Unattractive Scientists Are Viewed As Dull But Talented
Scientists have to be able to effectively communicate their findings to the public. It advances their careers, and makes sure a paper called "Experimental Liver Cancer Treatment In Rodents Produces Potential For Further Research" doesn't get reported by CNN as "Scientists Cure Cancer In Mice, Human Cure For All Cancers Ever Soon To Follow!" But most people aren't scientists, so how can we tell which ones are good at their jobs and which seemingly are just working to prove a link between climate change and the decline of ska? Well, we usually can't, so we judge them based on their looks.
A 2017 study found that people are more likely to be interested in research performed by scientists who are deemed "competent, moral, and attractive." So Dr. Honey Goodbody, who looks like she just stepped out of a Bond movie, will draw more interest than the wizened hunchback Dr. Cornelius Coughsalot, even if the former is looking into aardvark arthritis while the latter has a $500,000 grant to study why it feels good to eat ice cream and hug puppies.
Where it gets weirder is that when judging "good" science rather than "interesting" science, there's a bias toward "less sociable and more physically unattractive individuals." We like the hot scientists, but assume that deep down, they're maybe a little ditzy. Again, these judgments are being made by people who aren't scientists. They have no real idea what "good" science is. We just want our science to be taught to us by hot people, even as we believe that the scientists who fit the stereotype of a socially awkward troll unfit for the camera are doing the real work. Sure, they might one day cure ALS, but Christ, we don't want to look at them.
Gheorghiu, Callan, Skylark/PNASThey never outright say they're studying why no one on the research team can get a date, but it's pretty clear between the lines.