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Hiring from a cognitively diverse pool

I really like this idea of hiring code validation specialists from the high-functioning end of the autism spectrum. Face it, most if not all scientists (astronomers) inhabit some position along the spectrum. We are good at doing repetitive tasks for long periods of time, we love telling people arcane facts, we can manipulate numbers and search for patterns quickly and efficiently. If these are some of the skills that we value in our field of science, why not specifically target people from a population that is diagnosed along these lines? 

Well, that's exactly what one start-up company is doing for code validation. A fun quote from the Slate article:
When they first started inviting me to come into the office, or to a drinks night they have every now and again, I would just kind of say, "You know, I'm kind of a little bit nervous because I’m kind of socially awkward," Leslie [one of the autism-spectrum employees] recounted. And [the boss] just kind of looked at me, and he was, like, "Mark, have you seen our team? Everyone’s socially awkward... Everyone’s a bunch of geeks, and they’re all very accepting and friendly."
I just hope we can say that everyone in astronomy is accepting and friendly when it comes time to do an article about how astronomy is harnessing the talent from among those on the autism spectrum. After all, it's not like we can deny that people on the spectrum exist among our ranks. Right?

Comments

Dee-Oh-Ehn said…
As a programmer, who definitely exhibits some of the "spectrum" attributes, I recognize the strengths of someone with those traits in various STEM professions, and while I know almost nothing about employment law, I have to wonder how hiring based on having those characteristics/diagnoses is any different than not hiring based on having those characteristics/diagnoses.

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