We host news of discoveries in various fields of science with the focus on space, medical treatments, fringe science, microbiology, chemistry and physics, while providing commercial and cultural contexts and deeper insight. @http://koyalgroupinfomag.com/blog/

Friday, October 17, 2014

The Koyal Group Info Mag Millions of patients given flu drugs with little or no benefit, study finds

Millions of patients may have taken influenza drugs that have little or no benefit to them, according to an Australian-led study.

The study found that researchers paid by pharmaceutical companies were more likely to recommend antiviral drugs for flu and produced different recommendations to independent researchers conducting the reviews.

The study analysed 26 systematic reviews, a type of study considered to be the gold standard of evidence because they assess all existing studies on a topic using stringent guidelines.

Adam Dunn, lead author of the study and a health informatics expert at the University of NSW, said: “Systematic reviews summarise available evidence following strict protocols, so we expect findings from them to be consistent.

“But we found reviewers with ties to pharma introduced bias, as we found a disconnect between what their results showed and what they went on to recommend.”

The study, published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, concluded that benefits of the class of drugs, known as neuraminidase inhibitors, may eventually be found to have been inflated, which could prove highly costly to governments.

“Global stockpiling of antivirals was recommended by a panel from the World Health Organisation in 2002 and in 2009, governments around the world spent $6.9bn building stockpiles of oseltamivir [Tamiflu], an investment that remains poorly supported by available clinical evidence,” the study said.

Almost 80% of reviews written by researchers with financial ties were favourable towards the drugs, while 17% on independent reviews were positive, the study found.

Ray Moynihan, a senior research fellow at Bond University who has authored books on the pharmaceutical industry and overdiagnosis, described the work of Dunn and his colleagues as “highly valuable, critical work”.

“It’s incredibly encouraging to see this issue being examined in Australia, and that our researchers are at the cutting edge of some of the big, international debates occurring in medical and scientific evidence,” Moynihan said.

“We know from very reliable evidence that clinical trials that are sponsored by pharma tend to favour the sponsor’s drug, but what this paper is showing is that this bias has crept into what is considered the most reliable form of medical evidence, the systematic review.”

It was a worrying finding for patients, he said.

There needed to be a stronger push for independent research to be conducted without drug industry funding, he said, adding that public funding available through bodies like the National Health and Medical Research Council should be used instead.

“It is clear we have likely been misled about the benefits and harms of these drugs because so much of the evidence is tainted by a pro-industry or pro-drug bias,” Moynihan said.

“This is a cause for alarm as billions of dollars of public money has been invested into these drugs.”

Addressing concerns that harmful movements, like the anti-vaccination campaign, may use papers like Dunn’s as evidence not to trust doctors and medical advice, Moynihan said the study reinforced the importance of scientific evidence.

“Far from making people sceptical about science, this should reinforce its value in medicine,” Moynihan said.

“What we have in medicine is unfortunately a lot of marketing disguised as science, and this paper helps us realise that bring the best of the scientific methods forward to debate medical evidence can improve our knowledge.”

Much greater transparency in medical and scientific research and by drug companies was also needed, he said.

Dr Florence Bourgeois, a co-author of the paper and emergency medicine specialist at Boston Children’s Hospital in the US, said it was important that doctors talk to their patients about the safety and efficacy of the drugs.

But she acknowledged that could be difficult given the contradictions and uncertainties around them.

“The best thing is for patients to have a conversation with their healthcare provider about whether these drugs are the right choice for them,” she said.


“Clinicians, in turn, should decide on a case-by-case basis which patients are good candidates for the drugs, weighing the benefits and harms.”

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Koyal Group Info Mag Marijuana and Your Health: What 20 Years of Research Reveals

People who drive under the influence of marijuana double their risk of being in a car crash, and about one in 10 daily marijuana users becomes dependent on the drug, according to a new review.

