It comes as known that some experimenters have died or suffered other ill effects because of consequences of their experiments, such as Marie Curie. What is the distribution by gender/sex of those who perform potentially hazardous experiments in academia? How does their compensation for their work in terms of salaries or other benefits compare to other academics who have less physically hazardous jobs?

I'd like research with supporting citations if available.

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    Do you mean experiments that are hazardous to the experimenter or to patients, subjects, and bystanders?
    – StrongBad
    Sep 28, 2014 at 21:03
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    "Potentially hazardous" is quite vague as pretty much everything a person ever does carries some risk of injury. Is there an accepted definition of this term, or one that you would like to propose? Sep 29, 2014 at 0:11
  • @StrongBad To the experimenter. Sep 29, 2014 at 0:28
  • @NateEldredge I think I'd prefer to leave that definition as open as a I can, especially since I haven't thought through what a hazard is before, and I don't know what is appropriate to the concerns of experimenters. However, if a definition is needed, I'll default to the Wikipedia entry on hazards for a definition en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hazard and emphasize, physical, biological, chemical, and radiation hazards. The Wikipedia suggests the SMUG model as relevant for prioritizing hazards... though I have no idea if that's appropriate to the concerns of experimenters. Sep 29, 2014 at 0:39

2 Answers 2


While I'm not aware of any research on employees exposed to safety risks in the academic workplace, there are statistics on actual workplace injuries in a variety of occupations, including scientific occupations. If the incidence of injury is uniform across gender among those exposed to safety risks (I don't know if it is), then you can take this as a proxy for the gender distribution of those exposed to risk in the scientific workplace.

In particular, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics collects information on workplace injuries, which you can query at will.

According to their statistics, here are the numbers of nonfatal occupational injuries involving days away from work among employees whose occupation is classified as "Life, Physical, and Social Science Occupations":

count of occupational injuries by gender

I was also interested in the ratio of the number of injuries to the number of thousands of people of each gender employed, again in "Life, Physical, and Social Science Occupations":

ratio of injuries to thousands employed by gender

Please visit the BLS website to learn more about how they collect these statistics and what they mean.

You can query their dataset yourself if you're interested in getting numbers specific to one area of science or another.

  • I'm curious what happened in 2012 ... Oct 23, 2018 at 20:33

Academia is unusual (in some countries possibly unique) in that it typically does not need to offer additional reward for exposure to hazards.

That's because of academia's fairly unusual characteristics: the people who expose themselves to the hazards are very well-informed about them, and uniquely positioned to mitigate them. And academia is not a profession that the unskilled and economically vulnerable are forced into by hardship: instead, it is very often an active choice.

In addition, several countries, including Britain, have pay structures that do not, and have never needed to, incorporate risk as part of compensation.

So, in Britain at least, there is no "danger money" or other compensation for exposure to risk: the market doesn't require it, and employees are far more empowered than most to handle the risks.

In terms of exposure by gender, STEM fields continue to have a problem with entrenched sexism (predominantly inherited from the 20th century), being very male-dominated at the top levels, where the power and money concentrates. Even today, STEM is still majority male at the level of undergraduate admissions in many countries at many universities: in Canada, the USA, Britain and globally, men dominate STEM subjects. And the risk exposure concentrates in STEM subjects- no physical risks in maths; but science, technology, engineering are where the physical risks concentrate; and those that expose themselves to them, do so with knowledge of what they are doing, and the ability to mitigate those risks.

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    "In terms of exposure by gender, STEM fields continue to have a problem with entrenched sexism (predominantly inherited from the 20th century), being very male-dominated at the top levels, where the power and money concentrates... but science, technology, engineering are where the physical risks concentrate" How many of those people got there by doing experiments which exposed them to potential hazards? How many of those people oversee experiments/experimenters who engage in potentially hazardous experiments which need safety precautions taken into account? Sep 28, 2014 at 12:53
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    Since students have gotten brought up here, I will mention that since 1988 women have gotten the majority of bachelors, since 1994 women have gotten the majority of masters, and since 2008 women have gotten the majority of doctorates in biology in the U.S. nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d13/tables/dt13_325.20.asp Also, since you've suggested that disparity indicates discrimination with your reference to the "top levels", does that mean that universities in the U. S. are sexist against male students in biology? Additionally, do many colleges require a declaration of major upon admission? Sep 29, 2014 at 0:25
  • Do dietetics and psychology fall under your definition of STEM fields? Sep 30, 2014 at 6:02
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    "STEM fields continue to have a problem with entrenched sexism" - Utter nonsense. The only sexism that exists, exists because some people like to assume that just because there are less females in a particular field, it must be that field is full of sexist individuals. No one ever says nursing is a sexist field against men. How sexist is the construction industry or garbage collection? I don't see hordes of females lining up for those jobs.
    – Keith
    Dec 1, 2014 at 14:02

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