Profile as a 2017 MJ Bear Fellow
Mollie is creating a database of underrepresented scientists to address the lack of diverse perspectives represented or cited in science writing. She started working on the project after she’d written several articles on a tight deadline and found she was quoting only white males. “This happens a lot in science reporting—even for topics like women’s health,” she says, “and it means we’re missing out on important points of view.”
So far, the database has more than 250 underrepresented scientists who have expertise in a wide range of scientific fields. Mollie plans to create a user-interface for searching using open-source tools and to market it through journalism organizations such as the National Association of Science Writers, the Society of Environmental Journalists and others. Once established, her plan is to have the database updated via crowdsourcing from journalists and the sources themselves.
“We want to help science writers better weave these individuals into their stories,” Mollie says. “Instead of only showing up on one or two sites, we want underrepresented scientists to be included in news stories across all publications. The more people who are reading quotes from diverse sources, the more effectively we can reflect our audience and, ideally, show them they too can attain these positions in society.
“We’ve promised our readers that we’ll accurately portray their world, and we’re not making good on that commitment. When a child grows up exposed to one narrative, if she doesn’t fit that narrative, it’s going to create a barrier. That barrier will make it difficult for her to get the resources she needs to succeed. The media has the power to alter that portrayal and make it more inclusive of all people, regardless of ethnicity or gender. For journalists to rewrite that narrative, we need resources. My goal is to create this database and turn it into a movement that becomes so pervasive that we don’t need the database anymore.” The code for this project will be open-sourced on GitHub. This will allow others to replicate the concept in other specialities, such as business or political reporting.
The MJ Bear Fellowship Selection Committee said, “Creating a database of female and minority scientists is a practical idea and a highly applicable resource. If you consider how bias is built into the social media and the search tools we use daily as journalists, this sort of database could be a game changer. Her commitment to diversity and building a tool to ensure that is reflected in the coverage of critical issues such as science, the environment and health is exemplary.”
Said her recommender Andrew Nacin, WordPress Lead Developer, who has been helping her with some of the technical aspects of her project: “Mollie Bloudoff-Indelicato is never content with the status quo. She is constantly pushing to make things better—for herself, her peers and her field. Because science articles often leave out important viewpoints, she’s taken the initiative to create a source database featuring scientists from underrepresented communities.”
Mollie has been a freelance reporter and editor since 2014. Her work has appeared in National Geographic, Christian Science Monitor, The Atlantic and on National Public Radio and Al Jazeera America, where she exposed widespread arsenic poisoning in Latin America. She is a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley, where she received a BA in Media Studies and of Columbia University where she received an MS in Digital Media. She also was a visiting scholar at Oxford where she studied environmental health and molecular genetics.
Prior to freelancing full time, Mollie was a senior editor for Everyday Health, a multimedia reporter for Scientific American and a reporting fellow for Climatewire.
See and hear more about Mollie’s philosophy and goals here.