Marijuana use has become increasingly prevalent over the years, and the review of marijuana studies summarizes what researchers have learned about the drug's effects on human health and general well-being over the past two decades.

In the review, author Wayne Hall, a professor and director of the Center for Youth Substance Abuse Research at the University of Queensland in Australia, examined scientific evidence on marijuana's health effects between 1993 and 2013.

He found that adolescents who use cannabis regularly are about twice as likely as their nonuser peers to drop out of school, as well as experience cognitive impairment and psychoses as adults. Moreover, studies have also linked regular cannabis use in adolescence with the use of other illicit drugs, according to the review, published today (Oct. 6) in the journal Addiction.

Researchers in the studies still debated whether regular marijuana use might actually lead to the use of other drugs, Hall wrote in the study. However, he pointed to longer-term studies and studies of twins in which one used marijuana and the other did not as particularly strong evidence that regular cannabis use may lead to the use of other illicit drugs. [Marijuana vs. Alcohol: Which Is Worse for Your Health?]

The risk of a person suffering a fatal overdose from marijuana is "extremely small," and there are no reports of fatal overdoses in the scientific literature, according to the review. However, there have been case reports of deaths from heart problems in seemingly otherwise healthy young men after they smoked marijuana, the report said.

"The perception that cannabis is a safe drug is a mistaken reaction to a past history of exaggeration of its health risks," Hall told Live Science.

However, he added that marijuana "is not as harmful as other illicit drugs such as amphetamine, cocaine and heroin, with which it is classified under the law in many countries, including the USA."

The risks of using marijuana

Marijuana use carries some of the same risks as alcohol use, such as an increased risk of accidents, dependence and psychosis, he said.

It's likely that middle-age people who smoke marijuana regularly are at an increased risk of experiencing a heart attack, according to the report. However, the drug's "effects on respiratory function and respiratory cancer remain unclear, because most cannabis smokers have smoked or still smoke tobacco," Hall wrote in the review.

Regular cannabis users also double their risk of experiencing psychotic symptoms and disorders such as disordered thinking, hallucinations and delusions — from about seven in 1,000 cases among nonusers to 14 in 1,000 among regular marijuana users, the review said. And, in a study of more than 50,000 young men in Sweden, those who had used marijuana 10 or more times by age 18 were about two times more likely to be diagnosed with schizophrenia within the next 15 years than those who had not used the drug.

Critics argue that other variables besides marijuana use may be at work in the increased risk of mental health problems, and that it's possible that people with mental health problems are more likely to use marijuana to begin with, Hall wrote in the review.

However, other studies have since attempted to sort out the findings, he wrote, citing a 27-year follow-up of the Swedish cohort, in which researchers found "a dose–response relationship between frequency of cannabis use at age 18 and risk of schizophrenia during the whole follow-up period."

In the same study, the investigators estimated that 13 percent of schizophrenia cases diagnosed in the study "could be averted if all cannabis use had been prevented in the cohort," Hall reported.

As for the effects of cannabis use in pregnant women, the drug may slightly reduce the birth weight of the baby, according to the review.

More THC?

The effects of euphoria that cannabis users seek from the drug come primarily from its psychoactive ingredient, called delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, better known as THC, Hall wrote in the review. During the past 30 years, the THC content of marijuana in the United States has jumped from less than 2 percent in 1980 to 8.5 percent in 2006.

The THC content of the drug has also likely increased in other developed countries, Hall wrote in the report.

It is not clear, however, whether increased THC content may have an effect on users' health, the report said. [The Drug Talk: 7 New Tips for Today's Parents]


Sunday, October 12, 2014

The Koyal Group Info Mag: Nobel Prize for work on brain's navigation system



STOCKHOLM (AP) — How do we remember where we parked the car? And how do we figure out a shortcut to work when there's a big traffic jam?

The brain, it turns out, has a GPS-like function that enables people to produce mental maps and navigate the world — a discovery for which three scientists won the Nobel Prize in medicine Monday.

