The research sector, the Minister of Research and Education, and the KIF Committee agree that the committee’s work must continue. (Illustration: www.colourbox.no)

Intensify the effort!

The research sector is in unanimous agreement that the Committee for Gender Balance in Research should continue. The committee’s concluding report shows that there remain large areas in need of attention.

March 14, 2013

The report entitled Styrk satsingen. Videreføring av Kif-komiteens arbeid etter 2013 (“Intensify the effort. Continuing the KIF Committee’s work after 2013”) presents what the universities, university colleges and independent research institutes think about the activities of the Committee for Gender Balance in Research (the KIF Committee). The KIF Committee also states its wishes for future priority areas.

The research sector is in unanimous agreement that the KIF Committee should continue.

Minister of Education and Research Kristin Halvorsen also thinks that the KIF Committee has made a significant contribution to bringing attention to and improving gender balance in research. She made the following statement in response to the report.

“We still need more knowledge about the mechanisms that stand in the way of women’s participation and about how they can be counteracted. The measures on the KIF Committee’s list overlap with each other, and experience shows that we need to approach the problem from many different angles in order to succeed.”

Knowledge centre for the future?

The KIF Committee wants to ensure that its work is continued after 2013. The report presents input from the research sector about what is working well today and the sector’s future desires and needs, as well as the KIF Committee’s own recommendations for future efforts to promote gender equality in research.

The response shows that even though most of the committee’s work should continue as it does today, the research sector would also like to see its efforts be given a firmer foundation.

One recommendation is to establish an advisory resource centre or knowledge centre for gender equality in research. According to the input, a national centre could initiate research, statistics and documentation in the field. The research sector also recommends that tasks be centralized, such as national training in research management.

Useful watchdog

The committee should continue to be independent and focus on gender equality – this is the feedback from the universities, university colleges and independent research institutes.

The institutions believe that the KIF Committee’s on-site visits have an impact and create ripple effects throughout the entire institution. This monitoring role – the role of the “watchdog” – is valued by the institutions. The same applies to the committee’s role as national network-builder and as a political catalyst for change. In the sector’s view, it is important that the KIF Committee keeps up the pressure on institutions to continue their gender equality efforts. It also believes it is crucial that the secretariat plays an advisory role and that funding is available for seminars and networks.

The research sector also makes recommendations on new priorities, such as focusing on gender balance and gender equality throughout the entire educational cycle, not only in research. The feedback shows that the sector would like to see the KIF Committee give financial support to gender equality measures, organize more conferences and establish a more direct dialogue with political leaders.

Other new needs from the institutions are that the KIF Committee should work to place gender equality advisers in the institute sector and that the committee should establish, develop and operate academic networks for the underrepresented gender.

Gender perspective on innovation

In the report the KIF Committee points to innovation as an area that should receive greater attention, and reference is made to the new EU framework programme Horizon 2020, which begins in January 2014. The KIF Committee emphasizes that the innovation perspectives also encompass gender equality and gender, and it refers to a statement by Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, the EU Commissioner of Research, Innovation and Science:

Gender  balance in research and innovation is […] necessary if research is to become more innovative.


Elisabet Ljunggren, Senior Researcher at Nordland Research Institute and a member of the KIF Committee. (Photo: Ragnhild Fjellro)

“One thing is research that leads to innovation, and another thing is research on innovation. In both cases, it is necessary to have a gender perspective,” says Elisabet Ljunggren, Senior Researcher at the Nordland Research Institute and a member of the KIF Committee.

The report notes that Norway has several challenges related to gender and innovation. For example, a mid-term evaluation of the Centres for Research-based Innovation (SFI) from 2011 showed that 11 of the 14 SFI centres have gender equality challenges, and five of the centres did not have any women on their boards.

“Concept of innovation too narrow”

“If the leaders have not understood that half of the population represents an unutilized resource for expertise, and a large market at the same time, they will soon realize that society is not developing in a tenable manner. This applies to female-dominated as well as male-dominated fields,” says Erik Litborn.

Litborn is the director of VINNMER, a programme under the Swedish innovation agency VINNOVA. He thinks creative, productive organizations are characterized by a good combination of different competencies, cultures and experiences. The VINNMER programme has inspired the KIF Committee to make innovation one of its recommended priority areas. According to the report, Swedish research institutions have come to understand the significance of gender in innovation.

Elisabet Ljunggren emphasizes that innovation is multifaceted:

“The understanding of what innovation is – as in the white paper on innovation – is rather broad, but it is often operationalized in a narrow way. For instance, the number of patents is often used as a measure of innovation, but patents encompass only some types of innovation. They are also extremely gender-segregated – very few women hold patents. The reason is probably not that women are less innovative, but that their inventions cannot be patented to the same degree,” she says.

