back to article Survey of astronomers and geophysicists shines a light on 'bleak' systemic bullying

A survey of astronomers and geophysicists has unveiled a "systemic bullying problem" which is "disproportionately worse" for women and members of minority groups, already under-represented in the field. In a survey of 650 scientists carried out by the Royal Astronomical Society (RAS) last year, 44 per cent of respondents said …

  1. Johnny Canuck

    "44 per cent of respondents SAID they had suffered bullying and harassment"

    That doesn't mean they actually did suffer bullying and harassment. For example, just before I sat down to read this article I was walking down the street to my home. There happened to be a 30ish woman walking in front of me. Just as I reached the walkway to my door she turned around and said "What the fuck are you doing?". I pointed to my door and said "I'm going in here, what the fuck are you doing?". She just assumed I was walking behind her to "check her out" or otherwise harass her. She was mistaken, but I bet when she tells the story to her friends it will morph into an actual harassment.

    1. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

      What a bizarre attempt at minimising or dismissing someone else's experience based on an irrelevant experience of your own.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        How is it bizarre?

        It's a loaded survey asking how much of a victim they are!

        A person's perception of their victimhood is scaled by the thinness of their skin.

        You get people equating wearing a mask with Nazi holocausts.... are they REALLY victims of bullying or dicks that won't wear masks absuing others with their potentially infectious breath? Are those people really victims of systemic bullying? No of course not, they're tw*ts attacking others using the weapon of victimhood. Perps not victims.

        Just because they say it, doesn't make it true. Where is the control in this survey?

        1. PassiveSmoking

          > A person's perception of their victimhood is scaled by the thinness of their skin.

          "LOL, it's just bantz, bro"

          These kind of arguments are just plain horrid because once again, it's victim blaming

        2. Cuddles

          "A person's perception of their victimhood is scaled by the thinness of their skin."

          Unless you're claiming that black, gay and disabled people have disproportionately thinner skins than everyone else, how is this relevant? The survey asked the same questions to everyone, and certain specific groups reported more bullying than others. If you start from the assumption that skin thinness is evenly distributed, you would expect perception of bullying to also be evenly distributed. If bullying is reported more by certain groups, that means either those groups are more likely to percieve bullying, or they actually do experience more bullying. While the former is theoretically possible, I think you'll struggle to make a good argument that gay people aren't really subject to discrimination, it just turns out that being gay is correlated with being a thin-skinned whiner.

        3. yetanotheraoc Silver badge

          Subjective facts are still facts

          "A person's perception of their victimhood is scaled by the thinness of their skin."

          In some cases. In other cases it's not that the skin is thin, it's that the scabs and scars from previous abuse are still a little tender.

          I don't have any bullying or harassment anecdotes, but I do have one experience that helps me relate. When I was young I had no trouble being around smokers, and I couldn't understand why some people became so upset when others lit up. Then for many years my grandmother live with us, and she not only smoked like a chimney but had the endearing habit of leaving lit cigarettes going in multiple ashtrays around the house. Eventually I was so sensitive to smoke I couldn't be around it without panic. She passed away decades ago, my lungs have healed, and once again I have no trouble being around smokers.

          The difference is, now when someone tells me they **can't stand it** -- I believe them.

      2. Denarius

        haven't worked with whiners in a public service area lately, have you ?

      3. mihares

        Self reported experience, someone else’s or your own, is not a good basis for quantitative science. That’s how we moved from astrology to astronomy.

        That doesn’t mean that “bullying” doesn’t happen around stones and telescopes, it just means that studies based on self reporting stink a priori.

        1. Potemkine! Silver badge

          Self reported experience, someone else’s or your own, is not a good basis for quantitative science

          How do you quantify bullying? What unbiased metric do you use?

          1. mihares

            The very existence of this difficulty should ring a few bells, shouldn’t it?

            Anyway, I think a sensible way to go about the business is to define it internally as a set of behaviours and then ask people if they experienced those, without leaking the definition or what you’re after —to be on the safe side, have the questionnaire written in 5 different ways so you can catch yourself suggesting answers.

            Something you don’t do is stating that bullying may be a problem, you’re investigating it and then ask if the respondent has experienced it. Because that’s just harvesting meaningless answers that confirm whatever you wanted to “prove”.

