Open Box da Ciência (Science Open Box) is a project to unveil the faces and the investigations of Brazilian female scientists. Our organization picked 250 of them, according to a methodology based on the Lattes Platform, Brazil’s main curriculum database for scholars. Our methodology aimed to outline top scientists in five areas of science, according to very objective criteria based on their production and contribution. This project converges data analysis, data journalism, and data visualization to promote science based on women’s perspectives and work.
Data analysis, data visualization, and stories on some of the leading scientists in Brazil shed a light on the crucial issue of gender and racial inequality, and privileged access to education. Figures helped to measure the gap between women and men and to highlight the underrepresentation of black women in Brazilian science. They are just 23% among the female professors in Brazilian universities (women are 46% in this universe, versus 54% of men). Black women’s access to scholarships is also very limited: only 2,6% of black female professors can count on any kind of funding, versus 12,3% of white women. The 85,1% left is held by men, the vast majority of those who receive financial help for their investigations. Black women are the largest demographic group in Brazil: 28% of the population.
A couple of months after the project was launched, these numbers also helped us to track four black female professors leading investigations on covid-19. Open Box da Ciência was featured on main Brazilian news outlets, including on the cover of one of the most notorious newspapers in the country (O Estado de São Paulo). The project was also praised by the main Brazilian universities and science institutions.
A Python script downloaded the data from the Lattes Platform base. Over 271,000 resumes from female PhDs were downloaded and converted to .xml. Another Python script interpreted these files to structure a database with tables to organize each information on the curriculum, such as awards and publications by each listed scientist. This same script inserted the data on a Database Management System (DMS) managed by MySQL.
What was the hardest part of this project?
The hardest part was to work with an unfriendly public database (http://lattes.cnpq.br/), which comprises the curriculum from all investigators. The Lattes platform was used to compile data before we developed the first open database in Brazil about female Ph.D. and share part of it as special data visualization related to narratives. The process required combining female name databases and data extracted after the mathematical rule was created since the public database doesn’t allow to find terms by means of classification by gender. As it is a robust database – all researchers at the doctoral level included – it required a lot of refinement.
What can others learn from this project?
Launched one month before WHO declared the covid-19 pandemic, Open Box da Ciência highlighted the role of female scientists in Brazil, the gender and racial inequality among researchers, and the lack of funding that affects their work. Those issues would be deepened by the health crisis, which has killed over 224,000 Brazilians by now. In the following months, other media and academic works have focused on the impacts of the pandemic on female researchers regarding their capacity to meet the deadlines, publish articles, and their overall productivity. Two black women were the first Brazilian scientists to map the novel coronavirus genome in Brazil; their stories had a common ground with many of the P.h.D portrayed on Open Box da Ciência and described throughout the data compiled in the Open Box platform. This project also gave a departure point for journalists to craft similar stories and shed a light on race and gender inequality in science.
About the Open Box methodology: youtu.be/iLn-yW59SSE
On Estado de São Paulo: ciencia.estadao.com.br/noticias/geral,plataforma-online-divulga-perfil-de-250-pesquisadoras-brasileiras-de-destaque,70003195509
On Folha de São Paulo: www1.folha.uol.com.br/ciencia/2020/02/plataforma-que-une-jornalistas-e-pesquisas-ineditas-do-brasil-e-lancada.shtml
Black female scientists and covid-19: www.generonumero.media/negros-pesquisas-covid-19/
On the biggest university in Brazil: conexao.ufrj.br/2020/03/09/projeto-open-box-da-ciencia-destaca-13-pesquisadoras-da-ufrj/