Elsevier and European Commission collaborate to advance gender equality in science

Findings of report spark conversation about the story behind the data – and next steps

Elsevier CEO Ron Mobed (left) and Carlos Moedas, EU Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, discuss gender balance issues in research during Q&A session moderated by Cathy Smith.

Brussels — In a white paper on the future of Europe, European Commission President Jean Claude Juncker said that while more women than ever are working, achieving real gender equality requires breaking down persisting barriers across all sectors, and this certainly includes science.

As part of its ongoing commitment to enhancing gender equality in the European Research Area (ERA), the EU Council set in motion a range of measures, including providing incentives to research funding and performing organizations, supporting family-friendly working conditions and setting up targets and guidelines for better gender balance in decision-making bodies. This gender dimension is integrated across the core mission documents of the Horizon 2020 goals, but to track the progress of their initiatives, there was a need for data – a need that Elsevier’s recent Gender in the Global Research Landscape report helps to address.

Elsevier’s symposium for the EU launch of the report in Brussels May 12 brought together stakeholders from EU institutions, industry, academia and nonprofit organizations to discuss how findings can best inform policy and translate into action.

Elsevier CEO Ron Mobed gives the keynote address.“We have decided to take this report around the world as we don’t want it to sit on a shelf,” said Elsevier CEO Ron Mobed in his keynote address:

Just as important as having the data however, is to ask the right questions and to exercise caution against making sweeping judgements and drawing quick conclusions from what are incredibly complex datasets. The greatest value of the report is in fact to lay the foundation for further research and debate that will empower decision-makers and guide evidence-based policies that ensure all genders are fairly represented in science.

This evidence-based approach is crucial in solving societal issues, and Elsevier is in a unique position to support this by drawing upon its robust data and analytics expertise. In the case of this report, these capabilities were deployed using a specially developed gender disambiguation methodology that combined Scopus data (containing over 60 million scholarly records from 5,000+ publishers) with data sources providing information on first names and gender per country (Genderize.io, NamSor sociolinguistic analysis, and Wikipedia name lists).

Carlos Moedas, EU Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, speaks at the launch event for Elsevier's gender report.

Attending and presenting at the symposium, Dr. Carlos Moedas, EU Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, commended Elsevier for the “exceptional glimpse into the gender dimension of research” provided by the report, and stressed that equality was a task for everyone:

Elsevier has done their part with the Gender Report. I am delighted to see Elsevier actively engaged in promoting gender equal science; the report will help significantly in growing the complex data set needed to help inform policies.

With this, Dr. Moedas spoke about the European Commission’s own SHE Figures, which similarly track gender parity in research and innovation sectors. He concluded that “combined, both (reports) enrich the statistical support to the gender equality strategy in EU research and innovation policy” and that “gender equal science can after all only lead to better science”.

Dr. Stephane Berghmans, Elsevier's VP of Academic and Researcher Relations, EU, and a member of the Governing Board of Euroscience, presents key findings of the report.

While presenting key findings of the report, Dr. Stephane Berghmans, Elsevier’s VP for Academic and Researcher Relations, EU, pointed out that between 2011 and 2015, 41 percent of authors in the EU were women – up from 32 percent for the period between 1996 and 2000. But more progress is needed, he said:

Although the findings indicate that gender parity overall in research is improving, we still have a long way to go. Inequalities still remain, particularly around senior positions in academia, international researcher collaboration and academic-corporate collaboration.

For Portugal, one of the 12 comparator countries, data revealed some surprising results, particularly in regard to patents and innovation: 26 percent of innovators in Portugal are women, as are 30 percent of patent applicants. And like Brazil, Portugal is just 1 percent away from an equal proportion of women and men in research. Reasons behind this Portuguese success story are unclear, but participants at the symposium agreed that it warranted closer investigation.

Mobed believes that to tackle such persistent large-scale challenges, we must first understand the problems we are looking to solve:

Gender inequality is a complex issue for which there is no quick fix, and tackling it without data or evidence can make things worse. There is now a need to analyze what those figures mean and identify what problems still exist. The data shows what has happened but not how to get to next targets.

Dr. Vladimir Šucha, Director General of the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission, said the report forms a very good basis for policy thinking and shows there is a huge amount of work to be done, especially regarding leadership. Speaking on the panel moderated by Elizabeth Crossick, Head of EU Government Affairs at RELX Group, he said: “The clearness and intelligence with which Elsevier approached the report is impressive, and this is a breakthrough from a methodological point of view. If we can turn diversity into a positive asset rather than an obstacle, we can boost innovation.”

Panelists left to right: Eva Kaili, Rolf Tarrach, Shéhérazade Semsar-de Boisséson, Stephan Kuster, Johan Ten-Geuzendam, Vladimir Šucha and moderator Elizabeth Crossick.

Other speakers on the panel were Dr. Johan Ten Geuzendam, Director General for Justice in the European Commission; Dr. Eva Kaili, member of European Parliament and Chair of the European Parliament's Science and Technology Options Assessment body (STOA); Dr. Rolf Tarrach, President of the European University Association; Dr. Stephan Kuster, Acting Director of Science Europe; and Shéhérazade Semsar-de Boisséson, Managing Director of Politico Europe.

