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Ambassadors for women and science - Use of best practice instruments to strengthen women in research

Final Report Summary - PALLAS ATHENE (Ambassadors for women and science - Use of best practice instruments to strengthen women in research)

The call for 'Ambassadors for women and science' in the Sixth Framework Programme represented a new and promising instrument to establish policies favourable to female researchers. Its objectives were to stimulate the participation of women in science and technology and to prepare them for leading positions in science organisations. At the start there were nine, then around 20 ambassadors (excellent female researchers) who took part in this project. The ambassadors contributed as role models to the empowerment of women in science. They used best practice instruments which were already established or were especially inaugurated for the project.

Several facts are identified as being causes for the under-representation of women in higher positions: the lack of role models, a working culture which is nearly exclusively embossed by men and an unassertive integration of the gender dimension in EU-funded research. The fact that gender action plans are no longer required in grant applications makes projects like PALLAS ATHENE even more important.

One major instrument carried out in the project was science goes public (SGP), inaugurated and carried out successfully by the Deutsches Krebsforschungs-zentrum (DKFZ) in the years 2001 - 2003 together with the Pädagogische Hochschule Heidelberg. In SGP, the ambassadors presented their research findings to the public. Since this tool wants to arouse interest for science in the public and in young people, SGP worked together with schools, universities and teacher training institutes. One of these, the Pädagogische Hochschule Heidelberg, was subcontractor of the DKFZ. By way of acquiring the scientific background of the ambassadors' research findings, the students and pupils developed sketches and scenes, thus transforming the highly complex scientific subjects into generally understandable matter. The tool Science goes public was adopted by two further Centres of the Helmholtz-Association, namely the Alfred Wegener Institut für Polar- und Meeresforschung (AWI) and the Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt (DLR). In the years 2006 and 2007, SGP was carried out five times in each of these three centres.

The Deutsches Elektronen Synchrotron in Hamburg (DESY), the Institut für Plasmaphysik in Garching (IPP) and the Forschungszentrum für Umwelt und Gesundheit (GSF) were carrying out three other measures: physik.begreifen (DESY), 'kidsbits' (IPP) and 'Women in science - science for women' (GSF), the latter instrument being especially invented for PALLAS ATHENE. It placed special emphasis on the information of stakeholders such as policy-makers, media, Bavarian government, ministry of health etc.

The final aims of PALLAS ATHENE were to overcome the under-representation of women in scientific careers especially in higher positions, and to arouse the interest of the public and of younger people for science. After the two years of the project, female scientists in the six centres of the Helmholtz-Association taking part in the project PALLAS ATHENE are found in fact in higher numbers. Of course, the consortium is aware of the fact that the success of the project is difficult to measure, since e.g. 'awareness of the public' and 'empowerment of women' are not expressed by mere figures. However, it may be stated, that the measures taken aroused the interest of the public, as demonstrated in many articles, press releases etc.

Moreover, discussions and exchange of experiences concerning gender equality were promoted and are going on. Several presentations were offered in the DKFZ, e.g. a talk of the coordinator on the goals of PALLAS ATHENE, invited by the Deutsche Akademikerinnen Bund (DAB) on 29 September 2006. Discussion rounds at DKFZ on gender equality and specific measures to strengthen women in science have been established, thus disseminating the aims of the project. A poster on the project PALLAS ATHENE was presented at the conference 'Exzellenz in Wissenschaft und Forschung - neue Wege in der Gleichstellungspolitik' of the Wissenschaftsrat at 28-29 November 2006 in Cologne.

The ambassadors were invited to the conference 'Women in science and technology' in Vienna, 15-16 May 2006. There ambassadors were interviewed by EU-Commissioner J. Potocnik. Shortly before the end of the project, the final event of the project took place on 20 September 2007 in the Spree-Palais, the residence of the Helmholtz-Association. It had the title 'Art in science in art'.

The project wants to draw the attention of the Helmholtz-Association centre heads and of the public to the scientists represented by the ambassadors, that they be installed in leading positions.

In October 2007 the coordinator and three other members of the consortium: Eva Viehoff (AWI), Ulrike Rachow (DLR) and Allmut Hörmann (GSF) had a meeting with Professor Mlynek, the president of the Helmholtz-Association. There Barbara Bertram presented the aims and scopes of PALLAS ATHENE.

Another goal of PALLAS ATHENE, described in the concept for research to accompany the project (Begleitforschung), is to contribute to teacher training in natural sciences. The subprojects 'Science goes public' and 'Grasp physics' do especially address and are working together with schools and teacher training institutes (Heidelberg University of Education and Faculty for Pedagogy, Psychology and kinesiology Hamburg University). In this context, the scientific design of PALLAS ATHENE tried to relate the punctual interventions in schools presenting events like e.g. 'Cigarettes tar the road to death - you're your decision for life and against smoking' with longer lasting measures in teacher training.

The objectives of the project PALLAS ATHENE were severalfold. At first the project was carried out in order to stimulate the participation of women in science and technology. Secondly, the project tried to arouse interest for natural sciences in young people and in the public. Thirdly, teacher students were involved in order to relate the punctual interventions of PALLAS ATHENE in schools with longer lasting measures in teacher training.

Excellent female scientists were involved in the project as 'Ambassadors for women and science'. They acted as role models for other women and for children encouraging them to go into science. Together with the teacher students they helped to implement higher education didactics and science policy in the curriculum of the students.

Finally, the ambassadors became 'visible' and some of them already reached a higher position in her respective centre.