Gendering data care: Curators, care, and computers in data-centric biology
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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The increase in molecular data and the use of computer technologies in biology have led to the emergence of professional biocurators, who populate biological databases and knowledgebases with high-quality information. Although crucial to life science knowledge production, biocuration is, to a large extent, invisible labour that takes place behind the scenes of data-centric life science. The field suffers from a lack of recognition and status that has been linked to a language of service and a scientific system that is not equipped to recognise and reward new types of scientific practices. However, as the majority of biocurators are highly educated female biologists, biocuration is also reproducing the problematic pattern of women leaving the scientific tenure track in favour of less prestigious positions. Instead of viewing the issue as just another example of ‘the leaky pipeline,’ the gendering of biocuration could be seen as an interplay of gendered structures in science, organisations and society which makes a career in biocuration attractive for female scientists while at the same time positioning the activity as non-scientific low-status work. By illuminating some of the ways gender works in the processes which render certain kinds of technoscientific work invisible, biocuration serves as an example of how existing social structures influence the emerging data-centric science.