            Of course we don’t know whether any of that happened, because the survey hasn’t been published yet. We just know the results. And that it was self reporting —which frankly stinks of the paragraph above. And stinks because of self reporting. Self reporting always stinks.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Thats pretty much the point thats being made.

            Well done for catching on..

            Yes there is bullying. But what we're seeing increasingly are people suffering 'mental health' issues, 'racism' and being 'picked on' as they're being asked to do their job or they feel that they disagree with what they're being told. Didn't get a promotion and you're BAME? Today's your lucky day as that's racism! Or causing mental health issues.

            An example of that this week - you may or may not know or care but 2 cars collided in F1. As usual no-one and everyone is at fault.

            Lord Peter Hain said it was plain wrong to criticise the black driver (Hamilton) as it gave racists 'an excuse to let their vitriol fly'. If you make a criticism of someone BAME (and you are allowed to do that, its not racism) then you're RACIST!

            This is the societal tone that this survey is working in - make of it what you will, but its not quantitative.

    2. steelpillow Silver badge

      @Johnny canuck You have to remember that she is not just paranoid, she has a reason to be paranoid. The incident probably left her feeling acutely embarrassed.

      1. Claptrap314 Silver badge

        Your presumption about the aftermath is at least as uninformed as his. Shout all you want, you're displaying a truly amazing level of mind reading.

      2. Harry Kiri

        But unless she has specific history with this individual

        It has to be this 'unconscious bias' thing we hear about so much in the news...

    3. sabroni Silver badge

      re: There happened to be a 30ish woman walking in front of me.

      So we should believe your lovely story but but disregard an actual study?

      How up yourself do you have to be to think that's a valid approach?

      1. the Kris

        Re: re: There happened to be a 30ish woman walking in front of me.

        He did not make any such argument. He just gave an example of a situation that can have been perceived as harrasment while it was nothing of the sorts.

        The argument is to be sceptical and look at what the study actually "studied".

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      >>She just assumed I was walking behind her to "check her out" or otherwise harass her.

      Maybe you just act very stalky? Ask a female friend.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        I'm autistic. I can be in a complete other world in my head, and yet I have been accused of giving someone means looks, and worse. Wasn't even aware they were around. Unless this study is actually scientific, then its just a load of peoples feelings which are not a basis for any kind of policy or decisions. It's already gotten this country into a mess that's only getting worse.

        1. PassiveSmoking

          Please enlighten me as to how you scientifically evaluate somebody's feelings, because I'm dying to know.

        2. Blitheringeejit

          Qual, not quant

          It may be a bit heretical to say this here, but I don't agree that peoples' feelings are not a basis for any kind of policy or decision. We make decisions based on other peoples' feelings all the time.

          While the article is about quantitative reporting of the percentage of people who feel bullied or harassed, the feeling of being bullied or harassed is a qualitative thing. If only 1% of the sample had experienced the feeling of being bullied or harassed, that remains a serious issue for that 1%, even if quant analysis says that it's only 1% therefore it's not a problem. And for anyone who is tempted to write off qualitative analysis as just bad science - imagine how much more wonderful work just one Alan Turing could have done if he hadn't been bullied and harassed into his grave.

          What we are dealing with here is people's feelings, and until someone invents SI units for harassment, bullying and discrimination, we need to deal with this on a qualitative level - which means having strong policies in place, but also acknowledging and addressing peoples' individual fears and experiences.

          If someone perceives my interaction with them as harassment, the fact that I'm not (in my own judgement) harassing them lets me off the hook for feeling bad about it. But it doesn't mean that their feelings are silly, or that there's no reason for me to change my behaviour - if I can make a tiny effort to understand what lies behind their feeling, and change the dynamic (for example by crossing the street to avoid walking behind a lone woman), then I'm cool with doing that. Importantly, changing my behaviour is not an admission of being a perp, or acknowledging that someone who doesn't know me is correct to consider me a potential perp - it's just being considerate.

          Of course this isn't a cure-all - some people are genuinely paranoid (ie they have an illness), and even when folks have good reasons for feeling the way they do, the dynamics can be very complicated - as in the argument about womens' space which has been taking place between younger trans woman and older feminists.