Husband-and-wife scientists Edvard Moser and May-Britt Moser of Norway and New York-born researcher John O'Keefe were honored for breakthroughs in experiments on rats that could help pave the way for a better understanding of human diseases such as Alzheimer's.

"We can actually begin to investigate what goes wrong" in Alzheimer's, said O'Keefe, a dual British-American citizen. He said the findings might also help scientists design tests that can pick up the very earliest signs of the mind-robbing disease, whose victims lose their spatial memory and get easily lost.

It was in London in 1971 where O'Keefe discovered the first component of the brain's positioning system.

He found that a certain type of nerve cell was always activated when a rat was at a certain place in a room. Other nerve cells were activated when the rat moved to another place. He demonstrated that these "place cells" were building up a map, not just registering visual input.

Decades later, in 2005, the Mosers identified another type of nerve cell — the "grid cell" — that generates a coordinate system for precise "positioning and path-finding," the Nobel Assembly said.

"I made the initial discovery over 40 years ago. It was met then with a lot of skepticism," the 74-year-old O'Keefe said. "And then slowly over years, the evidence accumulated. And I think it's a sign of recognition not only for myself and the work I did, but for the way in which the field has bloomed."

John Kubie of the SUNY Downstate Medical Center in New York said this GPS system in the brain is used in such everyday tasks as remembering where a car is parked or taking a new shortcut on the way home. Kubie also said learning about it may teach scientists more about how the brain learns and remembers, even apart from navigating.

Born in Harlem and raised in the South Bronx, O'Keefe received his doctoral degree in physiological psychology at McGill University in Canada before moving to England for postdoctoral work at the University College London.

"If you can survive the South Bronx, you can survive anything," he said.

Monday's award was the fourth time that a married couple has shared a Nobel Prize and the second time in the medicine category.

"This is crazy," an excited May-Britt Moser, 51, said by telephone from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim, where she and her husband work.

"This is such a great honor for all of us and all the people who have worked with us and supported us," she said. "We are going to continue and hopefully do even more groundbreaking work in the future."

Edvard Moser, 52, said: "It is really a joint work. Not only are we two people, but we are complementary as well."

The Nobel Assembly said the laureates' discoveries marked a shift in scientists' understanding of how specialized cells work together to perform complex cognitive tasks. They have also opened new avenues for understanding cognitive functions such as memory, thinking and planning.

"Thanks to our grid and place cells, we don't have to walk around with a map to find our way each time we visit a city, because we have that map in our head," said Juleen Zierath, chair of the medicine prize committee.

Half the Nobel prize money of 8 million Swedish kronor (about $1.1 million) goes to O'Keefe and the other half to the Mosers. Each winner also receives a gold medal.

The Nobel Prizes will be handed out on Dec. 10, the anniversary of prize founder Alfred Nobel's death in 1896.

This year's Nobel announcements continue with the physics award on Tuesday, followed by chemistry, literature and peace later this week. The economics prize will be announced next Monday.

For more science news from The Koyal Group Info Mag, visit our facebook page and follow us on twitter @koyalgroup.



Friday, October 10, 2014

The Koyal Group Info Mag Scientists got it wrong on gravitational waves

It was announced in headlines worldwide as one of the biggest scientific discoveries for decades, sure to garner Nobel prizes. But now it looks likely that the alleged evidence of both gravitational waves and ultra-fast expansion of the universe in the big bang (called inflation) has literally turned to dust.

Last March, a team using a telescope called Bicep2 at the South Pole claimed to have read the signatures of these two elusive phenomena in the twisting patterns of the cosmic microwave background radiation: the afterglow of the big bang. But this week, results from an international consortium using a space telescope called Planck show that Bicep2’s data is likely to have come not from the microwave background but from dust scattered through our own galaxy.

