I’m #10!

In response to that Kardashian index nonsense that disparaged scientists who use Twitter, Science magazine too a look at the “top 50 science stars of Twitter”. I made the cut. I have a Kardashian index of 355.

They also refuted the premise of the index.

Rather than identifying “Science Kardashians”—those who are, as Hall put it, “famous for being famous”—the top 50 list reveals that a majority of the science Twitter stars spend much, if not all, of their time on science communication. For them, Twitter popularity can amplify their efforts in public outreach. A case in point is Neil deGrasse Tyson, director of the Hayden Planetarium in New York City and host of the science TV show Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey. With more than 2.4 million followers and fewer than 200 citations, the astrophysicist is undoubtedly the top-ranking celebrity scientist on Twitter—and has the highest K-index of anyone on the list. Yet few would consider his Twitter fame unwarranted.

The list is also 92% male. It must be because women are intrinsically incapable of the gossipy social chatter that Twitter is so good at. Oh, wait, no…there are external reasons? Really?

Although the index is named for a woman, Science’s survey highlights the poor representation of female scientists on Twitter, which Hall hinted at in his commentary. Of the 50 most followed scientists, only four are women. Astronomer Pamela Gay of Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville, whose more than 17,000 Twitter followers put her 33rd on the list, says the result doesn’t surprise her because society still struggles to recognize women as leaders in science. Female scientists are also more likely to face sexist attacks online that can discourage their participation, she adds. “At some point, you just get fed up with all the ‘why you are ugly’ or ‘why you are hot’ comments.”

Interesting. If anything ought to conform to the stereotype (not the reality) of womanly behavior, I think Twitter is a pretty good exemplar. But notice how when you put an easily measured status metric on something, and make it easy to detect the sex of the participants, boom, men dominate? I think Pamela Gay came up with the clearest explanation for why that happens.


  1. jeffj says

    I just looked at my twitter follows. After removing organizations, I have a m:f ratio of about 4:1. I’m going to spend the rest of my morning balancing this out. Anyone else up for the challenge?

  2. carlie says

    OT, but I’ve been following Pamela Gay for ages and never realized she was at SIUE. I was in Edwardsville this summer! I was on campus at SIUE! I could have stopped by and said I was a big fan! Wait, maybe that’s creepy? Never mind.

  3. Ariaflame, BSc, BF, PhD says

    But….what about Dr Karl??? (@DoctorKarl) Australian science communicator extraordinaire and 238K followers, and he didn’t get on the list. Rigged I tell you!

  4. Ariaflame, BSc, BF, PhD says

    Although… I must admit I don’t know what his citations are like, he’s more of a communicator than someone who publishes in peer reviewed journals.

  5. bargearse says


    Give it time, once footage of his dancing efforts at the Kanye West concert this week go viral he’ll rocket up the list.

  6. Pteryxx says

    Ugh. Just looked at the full list of 50, and there are four (4) women… and three (3) “woman-respecting” arses. Really? (That I know of – namely Dawkins, Harris, Krauss)

    Re jeffj #1:

    I just looked at my twitter follows. After removing organizations, I have a m:f ratio of about 4:1. I’m going to spend the rest of my morning balancing this out. Anyone else up for the challenge?

    Start with DNLee who blogs at SciAm: Urban Scientist

    DNLee ‏@DNLee5

    These lists are bad, but more and more it’s so obvious that women, POC, LGBT, & other ‘others’ just don’t register to list makers. (meh)

    7:28 AM – 17 Sep 2014

    DNLee ‏@DNLee5

    Folks follow who they follow, they quote as sources folks they know. They seldom access how narrow/homogenous those circles are

    7:29 AM – 17 Sep 2014


    Then search the #WomeninSTEM hashtag: (twitter search)

    “Binder full of women scientists” (Storify)

    Discov-Her – 10 women scientists you should follow on Twitter

    and from PZ last year: Women and science on Youtube

  7. andyo says

    At least NDT and especially Cox are higher than Dawkins. But what the hell is Kaku doing there (and higher than you)? Isn’t he like, a bad science fiction writer or something?

  8. jeffj says

    Pteryxx: thanks, those recs put me over the top. Now we’ll have to wait and see if this turns into a more balanced timeline – at first glance, it looks like the dudes are a whole lot more chatty.

  9. Pteryxx says

    jeffj, fyi: Medium.com: The year I didn’t retweet men

    In the midst of this research, I found the Twee-Q tool, another imprecise-but-useful bit of software which showed a guessed gender for people whose voices I was amplifying through retweets. I don’t remember the exact calculation, but at the time, I believe my RTs were about 80% men.

    I followed a nearly equal ratio of women and men, but retweeted men three times as often as I retweeted women. This, despite my knowing how underrepresented women’s voices are in the areas I obsess over, such as technology and policy and culture. I could do better.

    Thanks for doing this. It may seem small but overcoming bias means lots of little commitments to do better.

  10. Pteryxx says

    …re my #10… make that (4) and (4). *sigh*

    Carolyn Porco ‏@carolynporco

    @SamHarrisOrg @RichardDawkins Just tweeted your new article Sam. Sorry you actually had to write it. Can’t understand the complaints of some

    Retweets 13
    Favorites 54

    4:07 PM – 15 Sep 2014


  11. says

    (elaborating on my previous post)

    The naming of this “index” speaks volumes about what the institutional expectation is of scientists from scientists. Join the exclusive anti-social boy’s club. Don’t waste time explaining publicly funded research to the public.

