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Yes, quite a number of big academic, scientific or industry figures have had stories about their achievements without any major reference to their (obviously necessary) team. No-one felt moved to point out there were contributions from the graduate students and staff that worked with Yann LeCun, Geoffrey Hinton and Yoshua Bengio in the HN story about the latter three's Turing Award.

I don't think I've ever seen so many people suddenly desperately concerned that the Little People get a mention, and I'm at least part-way convinced that gender (and maybe youth? she's 29...) has a good deal to do with it (apparently the other thing that triggers the "harrumph, what about the team" crowd are stories about child prodigies, according to another thread).




“Women and children” is a phrase for a reason: men tend to treat both patronizingly, rather than identifying with them.

Imagine you had just had your invention create a picture of a black hole, you wrote the paper where you were the first author describing this and then the press came knocking: would you be as gracious as she has been? Or would you feel like the fucking rockstar you would, in fact, be?


I think there is a misconception here.

Dr. Bouman is a talented, enthusiastic and no doubt indispensable force on the larger team responsible for this achievement. Her role is as a co-lead for one small team which is responsible for one algorithm (out of four) used for imaging, as well as for an imagine verification algorithm (with Dr. Bouman's focus more on the latter). The larger imaging group (about 45 people by my rough count, led by Drs. Michael Johnson and Kazunori Akiyama) is itself one part of the analysis group, which has three other working groups, and then the analysis group is one of a half dozen larger groups in the EHT project which produced this result.

So it's not a case of the project lead being presented as the face of the project, which is par for the course in academia (and the outside world). It is a postdoc one level above the grad students who form the least-senior rung of the project, and many levels from the top suddenly being misleadingly presented as the key figure in a major result.

Imagine you worked on a small team of a couple of postdocs and a few grad students near the bottom of a hierarchy of teams involving hundreds of people, and then came in one day and your colleague and co-lead at the same level as you was suddenly presented as the face and key contributor for not only your small slice of things, not even the larger component to which the slice belongs, but the entire project?

You'd probably be pretty happy for them, but also confused as to why the many people with the actual role as overall group leaders or the project leaders aren't mentioned. One might also note how distant the general public is from the machinations of the academic world that no one is asking how a 20-something CS postdoc ended up leading a multinational astronomy project involving top faculty from top institutions? In terms of notability and improbability, that would probably be a bigger story than any image produced by the group!

Explaining her actual position and contribution is not in any way to detract from her contributions: only to clarify the record in the face of an onslaught of misleading media articles, which seemed to largely sourced (transitively) from a few misleading tweets, themselves triggered by a viral image.

On top of that, none of this is doing Dr. Bouman any favors. Although they are mostly silent, no one in the EHT project is confused about her role, and none of the other people in her faculty or almost anyone else who matters will be under any misconception despite the headlines. If anything, academia is even more picky than other fields when it comes to attribution, so any type of misplaced credit can be viewed very negatively and can attach itself to a person indefinitely. Now she hasn't invited this or propagated this story, so one should consider her a blameless victim here: but not everyone in a position to care will necessarily remember that subtlety.


Are you personally involved with the project? I'm curious about the motivation to write (via a throwaway account) a massive thesis debunking the supposedly excessive contribution given to someone who you also refer to as a "no doubt indispensable force".



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