Officials at the world's largest particle accelerator on Monday suspended an Italian physicist pending an investigation into a lecture in which he suggested physics was "built by men" and accused women of demanding specialist jobs without suitable qualifications.
The presentation by Alessandro Strumia of Pisa University was delivered Friday at the Geneva lab during a workshop on the relationship between high energy theory and gender.
The presentation -- which includes various slides, charts and graphs -- appears to claim that men face discrimination in the field of physics.
One pictorial series suggests that women line up to take gender studies and then later protest over a lack of jobs in stem fields, an umbrella term that covers areas like chemistry and engineering.
"Physics invented and built by men, it's not by invitation," one slide says.
"CERN considers the presentation delivered by an invited scientist during a workshop on High Energy Theory and Gender as highly offensive," the lab said in a statement.
"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."
In a second statement, the lab said it had "suspended the scientist from any activity at CERN with immediate effect, pending investigation into last week's event."
In a phone interview with The Associated Press, Strumia said he wanted to debunk what he insists was a misconception, and said he doesn't believe men are better than women in physics.
"This workshop was continuously telling (saying): 'men are bad, men are sexist, they discriminate against us' — lots of things like this," he said. "I did a check to see if this was true ... and the result was: That was not true."
"There is a political group that wants women, and other people, to believe that they are victims," he said. Noting the suspension, Strumia lashed out at the Geneva center, but expressed hope that it would come around to his way of thinking.
"I believe CERN is making a mistake," he said. "They suspended me because it's true ... and it's contrary to the political line. And I hope CERN will at some point understand. I hope this is just the first self-preservation instinct."
"Somebody had to speak," he said.
Laura Covi, who studies cosmology at Georg-August University in Goettingen, Germany and was at the Friday seminar, said Strumia's comments didn't go over well.
"He was claiming that some of the positions women were getting, they're getting positions with fewer (journal) citations than men," she said. "I'm not so sure his thesis was supported by the data."
Covi acknowledged that some of the world's most eminent physicists have been men, but said that was "mostly a historical bias" since men have been able to study physics longer than women.
She also disputed that citations are an indicator of quality and said it wasn't her experience that female physicists were able to land jobs with fewer journal publications than men.
Covi said Strumia has frequently made provocative comments in the past and said after his presentation, he was challenged by many at the seminar — so much so that the chair had to abruptly end the session when it ran overtime.
"People were upset by what he was saying. And then he later started to make statements that were completely unscientific," she said, declining to elaborate.
"I don't think he represents the majority view," Covi said. "There were a few men who were there but they didn't support his view."
CERN, the French acronym for the European Centre for Nuclear Research, is for the first time being led by a female director general: Fabiola Gianotti, an Italian expert in experimental particle physics, took charge in 2016.
The lab has said that despite efforts to close its own gender gap, women still account for less than 20 percent of staff.
Please click to read our informative text prepared pursuant to the Law on the Protection of Personal Data No. 6698 and to get information about the cookies used on our website in accordance with the relevant legislation.
6698 sayılı Kişisel Verilerin Korunması Kanunu uyarınca hazırlanmış aydınlatma metnimizi okumak ve sitemizde ilgili mevzuata uygun olarak kullanılan çerezlerle ilgili bilgi almak için lütfen tıklayınız.