          But we all get plenty of opportunities to act locally and quietly to allay peoples' everyday fears, and to support people who are on the receiving end of bad shit, or who are scared. The world will be a better place if we take those opportunities when they come along, without getting all ariated about who is right and who is wrong.

          1. cornetman Silver badge

            Re: Qual, not quant

            There is much in what you say.

            However, the report is about bullying which is an unreasonable, aggressive act perpetrated against a person.

            They are using "feelings" and perception as a measure of bullying and because of that they should be very wary of definitional creep.

            At best, this is an unreliable measure. It might be that it is the best that we have, but I think that we should still acknowledge that fact.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            No. Just no.

            This is the 'my truth' rubbish. Todays generation are far more into outrage at perceived insult than anyone else in living memory. In a Court, you can be found guilty or not guilty of harassment. There is an accepted level of behaviour in society. It isn't a personal threshold - there may be a personal threshold lower than this but if a person is upset by any perceived minor slight then quite frankly that is TOUGH and they need to adjust their expectations to the norms of society.

            We cannot tread on eggshells and ignore the 'inconvenient truths' that would allow society to move forward. This ongoing perceived victim status has to stop or shortly there's going to be an unpleasant revolt against it. At this point real, genuine victims will suffer.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        How ableist of you to blame and shame

        >> Maybe you just act very stalky? Ask a female friend.

        One of the defining characteristics of autistic people is social "blindness" - not because they "choose" to be blind to it, but because they don't see it.

        Forming social contacts ("friends" in the vernacular) is very difficult for them - as it is (apparently) for neurotypicals. However, you are unlikely to hear a neurotypical ask "How do you make friends?", but that is very common among autistics.

        For many male autistics, female friendships are even more rare.

        Would you tell a gay person, "You act very gay."

        Would you tell a woman, "The way you dress is 'just asking for it'"?

        Would you tell a diabetic, "Get over your insulin issues."?

        Would you tell a blind person, "Stop staring at me."?

        Then why would you put the onus of responsibility on someone, who, by their nature, is socially impaired because of neurological atypicalness?

    5. PassiveSmoking

      And I'm sure you're eminently qualified to decide what qualifies as bullying and what doesn't, right?

      As a disabled holder of a degree in computer science who spent half a decade unemployed and turned down for jobs I was, if anything, overqualified for because nobody wanted to employ a freak, and then had to endure the nastiest jokes and jibes and cheap shots at the first job I actually did manage to land because the boss was the kind of guy you'd probably get along famously with, all I can say is screw you, pal. Take your victim blaming and stick it where only customs officials dare to probe You're part of the problem. You don't get to gatekeep what constitutes bullying and what doesn't.

    6. bombastic bob Silver badge

      I think I get what your real point is... "Perceived bullying" when it may actually NOT be happening.

      Some people _DO_ seem to go about their lives waiting to be offended. At least, that's my perception and I suppose *I* could admit waiting for someone who seems to go about etc. etc. you all get the point right?

      So it might be interesting to know what "experienced bullying" (in the survey) actually means, and not some vague description that's likely to cause emotional overreaction [i.e. polling to deliberately create an outcome to advance an agenda - yeah THAT never happens].

      Think of it this way: was the SLOWPOKE who kept you from being ale to pass him on the highway this morning a BULLY and DOING IT ON PURPOSE? Or was it just some discourteous smug ass hat going about his self-centered existence? Or was it just someone who was clueless?

      "Bullying" by many definitions exists throughout society, from subtle to overt. To fix it, let's start by ELIMINATING CANCEL CULTURE (number one on my pareto chart).

      (and THEN be aware that accusations of bullying may actually be misunderstanding and need no further attention)

      Still, if the hiring and recommendations DO have prejudice and discrimination inherent within them, THAT needs fixing as well. Sex, race, personal preferences, after-work behaviors, religion, politics, age, general appearance, and other "non-work-performance" issues shouldn't matter. EVAR..

  2. cornetman Silver badge

    I wonder how bullying was defined by the survey or if it was defined at all.

    Does "the quality of your work is unacceptable" or "you are lazy: you need to pull your weight" qualify?