Some will regard this as a huge embarrassment, not only for the Bicep2 team but for science itself. Already some researchers have criticised the team for making a premature announcement to the press before their work had been properly peer reviewed.

But there’s no shame here. On the contrary, this episode is good for science. This sequence of excitement followed by deflation, debate and controversy is perfectly normal – it’s just that in the past it would have happened out of the public gaze. Only when the dust had settled would a sober and sanitised version of events have been reported, if indeed there was anything left to report.

That has been the standard model of science ever since the media first acknowledged it. A hundred years ago, headlines in the New York Times had all the gravitas of a papal edict: “Men of science convene” and so forth. They were authoritative, decorous and totally contrived.

That image started to unravel after James Watson published The Double Helix, his racy behind-the-scenes account of the pursuit of the structure of DNA. But even now, some scientists would prefer the mask to remain, insisting that results are announced only after they have passed peer review, ie been checked by experts and published in a reputable journal.

There are many reasons why this will no longer wash. Those days of deference to patrician authority are over, and probably for the better. We no longer take on trust what we are told by politicians, experts and authorities. There are hazards to such scepticism, but good motivations too. Few regret that the old spoonfeeding of facts to the ignorant masses has been replaced with attempts to engage and include the public.

But science itself has changed too. Information and communications technologies mean that not only is it all but impossible to keep hot findings under wraps, but few even try. In physics in particular, researchers put their papers on publicly accessible pre-print servers before formal publication so that they can be seen and discussed, while specialist bloggers give new claims an informal but often penetrating analysis. This enriches the scientific process and means that problems that peer reviewers for journals might not notice can be spotted and debated. Peer review is imperfect anyway – a valuable check but far from infallible, and notoriously conservative.

Because of these new models of dissemination, we were all able to enjoy the debate in 2011 about particles called neutrinos that were alleged to travel faster than light, in defiance of the theory of special relativity. Those findings were announced, disputed and finally rejected, all without any papers being formally published. The arguments were heated but never bitter, and the public got a glimpse of science at its most vibrant: astonishing claims mixed with careful deliberation, leading ultimately to a clear consensus. How much more informative it was than the tidy fictions that published papers often become.

Aren’t some premature announcements just perfidious attempts to grab priority, and thus fame and prizes? Probably. But it’s time we stopped awarding special status to people who, having more resources or leverage with editors, or just plain luck, are first past a post that everyone else is stampeding towards. Who cares? Rewards in science should be for sustained creative thinking, insight and experimental ingenuity, not for being in the right place at the right time. A bottle of bubbly will suffice for that.

What, then, of gravitational waves? If, as it seems, Bicep2 never saw them bouncing from the repercussions of the big bang, then we’re back to looking for them the hard way, by trying to detect the incredibly tiny distortions they should introduce in spacetime as they ripple past. Now the Bicep2 and Planck teams are pooling their data to see if anything can be salvaged. Good on them. Debate, discussion, deliberation: science happening just as it should.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Koyal InfoMag: Ebola - Faith Trumps Science

When the Black Death was raging in Elizabethan London, some terrified citizens sought to assuage the Plague. The Queen herself ordered that anyone leaving London would be hanged. As in times past, some offered penitence to God in the form of self-flagellation, but to no avail. The Plague continued to rage even as the flagellants beat themselves to a bloody pulp.

Some frightened but resolute groups resorted to boarding up houses inhabited by anyone who exhibited symptoms of the disease. Armed watchmen saw to it that no one could go in or out, regardless of how much those trapped inside begged for mercy. The victims were given bare sustenance by means of baskets filled with provisions, which were lowered through upper windows.  If any unfortunates in the plague houses survived the quarantine, which was rare, they were eventually let out.

History repeats itself.

Apparently, a family exposed to Ebola is being quarantined in their home under armed guard. No one can enter and no one can exit until health officials are assured there is no danger of contagion. Despite the family’s strong objections to the loss of their liberty to freely roam about, the action is perhaps one of the first sensible precautions yet taken to quarantine the Ebola virus.

