PBS doc on James Watson (OMF board member)

CFSTheBear

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PBS has a documentary out about James D Watson, who sits on the board of OMF.

He won the Nobel Prize in 1962 for his role in the research that revealed the structure of DNA. Watson went on to serve as the first director of the Human Genome Project and founded Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. But in his later years, Watson began to express racist views. He was forced to leave his role as director of CSHL in 2007 after making racist remarks.

From a New York Times piece

In 2007, Dr. Watson, who shared a 1962 Nobel Prize for describing the double-helix structure of DNA, told a British journalist that he was “inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa” because “all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours, whereas all the testing says, not really.”

Moreover, he added, although he wished everyone were equal, “people who have to deal with black employees find this not true.”

Dr. Watson’s comments reverberated around the world, and he was forced to retire from his job as chancellor of the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory on Long Island, although he retains an office there.
He apologized publicly and “unreservedly,’’ and in later interviews he sometimes suggested that he had been playing the provocateur — his trademark role — or had not understood that his comments would be made public.

Ever since, Dr. Watson, 90, has been largely absent from the public eye. His speaking invitations evaporated. In 2014, he became the first living Nobelist to sell his medal, citing a depleted income from having been designated a “nonperson.’’

But his remarks have lingered. They have been invoked to support white supremacist views, and scientists routinely excoriate Dr. Watson when his name surfaces on social media.

Not sure how I feel about this guy being on the board of OMF? Clearly his early contributions to the field are impeccable, but those comments are seriously worrying. Anyway I thought I’d share the documentary in case anyone is interested in watching.
 

Silencio

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I agree.. was quite disturbed to see this. I am very appreciative of OMF, and have enormous respect for what they have accomplished in a short time. As they grow, they have work to do on increasing diversity (incl gender) on their scientific advisory board. Including people on the board who hold these views is problematic. Currently, I understand that the advisory board is selected solely by Ron Davis. I think OMF, and by extension the community, would benefit by having a diverse panel to interview, assess and invite advisors. This would allow for due diligence, ensure fairness, and avoid any inherent bias. (I have already shared this opinion with them). The advisory board has the important role of choosing what projects to allocate funds to.
@Janet Dafoe (Rose49)
 
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bertiedog

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My opinion is that in no way should somebody who holds such views have any involvement in the OMF who are working on our behalf to help solve our illness. If however he has changed his mind and is on the record to this effect and has realised that his original theories were wrong and divisive then I might feel a bit different.

Pam
 

Silencio

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If however he has changed his mind and is on the record to this effect and has realised that his original theories were wrong and divisive then I might feel a bit different.
His race theories were first made public in 2007, and then recorded in an interview last summer by the documentary maker. The documentary maker says he tried to ask the questions in a few different ways to make sure that he wasn’t confused. He tried to give him an opportunity to correct the record. Last summer, Dr. Watson was in a car accident and hasn’t been able to respond to the reaction to the film.
 
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Silencio

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Yes, hopefully OMF will follows their lead.

As I said above, a proper process for evaluating advisors would prevent this kind of thing from happening. It would weed out problematic candidates. Picking advisors for OMF should not be up to one person, no matter how wonderful he is, (and I think we all agree that Ron is wonderful). Every human being has inherent/unconscious bias.

Right now their advisory board, which selects projects for funding, is about 95% male, and 85% white. https://www.omf.ngo/scientific-advisory-board/

There are plenty of female researchers and doctors working in this field (Klimas, Hornig, Cheda, Vera, Levine, Jo Cambridge, Carmen Sheibenbogen). I know less about researchers of different ethnicities.

I think it would be great to see OMF design an better advisor recruitment process. If you are a supporter of theirs and agree, let them know what you think.
@Janet Dafoe (Rose49)
 
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Tally

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The advisory board of OMF was chosen so that the title page of OMF can read "Three Nobel Laureates, Six National Academy of Sciences Members". It sounds impressive and it helps with being taken seriously and with fundraising.

Is it now Dr. Davis' fault too that our whole society is racist and sexists and that majority of people with those credentials are white men?

Number of Nobel prizes for Physiology or Medicine
Women: 12
Men: 204

National Academy of Sciences Members in 2011
9 women
63 men

These numbers are upsetting and disgusting to me. But I know who is not responsible for them: Dr. Davis.

We have a maligned and derided illness. We have Sirs and presidents of Royal Colleges on the opposite side. We need impressive sounding titles on our side too. The only proper process for evaluating advisors is the one that gets us cured ASAP. It shouldn't be this way, it's not fair, it's not right, but while people are dying of ME/CFS we can't afford anything else.

If anyone has any idea how to get some of those Nobel Laureates and NAS members who are not white men onto the OMF advisory board I am sure OMF would welcome it with open arms.
 

Silencio

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Is it now Dr. Davis' fault too that our whole society is racist and sexists and that majority of people with those credentials are white men?
No, not at all. I didn’t say that.
It’s really hard to overcome the issues of missing women in science (and business). That’s why a special effort needs to be made, and processes and goals defined.

I would just like to see a more open recruitment process implemented at OMF. It’s pretty standard in organizations to have panels review board members (even a small panel of 3 would be good), and a process followed. And, not to get people with titles only, but a more diverse mix of researchers involved in selecting projects to be funded.

But, I support OMF regardless. They have already said that they would like to get more women on the advisory board, so they know it’s an issue, and that is good.
(And just fyi, I am in process of trying to connect a NAS female researcher to OMF.)
 
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