    1. PassiveSmoking

      It's hilarious to me tat some people's response to reports of bullying isn't "Wow, we need to do better", but "Yeah, but is it really bullying though? Maybe she's just a lazy cow"

      Besides, the examples you cite absolutely can be bullying if they're being applied to somebody who is doing perfectly acceptable work and isn't any less productive than their colleagues.

      1. Trigun Silver badge

        Questioning such a study absolutely should be done, but without bias - like any study.

      2. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

        Which only goes to prove how subjective the whole thing is.

        Telling someone to do their job is not bullying. Telling them repeatedly to do their job, if they're still not doing it, is still not bullying.

        Telling someone repeatedly to do their job, when they are doing their job, that's probably bullying. It could also be simple management misperception, looking at the wrong KPIs or whatever.

        Anyone on the receiving end of that may well feel like they're being bullied, even if they really aren't.

        That's why this kind of highly subjective survey, with no definition or data control, is not so helpful.

        Without defining the framework or any data validation, it's impossible to see how this survey could possibly yield informed, balanced, policy decisions.

        At best it indicates a lot of people feel there is a problem, possibly involving bullying, possibly involving people feeling hard done by. But that's all it indicates, which doesn't make it very useful and that's a shame. Genuine bullying at any stage of life is a problem which needs to be erradicated.

      3. cornetman Silver badge

        > Maybe she's just a lazy cow

        Why not "Maybe he's just a lazy cow"?

        Your biases are showing.

        > Besides, the examples you cite absolutely can be bullying if they're being applied to somebody who is doing perfectly acceptable work and isn't any less productive than their colleagues.

        You are of course correct, but we shall never know if the situations reported by the respondents to the survey were one sort or the other. It is not reporting on actually substantive situations of bullying, just what people "feel" and they are not necessarily the same thing.

        These things are very difficult to measure, but we would expect a reasonable minimum of structure and control to a survey of this kind. Certainly I would ask the respondents to categorise their bullying and, where they were willing, to at least describe the situation(s) so that we could at least control for perception individual perception, if anonymity could be assured.

        Being "taken to task" could absolutely be perceived as bullying when it is actually no such thing.

  3. Peter Prof Fox

    Did they do another test?

    I'm 100% against bullying and abuses of assumed power. But did they ask the question: "Those of you who have been working for less than a year...Do you feel bullied?"

    There's a big difference between 'Bullying cultures are allowed to exist' and 'Bullies target women/disabled/etcetera.'

    An important point to remember is that people who feel they're being picked-on assume it doesn't happen to others. It's a victim's mentality that the aggressor catches on to and exploits.

    1. hoola Silver badge

      Re: Did they do another test?

      Whilst I believe that this is highly likely to be happening it does not address the wider issue.

      Bullying is now seen to be an acceptable form of management. One ethnic origin or gender is irrelevant however notice is only ever taken if this used as a reason or contributing factor for the bullying, discrimination or abuse.

      Just because someone is in smart suit, respected or well paid job does not absolve them from being a bully, in fact they can be some of the worst there are.

  4. JassMan

    "There shouldn't be anyone too senior for this to apply to them, you know. We need to hold each other to account when we're talking through these issues, and simply being incredibly senior, successful, bringing in prizes, money, etc. etc. shouldn't exempt you from scrutiny to behave decently."

    If senior staff can't bully their juniors, how can they expect to get away with putting their name on major research papers. Next thing you know, people who have fresh ideas will start getting recognition and where will the establishment be then. This could end civilisation as we know it.

    1. steelpillow Silver badge

      Thank you for parodying the mealy-mouthed playground-excuse evasions expressed by other commentards above here. I had been about to be far more wrathful, but you made me smile instead. I hope trolls like beer too.

  5. AGrumpySceptic

    Biased nonsense

    The results of surveys like this are routinely presented as evidence of the shocking prevalence of a problem. They actual significance of the results is close to zero.

    The first biggest problem is that responding to such a survey is voluntary and those who feel they have grievance are far more likely to respond. The 44% could easily be 1% of the total population the survey was directed at.

    The second issue is that the response is entirely subjective. We have all met people who consider being held to account when they fail to perform promised tasks or do so in the most slipped and irresponsible way to be unreasonable and oppressive. How reasonable are the respondents believes that they have been bullied?