It’s about time scientific sensibilities rather than ideological purity takes the measure of a pestilence with the capacity to wipe out entire populations. Let’s hope the politically-correct response aimed at protecting the sensitivities of gays that characterized the first reactions to appearance of AIDS in the 1980s does not once again prevail. Let’s hope Ebola does not become the vanguard of a campaign conferring civil rights on a disease because any rigorous response to a deadly virus is considered racist by the likes of Louis Farrakhan. Let’s hope sane medical practices for limiting exposure and stopping the spread throughout the entire population are actually followed.

In brief, let’s hope ideological faith does not trump science.

How ironic incidents of faith trumping sound scientific and medical are repeating themselves.

The Left has long pointed to the idiocies of the past as reasons that faith means nothing and that religion gets everything wrong because it does not bow to science.  The examples abound, be they Galileo’s discoveries disputed by the Church or ignorant pastors resisting the administration of chloroform ( “a decoy of Satan”) to women in labor because God had supposedly decreed women had to suffer in giving birth.

Even among the scientists themselves, horrendous disputes over orthodox practices resulted in deaths of innocent people. Louis Pasteur’s discoveries (1862) about the transmission of disease via invisible microbes were ignored by many doctors who continued to deliver babies with unwashed hands only to see women continue to die of childbed fever. Joseph Lister’s prescription for sanitizing the hospital and surgical environment was scorned because Leeuwenhoeck’s “wee little beasties” were still not regarded as a particularly potent threat centuries after he peered into his microscope, as Thomas Eakins’ “The Gross Clinic” illustrates. Today’s viewers of the painting are less inclined to admire the composition of the piece than they are to not the horribly unsanitary practices still in place as late as 1875.

“Terrible, terrible,” is what just about any liberal would say; adding that those poor deluded people should have listened to science.

But here we are again facing resistance to science because of prevailing ideology, but this time the onus is on the Left, whose paradigm of thought is now so tightly structured nothing considered alien to it, including proven science, can intrude.  Contagion of thought is evidently considered worse than actual contagion.   

Ironically, the Ebola scare in the U.S. is following the pattern outlined by Albert Camus in his novel The Plague. The first stage is denial:

Everybody knows that pestilences have a way of recurring in the world; yet somehow we find it hard to believe in ones that crash down on our heads from a blue sky. There have been as many plagues as wars in history; yet always plagues and wars take people equally by surprise.  In this respect our townsfolk were like everybody else, wrapped up in themselves; in other words they were humanists: they disbelieved in pestilences. […]Pestilence is a mere bogy of the mind, a bad dream that will pass away. But it doesn't always pass away and, from one bad dream to another, it is men who pass away, and the humanists first of all, because they haven't taken their precautions.

In other words, since pestilences were impossible, everyone went on with business as usual. After all, a pestilence would interfere with their freedom to live life as they saw fit.

Camus writes the second stage was the disseminating of “information” in order to keep the public calm: Read More here

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Scientific Method: Science Research and Human Knowledge by The Koyal Group Info Mag

Science research is a rich mine of valuable knowledge if one knows how to go about it with care and precision. As in all scientific endeavours, there is a system to follow whether one is trying to solve a simple problem such as how to kill garden weeds or improving on Einstein’s Theory of Relativity.

Even before the advent of the Internet and the unlimited amount of knowledge and information we have available in a matter of seconds, research has generally been misunderstood as a simple process of going to the library (Googling, for most of us today) and getting the data one needs to make a report or “thesis”. Unfortunately, this is nothing but a single step in the whole process of scientific research. Academics will call this data-gathering or collating observations.

