility seem to suceed.

|> So what is to do? Do we create a womens network? Do we try and play the same 
|> game? Do we adjust to the rules as they are or do we create new ones? I am 
|> no activist (few scientists are, so little time) but I think it is important 
|> to speak up and change the rules. At least in the area where you are.

I don't know. For me, I adopted a bit from everything on the list. Creating a 
womens network is hard in Physics, though, in my case I would call it a network
of friends, i.e. network with people who would prefer a more "female" style as
well (for me, this happened more or less accidentally, and now I am very happy
to have this network). I think we partly have to adjust to the rules - my 
advisor, whom I really admire as a person, is a very good example, I think. 
He does really good research, is really not the showy type, but somehow manages
to appear in the right meetings and once in a while writes some flashy piece 
in a place where it is noticed. I think he also networked with the right people,
but don't ask me how he found them, whether it was luck or planned. 
But, to put things in perspective, he's such an exception to the rule in 
Germany that I admit to have thought "How could such a nice person ever have
become a professor in Germany?" when I first met him. 
But I also admit that I think a woman in his place would not have succeeded 
that well, because she wouldn't have gotten noticed. 

|> It does not mean that there will be jobs for everyone.
|> But we should come to a situation where the system is at least fair.

That would be great, but I doubt I will live to see it. 

|> Any ideas?

Use your anger. I found that for me it is a very good driving force. Whenever
I think I do not have to go to a certain meeting, maybe because I don't have
new results, or because it doesn't fit in, as soon as I see all this old stuff
which does not fit in either from people who create lots of hot air, I am 
angry enough to think "I can do that too!" and go. 
(feels sort of strange to give that sort of advice to someone much older and
"in the business" far longer than me...)


| Sabine Dippel     | e-mail: s.dippel at                 | 
| HLRZ              | phone : [++49] (2461) 61-2318                   | 
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