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Norway has highest share of women scientists and engineers in Europe
Despite overall increase over the past 20 years, share of women in science and engineering falls in some European countries
- Norway's 55% of women in science and engineering is a massive improvement over the past two decades.
- 20 years earlier, just over a third of Norwegian scientists and engineers were women.
- Europe overall progressed from 30% to 41%, but some countries saw a dramatic drop.
Women scientists and engineers are in the majority in five countries across Europe.
Credit: NASA, CC BY 2.0 / Infographic: Ruland Kolen
In Norway, 55 percent of all scientists and engineers last year were women. That is more than in any other country in Europe (1). In 2019, only four other European countries had female majorities in science and engineering: Lithuania (just under 55 percent), Latvia (52.7 percent), Denmark (51.7 percent) and Bulgaria (just over 50 percent); see graph.
Throughout Europe, stark differences persist in the participation level of women in science and engineering; as this map of Europe's NUTS1 regions (2) demonstrates, those differences show up not just between but also within European nations – and not always where you'd expect them.
The worst-performing countries were Luxembourg (just below 28 percent), Finland (30.5 percent), Hungary (32.6 percent) and Germany (33.3 percent). But Germany contains both the state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern (45.6 percent), well above the EU27 average; and Baden-Württemberg (29.1 percent), the worst performing NUTS1 region in Europe outside Luxembourg.
Women and Girls in Science
Shades of orange: less than 40% of women in science and engineering. Shades of blue: more than 40%. Dark blue: more than 50%.
This map was published by Eurostat, the EU's statistical office, on February 11, the International Day of Women and Girls in Science. Eurostat has data going back 20 years, showing serious progress towards gender parity in science and engineering across Europe, as well as some setbacks.
In 2002, the first year for which figures are available for the entirety of the current 27-member European Union (EU27), women scientists and engineers represented 30.3 percent of the total. Last year, after 17 years of steady rise, that figure had reached 41.1 percent. That represents 6.3 million women scientists and engineers, versus 9.1 million men working in those fields (adding up to a total of 15.4 million scientists and engineers in the EU).
The largest gains were made in:
- Switzerland, where the share of women scientists and engineers increased by 30.6 percentage points over 20 years, from just 10.7 percent in 1999 to 41.3 percent in 2019.
- Denmark, which saw its share rise by 26.9 percentage points over the same period, from 24.8 percent.
- Norway, where the share rose by 19.8 percent, from just 35.3 percent in 1999.
- And France, which saw a 17.2-point increase from 28.9 percent in 1999 to 46.1 percent in 2019.
However, increases were not the norm everywhere. In some countries, the share of women in science and engineering actually went down.
- Nowhere more than in Finland, where women had a slight majority in 1999 (50.9 percent) but fell back by 20.4 points to less than a third (30.5 percent) in 2019.
- Estonian women also lost their majority in science and engineering, dropping from 52.4 percent in 1999 to 43.6 in 2019.
- In Hungary, women lost 5.9 percentage points over two decades, falling from 38.5 percent to 32.6 percent.
- And in Belgium, the female share of scientists and engineers fell back from 47.9 percent in 1999 to 44.8 percent in 2019.
Women scientists and engineers were least present in manufacturing (21%), while the services sector was much more balanced (46% women).
Credit: NASA, CC BY 2.0
At the regional level, the discrepancies are even more pronounced.
- Three NUTS1 regions have higher shares of female scientists and engineers than Norway: the Portuguese region of Madeira (56.8 percent), North and Southeast Bulgaria (56.6 percent) and Northern Sweden (56.4 percent).
- Spain only just misses out on reaching half overall, but has five regions that pass the mark: North-East (53.2 percent), East (52.1 percent), Canary Islands (51.9 percent) North-West (51.7 percent), and Centre (51 percent).
- Poland, slightly lower, manages two regions over 50 percent: East (54.5 percent) and Central (50.9 percent).
- Even further down the list, Turkey nevertheless has three regions which also score over half: Orta Anadolu (51.9 percent), Akdeniz (50.9 percent) and Kuzeydogu Anadolu (50 percent).
- Contrasting with the balanced scores in these sub-regions are the NUTS1 regions in western Europe where women are underrepresented, notably the whole of Italy (<40 percent) and the western half of Germany (<35 percent).
Considering the various economic sectors, Eurostat notes that women scientists and engineers were least present in manufacturing (21 percent), while the services sector was much more balanced (46 percent women).
Strange Maps #1069
Got a strange map? Let me know at email@example.com.
(1) For the purpose of this map, 'Europe' comprises the EU plus a number of adjacent states: Iceland, Norway, the UK, Switzerland, Serbia, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Turkey.
(2) NUTS stands for Nomenclature d'unités territoriales statistiques, French for 'Classification of Territorial Units for Statistics', an EU-developed standard with three geographical levels. The first one is large enough to include smaller countries in their entirety. Luxembourg is small enough to be a single NUTS region on all three levels.
