By refusing to use the titles scientists have earned, news outlets contribute to the delegitimization of expertise. Some argue that using the term “Doctor” to describe an individual’s credentials is elitist. This is incorrect. Having a PhD or other terminal degree does not make one elitist; elitism is a behavior, based on how an expert acts or shares knowledge. (The general charge of elitism may come from people who feel insecure about their lack of expertise.) Besides, if someone with a PhD is elitist for using the term, why isn’t someone with an MD equally so?
The academic credential is particularly important in the case of women in science, as many face extra obstacles to success that most men don’t have to contend with. This year’s Nobel Prizes, for example, were awarded to two outstanding women in science: Dr. Donna Strickland, the first woman in 55 years to win the Nobel Prize in Physics and only the third woman in history to do so and Dr. Frances H. Arnold, a chemist who faced enormous personal obstacles to win science’s most prestigious award.