    Why are we shocked when NIH and NSF funding get cut?

  12. Pteryxx says

    …I’ll just leave this here.

    Women and POC punished for promoting diversity – ThinkProgress

    The dings in performance feedback are likely because of how women and people are perceived. Female executives who value diversity were thought to be less warm and competent, and people of color were also thought to be less competent. White men, on the other hand, were given increased marks for warmth and ability when they sought greater diversity.

    The researchers also conducted an experiment to test these ideas, having actors play executives and give speeches either in favor of hiring someone who looked like them or someone who didn’t. When women advocated for other women, they were seen as colder, and when people of color advocated for people like them, they were seen as less competent. “People are perceived as selfish when they advocate for someone who looks like them, unless they’re a white man,” said David Hekman, one of the study’s authors.

  13. PaulBC says

    I don’t mean to disparage anyone for using whatever kind of technology they enjoy, but I definitely prefer long(ish) form commentary. Tweets seem to encourage people to harm their own reputations with off the cuff remarks that are missing vital context. Then any subsequent attempt to add context looks like backpedaling. I hadn’t actually realized that PZ tweeted, but checking the latest tweets, I stand by my view that his long posts are much better.

    Dawkins would really do himself a big favor if he’d just stop tweeting–really, maybe just lay low for a few years and come out with a book. Speaking only for myself, I previously thought he was someone to be taken seriously. Maybe Twitter is introducing new efficiencies in the marketplace of ideas by exposing sloppy thinking. What I don’t get is why the people it exposes are so willing to cooperate.

  14. says

    @PaulBC #18

    You hit the nail on the head there re Dawkins. He does have a lot of foot-in-mouth moments where he isn’t able to express his point fully. But he is way out of touch on topics of misogyny, cultural diversity etc.

    In PZ’s defense, I think a lot of his tweets are links to his new posts here (I mainly follow him there to stay updated about here). But Twitter is easy to start a conversation but never to fully discuss ideas. I find it just impossible to fit my thoughts on topics in just 140 characters.

  15. dereksmear says

    Sam “there may even be credible evidence for reincarnation” Harris on a list of scientists. Funny.

  16. Chris J says

    @PaulBC and Sagar Keer:

    I think recent events have shown that Dawkins’s tweets are not simply the result of foot-in-mouth syndrome. He wrote larger blog posts that reflected exactly the same bullshit as his tweets, exacerbated by his attempting to “express his point fully.”

    Dawkins is not sloppy, he’s just wrong.

  17. carlie says

    I actually think twitter has helped my writing – I tend to be overly verbose, and it forces me to stop and say “Ok, how do I get this same idea across but cut 10 words from that sentence?” It’s a big exercise in how to be concise and efficient with words.

  18. Ichthyic says

    Dawkins is not sloppy, he’s just wrong.

    I used to think like Paul, that DickieD was just flailing at Twitter, but no, the closer you look, the closer you see that Chris has it exactly right.

    it’s only in a small part sloppiness, you see the wrongness of it when he is directly asked to explain in detail.

  19. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says


    10 words?

    Hell, I have to work to cut 10 pages just to comment here. Me on twitter? No hope.

  20. says

    I can’t find it right now, but isn’t there research that shows that women are cited in papers only 2/3’s what men are (even controlling for degree, institution, and field)? So, then, doesn’t this index ALREADY rely on grossly skewed data against women?

  21. says

    @Chris J #21

    Agreed. His sloppiness with Twitter is one thing. He has some really outdated & pathetic notions about nearly all issues that don’t directly impact a middle-aged white man..

  22. PaulBC says

    Chris J #21 (and others)

    I agree that many of the things Dawkins has to say are bad no matter how much care he puts into explaining it. What I don’t get is why anyone wants to expose their mostly unedited thoughts this way. Maybe the technology we’re aiming for is finding out how to tap into people’s inner monologue and get a continuous stream of consciousness for all to read “Aw… cute kitty… My foot hurts… Whoa! What was that? Heh… probably just the hangover wearing off… Hey! Where’d kitty go?”

    Carlie pointed out that it is work to keep things brief, and I agree, but I don’t think most people tweet in carefully crafted aphorisms. They just shoot from the hip, and then seemed shocked when they get in trouble for it. I think the reason someone like Dawkins does it is purely because he’s able to get away with it. (Note: I have started to write a post like this about three times and scrapped each one before posting, since it seemed unnecessary and this probably is too, but I’ll let it go this time.)

    Other than that, it is probably good for keeping people posted with links and announcements. I don’t follow anyone on twitter, but I can imagine there is some use to it.

  23. Tigger_the_Wing, asking "Where's the justice?" says

    Sagar Keer

    @ 2. Thanks for both the suggestions and the pictures – lovely!

    @ 27.

    @Chris J #21
    Agreed. His sloppiness with Twitter is one thing. He has some really outdated & pathetic notions about nearly all issues that don’t directly impact a middle-aged white man..

    73 is middle-aged now? Woot! I’m young! =^_^=