Another example is the Oslo manual which is used for innovation statistics. The manual does not include all types of innovations in all branches of industry.

“Because we use such a narrow definition of innovation, it is impossible to capture all the innovation taking place, such as innovation in the public sector, which Statistics Norway is now trying to develop statistical tools for,” says Ljunggren.

“Not only the sexy ones”

“My impression is that the health trusts have a traditional idea of what innovation is. For example, they focus a lot on developing tests and products that can be commercialized, while they look less at organizational innovation,” explains Ljunggren.

“Until recently, for example, Statistics Norway was not interested in measuring innovation in small businesses, but after the evaluation of the SkatteFUNN tax deduction scheme, it came to light that a great deal of innovation takes place in both small businesses and new business start-ups.”

“I’m now working with innovation in the tourism and adventure industries. These industries are practically excluded from innovation measurements, so the innovation taking place in these industries is not visible, but something new is happening all the time. These industries also have quite a few women both as business owners and as employees. But how does the renewal occur there?”

“We need to think: How do we make the entire business sector competitive? Not just those companies that are sexy. We can’t look only at industries that are traditionally innovative. We need to look at the entire sector!”

Gender equal mobility

According to the committee’s report, internationalization should also be viewed in a gender and gender equality perspective.

Who uses the funding that is offered? How do we in Norway deal with the fact that the world has come to us? How is gender equality challenged in a diversity perspective?


Erik Litborn, Director of the VINNMER programme/Mobility for growth. (Photo: Kristin Engh Førde)

These questions were raised at the workshop organized by the KIF Committee. We need knowledge about the gender effects of internationalization. This will be pioneering work, according to the committee.

Studies show that there are differences between female and male researchers with regard to research stays abroad, contact with international researchers and participation in cooperative projects. A time-use survey conducted by the Work Research Institute in 2012 shows that women participate less often in conferences, sit much less frequently on evaluation committees for doctoral theses, cooperate less with external colleagues on project funding applications and conduct far fewer peer reviews than men. Quite simply, female researchers are less involved in international research cooperation than male researchers. However, so far the KIF Committee had not had the resources to prioritize internationalization.

In “Intensify the effort”, the KIF Committee points out the importance of networks and experience across national borders in building a research career, and it notes that international mobility is a political objective in Norway. The KIF Committee believes there is room for improvement when it comes to career planning and career development for Norwegian researchers, and it writes in the report that it is important to have strategies that increase researcher mobility, including for women.

“Researchers must relocate”

Swedish VINNOVA’s “old” VINNMER programme is now being developed into a new programme, Mobility for growth, which puts more emphasis on mobility and internationalization, according to Erik Litborn.

“The programme’s most important objective is to give researchers better opportunities to increase their qualifications, and the strategy is that this will happen within the framework of a cooperative project,” he explains.

The researcher then receives funding from at least one other organization during the qualification process, in addition to the current employer.

“To achieve good qualifying opportunities and high quality, we believe that researchers must relocate and be physically present at the various organizations they are cooperating with,” says Litborn.

For this reason, the VINNMER programme provides grants to cover additional costs related primarily to mobility. This may include funding for accompanying family members, maintaining two residences and tuition fees. The grants have proven to be crucial to encouraging female researchers with families to go abroad to increase their qualifications.

The report “Intensify the effort” (in Norwegian only) can be downloaded from the fact box.

Translated by Connie Stultz.

Facts

Last year, all Norwegian universities, university colleges, independent research institutes and the Research Council of Norway were asked to give their input on the KIF Committee’s activities. They were also asked which tasks they wanted the committee to assume in order to facilitate the institutions’ efforts to improve the gender balance. Feedback was received in written form as well as through two workshops.

The KIF Committee’s report Styrk satsingen. Videreføring av Kif-komiteens arbeid etter 2013 (“Intensify the effort. Continuation of the KIF Committee’s work after 2013”) may be downloaded from the link below.

The KIF Committee’s recommendations for priority areas beginning in 2014 are:

  • Internationalization in a gender and gender equality perspective
  • Leadership remains a priority: leadership training in general and women in leadership in particular
  • Time for research during the workday
  • More knowledge about gender balance in research
  • Gender balance in education
  • Innovation
  • Gender perspectives in research

Read the report: Styrk satsingen. Videreføring av Kif-komiteens arbeid etter 2013 (in Norwegian only)

See The KIF Committee’s publications in English