    The third issue is that such surveys are almost always constructed to support an argument or campaign. They are in this sense an advocacy tool. The wording and context of questions and the data analysis are all designed to produce a paticular result.

    The only thing I would take from this survey is that someone wants people to think bullying is a problem in these groups. It sheds no light on whether bullying is or isn't a problem or on whether one group suffers it more than another. We know exactly as much as we knew before the survey.

    1. SundogUK Silver badge

      Re: Biased nonsense

      "Aine O'Brien, diversity officer of the Royal Astronomical Society"

      What do you think she went looking for? And does it surprise you that she found it?

      1. PassiveSmoking

        Re: Biased nonsense

        Yeah, absolutely! Why can't they just sweep it under the carpet like normal people?

  6. sabroni Silver badge

    Have a little think

    If your reaction to this is to try and debunk it, ask yourself why.

    1. A. Coatsworth Silver badge

      Re: Have a little think

      Because it might as well be bad science?

      1. AGrumpySceptic

        Re: Have a little think

        <i>Science </i>

        The one thing that the survey most definitely is not is Science it is not even bad science.

        It is so bad it's not even possible to say its wrong just that it has next to no value at all.

    2. Draco
      Big Brother

      Re: Have a little think

      >> If your reaction to this is to try and debunk it, ask yourself why.

      Not all of us were blessed to grow up in Western democracies where only the most selfless of politicians served and benevolent of authorities presided; an environment and culture where the exchange of ideas - even the right to question said authorities - even if not encouraged, at least, was not discouraged.

      No. Some us grew up where questioning authorities was dangerous. Some of us grew up in places where the most ridiculous ideas were put forward - and could not be questioned (consider Lysenkoism).

      But ... I am sure that 10 intensive years in a re-education camp might prove therapeutic to those who dare ask questions out of line.

    3. cornetman Silver badge

      Re: Have a little think

      > If your reaction to this is to try and debunk it, ask yourself why.

      Perhaps you might consider the people that are regular visitors to this esteemed publication?

      In the main, highly technical people in the professional realm.

      Many involved in scientific research fields where they are used to seeing much more precision and careful trial control, who are very knowledgeable about bias and poor construction. I absolutely *would* expect criticism of a trial such as this.

      And why not? This is how science works. You assert something, provide what you believe is the evidence, and then the rest of the scientific community tries to rip it apart. If it survives, then you have what is called "substantive" and your original point might have some merit.

      Don't expect everyone to be glowing and gushing if your standard or evidence is shockingly lacking.

    4. Snowy Silver badge

      Re: Have a little think

      I had a little think and I'll start with bully is bad and needs to stopped but does a poorly done report help in anyway? People who do not care will just pick apart the report and dismiss it.

      I am not dismissing the report I just have some problems with it, they need to do better if the problems are going to be face and with some work progress can be made to sorting it out. Sorry if I word it badly but I am a little dyslexics, so while I know what I want to say it may come out wrongly.

      >>In a survey carried out by the Royal Astronomical Society (RAS) last year of over 650 people in the field, 44% of respondents had suffered bullying and harassment in the workplace within the preceding 12 months.

      Sounds very bad but just how many people responded to the survey. When I see percentage rather than numbers I am suspicious to how many did respond and how representative the survey is. It could be a true picture of how it is, the number who responded could be low due to people seeing it a being a pointless exercise and not worth their time so it could be even worse.

      Key initial findings show:

      Disabled, and Black and minority ethnic astronomers and geophysicists are 40% more likely to be bullied than their non-disabled and White colleagues respectively.

      Either this is an odd grouping of people in which case it should be two points not one and if it is two different group I find it odd they both have the same bullied ratio.

      Would it be better to be clear and say:

      Disabled astronomers and geophysicists are 40% more likely to be bullied than their non-disabled colleagues.

      Black and minority ethnic astronomers and geophysicists are 40% more likely to be bullied than their White colleagues.

      Or could it be that what they are saying is:

      Black and minority ethnic astronomers and geophysicists who are disabled are 40% more likely to be bullied than their non-disabled and White colleagues.

      Women and non-binary people in the field are 50% more likely than men to be bullied and harassed.