Moderator Elizabeth Crossick talks with panelist <a target="_blank" href="https://ec.europa.eu/jrc/en/person/vladim%C3%ADr-%C5%A1ucha">Vladimir Šucha</a>.Summarizing the main points of the panelists and audience, Crossick concluded:

While it is clear that the report forms a very good basis for policy thinking, a huge amount of work has still to be done. The bibliometric data are powerful, yet we in agreement that there is no silver bullet to solve gender equality. It’s never going to be a done job. Improvements will mean a change in mindset and decisions made by young graduates to reconcile work and family. Best practices must be shared, and questions around how to translate gender balance into the Commission’s 3 Os – Open Innovation, Open Science, Open to the World – remain.

Mobed concluded by talking about Elsevier’s plans to further support gender diversity.

As a global information analytics company we’re taking a lesson from our own playbook: ‘Have data, use data.’ We’re developing a tool for our publishing department which will run on an even more extensive dataset than we were able to put forward in this report. There is a pilot initiative to enhance gender diversity of our journal editorial boards. To support and help expand those efforts, the new tool will provide quantitative information to publishers about men and women researchers in all the fields our journals support.

Closing the event, he expressed gratitude that the topic – and the findings of in the report in particular – have generated so much interest. And he said Elsevier will continue to play a key role in bringing gender to the top of the agenda:

This report is a good benchmark, but we need to be able to underpin progress over the next five years with the data and evidence as well. I think this calls for a follow-up report using data from 2015 to 2020 to see what policy interventions have taken place and what the results look like.

Dr. Rolf Tarrach, President of the European University Association, speaks from the audience.

Focus on Germany

An upcoming Germany-specific gender report will build upon the work of Elsevier’s 2015 report Mapping Gender in the German Research Arena.

In 2016, the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) announced a tender for the development of a report that maps the state of gender diversity and inclusion in German higher education institutions in the context of the Joint Initiative of Research and Innovation.

Elsevier’s bid, with its analytical services and Scopus data, was assessed as the most valuable and feasible. BMBF will use the fact-focused report to inform decision-making around increasing gender diversity in German higher education and research institutions. The report is expected to be launched in the summer of 2017.

Key findings in the gender report

Download the Gender in the Global Research Landscape report.

  • From 2011-15, the proportion of women among researchers in the EU28 was 41 percent, similar to the UK, US, France and Denmark. This increased from 32 percent in 1996-2000.
  • In Portugal, the proportion of women was 49 percent from 2011-15 (up from 41 percent from 1996-2000).
  • In France, the proportion of women was 40 percent from 2011-2015 (up from 34 percent from 1996-2000).
  • Of the countries studied, the country with the largest percentage point increase in the proportion of women among researchers was Denmark (moving from 29 percent in 1996-2000 to 41 percent 2011-2015).
  • Among comparators and in the EU, women tend to publish slightly fewer papers than men on average; however their citation impact and download impact are similar to men’s.
  • Although the proportion of women among inventors in the EU is 12 percent, 19 percent of patent applications list a woman among their authors – a higher proportion than Australia, Japan and the UK.
  • Among comparators and in the EU, women seem to collaborate internationally less than men on papers: in the EU, 22 percent of their output result from international collaboration compared to 26 percent for men.
  • Among comparators and in the EU, women seem to collaborate across the academic and corporate sectors on papers at a slightly lower rate than men (4 percent vs 5 percent of their scholarly output in the EU).

A chart from the Gender Report: overview of proportion and number of researchers by gender (among named and gendered author profiles) for each comparator and period, 1996–2000 vs. 2011 –2015. Sources: Scopus, Genderize, NamSor, and Wikipedia.

Elsevier’s commitment to gender equality

  • Supporting early-career researchers: The Elsevier Foundation has awarded over $2.5 millioin in grants over the past 10 years to early-career women scientists in the developing world.
  • Combatting bias: Elsevier is working throughout the publishing chain to ensure it addresses issues such as unconscious bias in peer review in addition to gendered research and gender diversity in all parts of the publishing process.
  • EDGE certification for the workplace (Economic Dividends for Gender Equality): Last year, Elsevier earned EDGE Assess, the first level of certification which is the global standard for gender equality in the workplace, making it one of the first information service and technology companies in the world to be certified globally.
  • UN Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEP): RELX Group, Elsevier’s parent company, endorses the UN WEP, which offers practical guidance to business and the private sector on how to empower women in the workplace, marketplace and community.

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Written by

Sacha Boucherie

Written by

Sacha Boucherie

Sacha Boucherie is Senior Communications Manager at Elsevier, based in Amsterdam. She is responsible for external communications and PR for Elsevier’s Research Intelligence portfolio of technology solutions, including SciVal and Scopus, and works on developing stories for the government and corporate research communities. She holds a master's degree in social psychology from the University of Groningenin the Netherlands.


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