Monday, June 28, 2010

Err on the side of "Doctor"

DrugMonkey's post on academic titles reminded me of something I wanted to mention.

Photo by Cybertoad
When addressing someone in an academic context whose gender and/or academic ranking is unknown, it's generally best to err on the side of "Doctor". The worst that happens is you're wrong and they're flattered.

Recently a colleague (C1) invited another colleague (C2) to review a paper. C2 is a woman, and a postdoc. C1 is a male academic researcher. If one searches for C2's name, the first few hits clearly show that she has a PhD, and also that she appears to be a "she". But for some reason, C1 entered C2's information into the reviewing system as "Mr. C2 Lastname". C2 has spent a lot of time in a country which has a masculine culture, so she's probably not phased by this, but I find I am a bit. Why is "Mr." the default?

Another FCS and I were once in charge of allocating a small pot of money and advertised a call for applicants. Several applications we received were addressed, "Dear Sir". I just couldn't wrap my head around this. If we both didn't have photographs on our webpages (which both show us very much looking female) I could maybe excuse this error. But even still, the applicants could have written, "Dear Committee Members" or even just "Dear FCS1 and FCS2." Ah well... too bad about that funding. ;)

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