The purpose of scientific research is to observe physical phenomena and to describe them in their operation or functions. The essential question is WHY. Why do things behave as they do? We can predict some things because it is how things are supposed to behave; but we want to know the causes of such phenomena.  Discovering the causes through our research, we can then explain these things and use the knowledge to our advantage in many practical ways. That is, we can then build ships that can carry as many people as we can or explain that the moon, like the apple, is falling into the Earth because it is subject to the force of gravitation. Why it never crashes into the Earth is another question which Newton, fortunately, had to settle for us.

Science research or what others would call the Scientific Method requires several steps to be considered one. Let us look at them with simple examples for the beginner:

1.      Basic or general questions about a phenomenon
Sometimes, it all starts with a casual observation followed by a curious question. Why do apples fall? Why do boats float? It takes a child-like mind to be curious about ordinary but intriguing things.

2.      Setting a Hypothesis
A hypothesis is a statement of supposition. For instance, we can say that the Earth is flat and proceed to prove it. A hypothesis is, in reality, a result of general questions we have about real-life problems or phenomena. Whereas the ancient people believed that the world was flat and had an edge where you could fall from, today, we simply assume (without even knowing the basic evidences) that it is an orb. On the other hand, showing a photograph of the Earth taken from outer space may be a shortcut method of disproving the hypothesis. But it is only an indirect or circumstantial evidence and is not, technically speaking, a viable scientific proof. One must follow the entire method to its completion.

3.      Predicting outcomes
Based on our initial observations related to the questions we have posed for ourselves, we come up with possible outcomes. An orange, a ball or a rock will always fall no matter how far or how high you throw it. Why does a bird not fall? We can come up with other questions that may make the initial question irrelevant. Hence, we can either incorporate others observations or limit ourselves to the first simple question and deal with others separately.

The main key in predicting in research is basing our assumed outcomes on solid reason or logic. Unlike Aristotle who assumed that iron fell faster than an apple and that an apple fell faster than a feather, we now know and can predict that they all fall at the same speed due to gravity in a vacuum. Our awareness of wind resistance and friction allows us to predict more accurately than other people before.

4.      Testing the hypothesis
We then set up a method of investigation or a series of experimentation to check whether the hypothesis works for all instances or conditions. Tossing an apple or a rock into the air ten times or a hundred times will not change the outcome. From that observation, we can somehow accept the fact that a certain law applies for the apple as for a rock. What that is is something we can hypothesize as well. For now, we know that it applies for all objects, including a bird that is shot dead in mid-flight.

5.      Deriving conclusions or explaining the hypothesis
Having observed the hypothesis being tested and reinforced so many times and seeing how the outcome displays a certain pattern, we can then derive general conclusions of fact. Any object, no matter how heavy or big it is will always fall to the ground. We know this for a fact because we have seen it happen so many times and have proven it ourselves by the many times we have played basketball or baseball.

In its crudest form, we can say that the scientific method is nothing but highly-systematized common-sense knowledge derived at through a strict process. By ourselves, we also all went through several conscious steps of determining a fact or a truth within the physical realm we live in. Yes, we came up with the same conclusion on our own without having to know or apply this precise method; but other more stringent phenomena cannot be handled simply using simple observations. We need precise tools, instruments and other research results to prove more sophisticated problems.

For example, we might need to send a probe to outer space to prove what a comet is made of, how it behaves in outer space and how it came into existence. For that, you need vast range of technology to discover the facts you need: a rocket, computers, high-tech cameras, advanced communication facilities and other precise, delicate instruments to measure physical phenomena in outer space. At this very moment, a space probe named Rosetta is poised to land on a comet to perform such an unprecedented scientific research.

We can say this latest research rides upon hundreds and thousands of other research studies in the past, proving how knowledge ostensibly expands without limits. What Galileo and Newton learned several centuries ago have helped us discover other things we now take for granted. And yet, we all seem to be asking the same basic question: Where do all things come from? In that sense, scientific research essentially deals with who we are, what we are and where we came from.