Scientists are using bioelectronic medicine to treat inflammatory diseases, an approach that capitalizes on the ancient "hardwiring" of the nervous system.
- Bioelectronic medicine is an emerging field that focuses on manipulating the nervous system to treat diseases.
- Clinical studies show that using electronic devices to stimulate the vagus nerve is effective at treating inflammatory diseases like rheumatoid arthritis.
- Although it's not yet approved by the US Food and Drug Administration, vagus nerve stimulation may also prove effective at treating other diseases like cancer, diabetes and depression.
The nervous system’s ancient reflexes<p>You accidentally place your hand on a hot stove. Almost instantaneously, your hand withdraws.</p><p>What triggered your hand to move? The answer is <em>not</em> that you consciously decided the stove was hot and you should move your hand. Rather, it was a reflex: Skin receptors on your hand sent nerve impulses to the spinal cord, which ultimately sent back motor neurons that caused your hand to move away. This all occurred before your "conscious brain" realized what happened.</p><p>Similarly, the nervous system has reflexes that protect individual cells in the body.</p><p>"The nervous system evolved because we need to respond to stimuli in the environment," said Dr. Tracey. "Neural signals don't come from the brain down first. Instead, when something happens in the environment, our peripheral nervous system senses it and sends a signal to the central nervous system, which comprises the brain and spinal cord. And then the nervous system responds to correct the problem."</p><p>So, what if scientists could "hack" into the nervous system, manipulating the electrical activity in the nervous system to control molecular processes and produce desirable outcomes? That's the chief goal of bioelectronic medicine.</p><p>"There are billions of neurons in the body that interact with almost every cell in the body, and at each of those nerve endings, molecular signals control molecular mechanisms that can be defined and mapped, and potentially put under control," Dr. Tracey said in a <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AJH9KsMKi5M" target="_blank">TED Talk</a>.</p><p>"Many of these mechanisms are also involved in important diseases, like cancer, Alzheimer's, diabetes, hypertension and shock. It's very plausible that finding neural signals to control those mechanisms will hold promises for devices replacing some of today's medication for those diseases."</p><p>How can scientists hack the nervous system? For years, researchers in the field of bioelectronic medicine have zeroed in on the longest cranial nerve in the body: the vagus nerve.</p>
The vagus nerve<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTYyOTM5OC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0NTIwNzk0NX0.UCy-3UNpomb3DQZMhyOw_SQG4ThwACXW_rMnc9mLAe8/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C0%2C0%2C0&height=700" id="09add" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="f38dbfbbfe470ad85a3b023dd5083557" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="1245" data-height="700" />
Electrical signals, seen here in a synapse, travel along the vagus nerve to trigger an inflammatory response.
Credit: Adobe Stock via solvod<p>The vagus nerve ("vagus" meaning "wandering" in Latin) comprises two nerve branches that stretch from the brainstem down to the chest and abdomen, where nerve fibers connect to organs. Electrical signals constantly travel up and down the vagus nerve, facilitating communication between the brain and other parts of the body.</p><p>One aspect of this back-and-forth communication is inflammation. When the immune system detects injury or attack, it automatically triggers an inflammatory response, which helps heal injuries and fend off invaders. But when not deployed properly, inflammation can become excessive, exacerbating the original problem and potentially contributing to diseases.</p><p>In 2002, Dr. Tracey and his colleagues discovered that the nervous system plays a key role in monitoring and modifying inflammation. This occurs through a process called the <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/nature01321" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">inflammatory reflex</a>. In simple terms, it works like this: When the nervous system detects inflammatory stimuli, it reflexively (and subconsciously) deploys electrical signals through the vagus nerve that trigger anti-inflammatory molecular processes.</p><p>In rodent experiments, Dr. Tracey and his colleagues observed that electrical signals traveling through the vagus nerve control TNF, a protein that, in excess, causes inflammation. These electrical signals travel through the vagus nerve to the spleen. There, electrical signals are converted to chemical signals, triggering a molecular process that ultimately makes TNF, which exacerbates conditions like rheumatoid arthritis.</p><p>The incredible chain reaction of the inflammatory reflex was observed by Dr. Tracey and his colleagues in greater detail through rodent experiments. When inflammatory stimuli are detected, the nervous system sends electrical signals that travel through the vagus nerve to the spleen. There, the electrical signals are converted to chemical signals, which trigger the spleen to create a white blood cell called a T cell, which then creates a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine. The acetylcholine interacts with macrophages, which are a specific type of white blood cell that creates TNF, a protein that, in excess, causes inflammation. At that point, the acetylcholine triggers the macrophages to stop overproducing TNF – or inflammation.</p><p>Experiments showed that when a specific part of the body is inflamed, specific fibers within the vagus nerve start firing. Dr. Tracey and his colleagues were able to map these relationships. More importantly, they were able to stimulate specific parts of the vagus nerve to "shut off" inflammation.</p><p>What's more, clinical trials show that vagus nerve stimulation not only "shuts off" inflammation, but also triggers the production of cells that promote healing.</p><p>"In animal experiments, we understand how this works," Dr. Tracey said. "And now we have clinical trials showing that the human response is what's predicted by the lab experiments. Many scientific thresholds have been crossed in the clinic and the lab. We're literally at the point of regulatory steps and stages, and then marketing and distribution before this idea takes off."<br></p>
The future of bioelectronic medicine<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTYxMDYxMy9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzNjQwOTExNH0.uBY1TnEs_kv9Dal7zmA_i9L7T0wnIuf9gGtdRXcNNxo/img.jpg?width=980" id="8b5b2" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="c005e615e5f23c2817483862354d2cc4" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="2000" data-height="1125" />
Vagus nerve stimulation can already treat Crohn's disease and other inflammatory diseases. In the future, it may also be used to treat cancer, diabetes, and depression.