      Women and non-binary people a rather odd grouping or where they grouped together to make the numbers look even worse, but given that the total of the two groups is 50% then if they where listed individually then the number would still be high. Or it it that group is made up largely of non-binary and that does not fit what O’Brien says later in the report.

      50% of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and queer astronomers and geophysicists were bullied in the last 12 months, and 12% of bisexual astronomers reported being bullied at least once a week.

      How many astronomers and geophysicists who are not on that list where bullied in the last 12 months.

      O’Brien said: “This is the first time data like these have been collected in our field. It’s bleak, sadly somewhat unsurprising, but is unequivocal evidence to show we need to improve the workplace culture in academia. We have a well-reported diversity problem in STEM and this does nothing to help. Women and minorities are feeling pushed out.”

      While the data does indicate that Women and minorities and the point that is not made that they are compared bulling between different groups and white men for their to be a percentage increase there has to be some bulling of white men and quite a lot of it consider how many white men are in this field. I would say that " We have a well-reported diversity problem in STEM and this does nothing to help. Women and minorities are feeling pushed out.” Should rather be "We have a well-reported bulling problem in STEM and we need to stop this. People are not being protected and are being pushed out.”

      The tone of the report for me is bullies are all able bodied white men, would have it been hard for them to indicate who is bulling who?

  7. LybsterRoy Silver badge

    I'm diabetic (type II if anyone here cares) and I've recently filled in a survey. One question was (to the best of my memory) "do you have trouble sleeping" to which I answered yes because I do. However, the reason I have trouble sleeping is that I have a duff hip which gives me pain and its the pain that wakes me up not the diabetes. Guess what they will conclude from my answer.

    I wonder if Aine O'Brien, diversity officer of the Royal Astronomical Society has any bias in the way the survey was worded or interpreted.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Cue The Misogyny

    As always on comments for articles that question the status quo. Whatever you want.

    1. PassiveSmoking

      Re: Cue The Misogyny

      Not to mention the racism, ageism, ableism, etc

  9. elsergiovolador Silver badge

    No action

    My friend had a pleasure working with a manager that seemed to fit symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder.

    Things like approving time off and then calling her why she didn't come to work and denying approving anything.

    Gaslighting, public shaming, asking to do certain tasks and then reprimanding for doing those and so on.

    The HR? Oh this is just how that person is, they meant no harm. Manager apologised. Next week same thing.

    This was happening to other workers too and company essentially had a revolving door.

    Worker essentially has no means to defend themselves other than leaving work, which is not always possible.

    You can join the union and get a rep to mediate, but they are largely useless. Unions are most interested in collecting membership fees.

    You can file for constructive dismissal, but this may cost several thousand pounds - something a worker on minimum wage won't have.

    Given that in certain sectors there is a constant rotation of workers - one quits, another joins, these bullies can thrive.

    To be fair there probably should be a register of offenders that do this at work. To someone who has never experienced bullying it may sound too harsh, but

    knowing a victim of such behaviour, tells me it can completely destroy a person.

  10. Bibbit

    I am so out of touch

    “ lesbian, gay, bisexual and queer “

    I must have missed a meeting but I though “queer” meant “gay”. And “lesbian” is basically a subset of “gay” yes? I’m very confused by the sentence.

    Can someone set me straight (no pun intended)?

    1. Blitheringeejit

      Re: I am so out of touch

      Things have moved on, and more letters have been coined. Q-Queer is increasingly used for anyone who defines their sexuality as "other than vanilla" - so might include eg polyamorists, kinky folks, and pansexuals (who have a thing for kitchenware).

      I think.

      Best bet if you want to avoid offending anyone is to stop worrying about labels, and just be very nice and respectful to everyone you encounter. It's rare that this is not reciprocated - though you might want to avoid leaving pansexuals alone in your kitchen.

      And even if the pun wasn't intended, it was appreciated.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    When you are in a hole, stop digging

    What this comment section tells me is that it's worse in IT. Assuming that the commenters are in IT.

  12. The Mighty Biff

    Excuse me?

    Well the comments to this are pretty depressing... There does seem to be a huge resistance to believe that racism and sexism is a thing, mainly among people that are themselves not racist or sexist and just don't want to believe it's true. It's only when vast numbers of women come out and say they were abused by Hollywood execs, or camera phone footage of police harassing minorities emerges that it becomes hard to ignore.