All knowledge centers on what makes us humans. And the question will continue to challenge as well as baffle us.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

The Koyal Group InfoMag News: Work Together to Complete a “Social Revolution"

Molecular biologist Nancy Hopkins, the Amgen, Inc., Professor of Biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, recalled personal trials as a female scientist and challenged graduates to overcome invisible barriers in an inspiring Baccalaureate Address to the Class of 2014 at Marsh Chapel Sunday morning.

She mentioned some of the great breakthroughs of the last 50 years: the internet, the Higgs particle, and notably, the “discovery of unconscious biases and the extent to which stereotypes about gender, race, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, and age deprive people of equal opportunity in the workplace and equal justice in society.”

Hopkins was later awarded an honorary Doctor of Science at BU’s 141st Commencement.

She spoke before a packed audience at Marsh Chapel and was enthusiastically applauded for her remarks. President Robert A. Brown, University Provost Jean Morrison, Marsh Chapel Dean Robert Hill, and Emma Rehard (CAS’14) also addressed the graduates and their families. Scott Allen Jarrett (CFA’99,’08), director of music at Marsh Chapel, led the Marsh Chapel Choir in “Clarissima” and “For the Beauty of the Earth.”

Early in her career, Hopkins worked in the lab of James Watson, the codiscoverer of the structure of DNA. She earned a PhD at Harvard and became a faculty member at MIT, working at the Center for Cancer Research. There, she focused her research on RNA tumor viruses, then considered to be a likely cause for many cancers in humans. Hopkins also studied developmental genetics in zebra fish, and helped to design the first successful method for making insertional mutagenesis work in a vertebrate model. That accomplishment enabled her team to identify genes essential for zebra fish development, with implications for better understanding development in other species.

While advancing science in the lab, Hopkins was discouraged by some of the systemic problems she observed in academic research. “When a man and a woman made discoveries of equal scientific importance,” she told the Baccalaureate audience, “the man and his discovery were valued more highly than the woman and her discovery.”

Hopkins cited research by psychologists “who documented the irrationality of our brains, and our inability to make accurate judgments of even simple numerical facts if the conclusions contradict our unconscious biases.

You can demonstrate gender bias,” she said, “simply by making copies of a research article, putting a man’s name on half the copies and a woman’s on the other half, and sending the two versions out for review: reviewers judge the identical work to be better if they believe it was done by a man. Surprisingly, it doesn’t matter if the reviewers are men or women.”

For years, Hopkins said, she avoided calling attention to the problem, for fear of being accused of whining. Then on a whim, in 1994 she measured all of the labs in her building at MIT and found that female scientists had less lab space than male colleagues. She needed more quantitative data and discovered that only 8 percent of MIT’s science faculty were women (Harvard and BU had similar statistics). At MIT, her findings led to a university-wide examination of possible gender bias against women scientists.

“We learned that the unconscious undervaluation of women’s work can cause women of equal accomplishment not to be hired, and cause women who are hired to receive fewer resources for their research,” she said. “The women were marginalized. No wonder there were still so few women science professors 20 years ago. More amazing was that the ones who were there were so successful.”

When the results were published in 1999, Hopkins started receiving emails from women around the world writing that they had experienced the same problems. Hopkins was named cochair, along with BU President Robert A. Brown, then MIT provost, of MIT’s first Council on Faculty Diversity. MIT went on to write new family leave policies, and in 2001, the school’s new computer science building was designed to include a large day-care center. Today, many junior women faculty at MIT have children, proving they can be both scientists and mothers, said Hopkins, who famously walked out of a 2005 speech by Lawrence Summers, then president of Harvard, when he suggested that “intrinsic aptitude” might explain why there were relatively few high-achieving women in engineering fields.

In her parting words, Hopkins told the graduates that while they should first care about finding work they love, men and women must work together to complete a social revolution.


“If you look around and see that the people you work or study with all look like you, you’ll know something’s wrong, and work to change it,” she said. “Completing this revolution won’t happen by the passage of time, but because you make it happen.”