Credit: Adobe Stock via Maridav<p>Vagus nerve stimulation is currently awaiting approval by the US Food and Drug Administration, but so far, it's proven safe and effective in clinical trials on humans. Dr. Tracey said vagus nerve stimulation could become a common treatment for a wide range of diseases, including cancer, Alzheimer's, diabetes, hypertension, shock, depression and diabetes.</p><p>"To the extent that inflammation is the problem in the disease, then stopping inflammation or suppressing the inflammation with vagus nerve stimulation or bioelectronic approaches will be beneficial and therapeutic," he said.</p><p>Receiving vagus nerve stimulation would require having an electronic device, about the size of lima bean, surgically implanted in your neck during a 30-minute procedure. A couple of weeks later, you'd visit, say, your rheumatologist, who would activate the device and determine the right dosage. The stimulation would take a few minutes each day, and it'd likely be unnoticeable.</p><p>But the most revolutionary aspect of bioelectronic medicine, according to Dr. Tracey, is that approaches like vagus nerve stimulation wouldn't come with harmful and potentially deadly side effects, as many pharmaceutical drugs currently do.</p><p>"A device on a nerve is not going to have systemic side effects on the body like taking a steroid does," Dr. Tracey said. "It's a powerful concept that, frankly, scientists are quite accepting of—it's actually quite amazing. But the idea of adopting this into practice is going to take another 10 or 20 years, because it's hard for physicians, who've spent their lives writing prescriptions for pills or injections, that a computer chip can replace the drug."</p><p>But patients could also play a role in advancing bioelectronic medicine.</p><p>"There's a huge demand in this patient cohort for something better than they're taking now," Dr. Tracey said. "Patients don't want to take a drug with a black-box warning, costs $100,000 a year and works half the time."</p><p>Michael Dowling, president and CEO of Northwell Health, elaborated:</p><p>"Why would patients pursue a drug regimen when they could opt for a few electronic pulses? Is it possible that treatments like this, pulses through electronic devices, could replace some drugs in the coming years as preferred treatments? Tracey believes it is, and that is perhaps why the pharmaceutical industry closely follows his work."</p><p>Over the long term, bioelectronic approaches are unlikely to completely replace pharmaceutical drugs, but they could replace many, or at least be used as supplemental treatments.</p><p>Dr. Tracey is optimistic about the future of the field.</p><p>"It's going to spawn a huge new industry that will rival the pharmaceutical industry in the next 50 years," he said. "This is no longer just a startup industry. [...] It's going to be very interesting to see the explosive growth that's going to occur."</p>
Researchers figure out the average temperatures of the last ice age on Earth.
- A new study analyzes fossil data to find the average temperatures during the last Ice Age.
- This period of time, about 20,000 years ago, had the average temperature of about 46 degrees Fahrenheit (7.8 C).
- The study has implications for understanding climate change.
Surface air temperatures during the last ice age.
Credit: Jessica Tierney, University of Arizona
"The Expanse" is the best vision I've ever seen of a space-faring future that may be just a few generations away.
- Want three reasons why that headline is justified? Characters and acting, universe building, and science.
- For those who don't know, "The Expanse" is a series that's run on SyFy and Amazon Prime set about 200 years in the future in a mostly settled solar system with three waring factions: Earth, Mars, and Belters.
- No other show I know of manages to use real science so adeptly in the service of its story and its grand universe building.
Credit: "The Expanse" / Syfy<p>Now, I get it if you don't agree with me. I love "Star Trek" and I thought "Battlestar Galactica" (the new one) was amazing and I do adore "The Mandalorian". They are all fun and important and worth watching and thinking about. And maybe you love them more than anything else. But when you sum up the acting, the universe building, and the use of real science where it matters, I think nothing can beat "The Expanse". And with a <a href="https://www.rottentomatoes.com/tv/the_expanse" target="_blank">Rotten Tomato</a> average rating of 93%, I'm clearly not the only one who feels this way.</p><p>Best.</p><p>Show.</p><p>Ever. </p>
Contrary to what some might think, the brain is a very plastic organ.
As with many other physicians, recommending physical activity to patients was just a doctor chore for me – until a few years ago. That was because I myself was not very active.