    Given that no-one is directly accused in this study - it was simply a survey. Given that it seems easy to hide such abuses for long periods of time and when people do go looking, it does seem to be an actual thing, why would you pile in and immediately dismiss it as 'woke nonsense' without any other information other than your own preconceptions?

    1. cornetman Silver badge

      Re: Excuse me?

      Well I read through all the comments, and I couldn't find a single comment stating or implying that bullying doesn't exist or even a big problem.

      I did see a lot of comments criticising the structure and possibly validity of this kind of survey to prove anything. I assume that such things would concern anybody interested in knowing the truth.

      If I say that a rule is inaccurate, would I be suggesting that there is no such thing as distance measurement?

      It is really a very bizarre assertion.

  13. Trigun Silver badge

    Bullying (adult term: harrassment) exists, absolutely it does and I have been on the end of it.

    However. When something like this article comes up in this day and age, I immediately wonder how the questions were worded, the biases of those who ran the survey and their motivations.

    Why? Because there now seems to be an industry of being a victim and in convincing people they are victims, espeically when you ask questions in certain ways and you lower the bar so that it means someone spoke with someone else too harshly once or twice.

    Maybe this wouldn't be such a big deal, but when someone (or a group) does this (well intentioned though it may be) they introduce the kinds of doubt I have expressed and so they undermine people who are truly victims and who have actually been harrassed. Utliately, it serves to sow doubt and dilute the issue at hand.

    A classic example of this effect is rape. We've all seen that false claims bring doubt and sometimes victim-blaming against those of are genuine victims.

    For those feeling that people are just victim-blaming, don't care or who think it's funny: Stand back and ask yourself as to *why* so many people are questioining this stuff now. Are they *all* a***holes? Really? Or are many seeing that there is a possibility that what I've said above is happening and have grown understandably sceptical?

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    And this person has a PhD in physics...

    Must have skipped the statistics units because I see way too many "how to lie with statistics " phrases ubiquitous to politically motivated "surveys"

    In a survey of 650...but how many actually returned full survey data?..

    Was that 650 a representational cross section of working professional astronomers? By age, sex, race etc.. Given how few women are in the field and how few of the general population are lesbian how large was that survey return for that actual category? 1? 2?

    Then there is the whole use of a sample size of 650. A survey number which always makes me suspicious. Why not at least 1000 / 1200?. The number 650 is around the minimum sample size to have any statically half way plausible results. But only if the sample group is actually truly representational of the larger group. Even then the results should always be treated with great caution.

    The use of such large percentage numbers for highlighted subgroups for "bullying" tells me that the actual sample size involved is small. If only 10 people are in a specified sub category and 4 of them have issues there is your magic 40% number. And if all the special sub categories only amount to maybe 10% of the total group and the other 90% have no real problems....

    And that boys and girls is why you should never ever believe anything in a press release for any survey that might potentially have a political or ideological axe to grind. Every last one of them. The full report with all the actual data is nice neat tables usually tells a very different story. Or at least one far more nuanced than the press release.

    My guess is that all this particular survey shows is that when you ask a group of people who are disproportionately grad slaves a lot of them will hate their life. Because a grad slaves life is not a happy one. Never was.

  15. cornetman Silver badge

    It's really interesting looking over the comments of this article, and they largely fall into one of two camps:

    1) The construction of the study, as closely as we can know it, has some significant failings and therefore the quantitative conclusions are likely very suspect.

    2) How could anyone be so heartless to assert that bullying isn't a pervasive thing, and criticism of the study is really a covert cover for at the very least an assertion that many of the respondents are lying.

    It is little wonder that there is so little understanding or tolerance between the two camps when they talk at such cross purposes.

    1) Could be criticised by concentrating on the wood but missing the forest.

    2) Could be criticised for reading subtexts that just aren't there to be read.

    I really do think that there is a failure in many people here to listen clearly and precisely to each other.

  16. jessicatcampos

    It's disheartening to hear about the systemic bullying problem in the field of astronomy and geophysics, and even more troubling that it disproportionately affects underrepresented groups.

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