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Increasing Capacity for Implementing Gender Action Plans in Science

Periodic Report Summary - GENSET (Increasing Capacity for Implementing Gender Action Plans in Science)

The goal of the project was to develop practical ways in which gender knowledge and gender mainstreaming expertise can be incorporated within European science institutions in order to improve individual and collective capacity to increase women's participation in science, and address gender issues that impact on the quality of the scientific system. In this context, gender equality improvements are needed across five key areas: 1) assessment of people and work; 2) recruitment and retention; 3) science knowledge making; 4) research process; 5) science excellence value system.

The support actions implemented to date include production of the series of consensus seminars and it's key output in the form of the consensus report on the gender dimension in science produced by science leaders, and two out of the planned three capacity building workshops. The tree consensus seminars were convened over a period from March - June 2010. The methodology devised by GENSET with the assistance from Stef Steyaert and Mark Hongenaert, two experts in the field of participatory methods, was based on the model of consensus conferences, which are often used to reach a consensus view on an important issue where there is a diversity of opinion. In the traditional consensus conference, there is the 'lay panel' and the expert panel'. The task for the lay panel is to arrive at a consensus view, whilst seeking clarifications from the experts.

In the GENSET consensus seminars, the lay panel (not gender experts) was composed of 14 science leaders, at the top of their scientific careers, selected from across Europe. Their task was to discuss, deliberate and consult the extensive gender research evidence and scholarship in order to produce a set of practical recommendations for action that science institutions can take in order to improve gender equality within their organisations and in relation to scientific knowledge. The members of the Science Leaders Panel include: Simone Buitendijk, Concha Colomer, Daniela Corda, Anders Flodström, Anita Holdcroft, Jackie Hunter, Astrid James, Henrik Toft Jensen, Nick Kitchen, Curt Rice, Hanne Ronneberg, Martina Schraudner, Karen Sjørup, Rolf Tarrach.

Their consensus report, entitled Recommendations for Action on the Gender Dimension in Science, proposes 13 evidence-based actions across four core and interrelated areas of the gender equality strategy: science knowledge making, scientific human capital, organisation processes and procedures, and compliance with gender equality legislation and policies. In arriving at their conclusion, the Panel considered evidence from 120 research reports and consulted renowned gender experts, including Londa Schiebinger, Teresa Rees, Alison Woodward and Judith Glover. Their own accumulated and extensive experience and expertise of scientific research ensured that the recommendations reflect the circumstances of the scientific system. In a signing ceremony in Paris, the consensus report was presented by the Science Leaders Panel to the European Science Foundation and EUROSCIENCE, who are the Patrons of the GENSET project, as a symbolic passing of the ownership of the Consensus Recommendations from GENSET project to the scientific community.

The report was made public in July 2010, and is now available, together with all the research reports, and Briefing notes, which provide an overview of the main research results, on the GENSET website, www.genderinscience.org. In the vast body of gender knowledge, the Consensus Report holds a unique position, as a highly implementable and practical tool for institutions to use to devise gender equality actions that draw on the Recommendations made by science leaders for science leaders.

Targeted for GENSET support actions are 100 European science institutions, from across 10 different sectors (e.g. universities, research funding bodies, pan-European associations, science journals, etc.) and different geographic regions. 'Quality control' of the knowledge transfer activities is ensured through the involvement in GENSET of 22 international gender experts as well as eight European science strategy decision-makers. Their role also is to take part in a dialogue with science institutions so that there is a full understanding and appreciation of how gender and science interact and shape one another. The practical support actions provided through GENSET include three capacity building workshops, in which institutions and experts work together towards improvements in the way gender equality issues are addressed within organisations. The aim of these events is to provide opportunity for dialogue, discussion, sharing of experience, and exploration of how to develop institutional gender action plans. Participating organisations work directly with gender experts, and are provided with easy access to relevant research evidence, which, additionally, focuses on the specific themes of each workshop. Three areas have been chosen: science excellence, gender stereotypes, and recruitment and retention. Five organizations at each workshop are offered mentoring support from gender experts in order to help them address specific issues. Currently, following the two workshops that have taken place in March, there are 11 institutions receiving mentoring, and further 5-6 should be joining them in the reminder of the project after the third workshop.

The main support actions provided so far as part of dissemination activities have been two valorisation workshops, one in Poland and one in Ireland, which introduced the Consensus Report and identified key barriers to its implementation in those countries. The forthcoming Polish EU Presidency (second half of 2011) and of EUROSCIENCE's ESOF Dublin Science of City event in 2012, provided background for planning future collaborations on gender issues in science. Gender experts in Poland and in Ireland assisted Portia, providing local knowledge and organisational support. The theme of the Polish event was "Symposium on Gender and Research Excellence in Poland" and in Ireland "The role of gender in scientific enterprise".

Since the GENSET website was updated by including the materials from the Consensus Seminars in July 2010, nearly 5000 unique visitors viewed 20,000 pages. After March, materials for two Capacity Building Workshops have also been uploaded. The site is therefore a unique destination for practitioners and researchers considering mainstreaming gender as a dimension of quality in scientific system. Two thirds through the project, the network of stakeholder science institutions overshot the original target of 100 by 50%. Numerous discussions to identify possible new collaborations among institutions have taken place in order that the dialogue on gender in science includes the widest possible audience, and the results and lessons learnt from GENSET are built on after the project ends.

The most significant result in this context is the transformation of the project final conference that was to target 150 participants into a 1st European Gender Summit with 800 participants. The Gender Summit will take place on 8-9 November 2011 in Brussels. Details of the programme and the venue are available on http://www.gender-summit.eu. The event has already received the highest-level political and scientific patronage, including from European Parliament, through the offices of Vice President and Science and Technological Options Assessment committee, the Polish EU Presidency, European Science Foundation (ESF) and the European Cooperation in Science and Technology (COST). Some international 50 speakers will discuss the latest understanding in how addressing gender issues can improve research, make innovation more effective and create gender equality policies that benefit women as much as men.