Gender row: Large Hadron Collider operator suspends scientist

An Italian scientist has been suspended from one of the world’s top nuclear research centres after he gave a “highly offensive” presentation on gender issues.

Alessandro Strumia, from the University of Pisa, was speaking at a workshop at the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN).

One of the slides in his presentation read: “Physics invented and built by men, it’s not by invitation”.

Another suggested that women line up to take gender studies before later protesting over the lack of jobs in fields such as chemistry and engineering.

In a statement, CERN said it “considers the presentation delivered by an invited scientist during a workshop on high energy theory and gender as highly offensive.

“It has therefore decided to remove the slides from the online repository, in line with a code of conduct that does not tolerate personal attacks and insults.”

The Geneva-based lab, which runs the Large Hadron Collider, said it had not prior knowledge of what Mr Strumia was planning to say.

It has removed Mr Strumia’s presentation slides from its website and “suspended the scientist from any activity at CERN with immediate effect, pending investigation into last week’s event”.

Laura Covi, who studies cosmology in Germany, was at the seminar and said: “He was claiming that some of the positions women were getting, they’re getting positions with fewer [journal] citations than men.

“I’m not so sure his thesis was supported by the data.”

Ms Covi agreed some of the world’s most eminent physicists have been men, but said men had been able to study physics longer than women.

She added: “People were upset by what he was saying.

“And then he later started to make statements that were completely unscientific.

“I don’t think he represents the majority view.

“There were a few men who were there but they didn’t support his view.”

Dr Jessica Wade, a physicist at Imperial College London who also spoke at the conference, wrote on Twitter: “Short summary of Strumia’s talk: women aren’t as good at physics as men and they’ve been allocated too much funding/ been promoted into positions of power unfairly.”

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However, Nico Macdonald, a visiting fellow at London’s South Bank University, wrote on Twitter that Mr Strumia’s paper “may well be wrong” but it should be responded to “scientifically and politically, no removed as highly offensive”.

He added: “…most responses I have seen have been to ban or silence him on the basis of offence, not to disprove his thesis.”

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