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PublISHED ON 07 May 2020

UpDATED ON 07 May 2020

Does the Swedish Research Council have a gender-equal assessment process?

The Swedish Research Council's gender equality observations have led to higher quality in the assessment process, says Sven Stafström, Director General. 2019 was the seventh time such observations were carried out at the meetings where research grant applications are assessed.

Photo by Max Ostrozhinskiy on Unsplash

The Swedish Research Council works continuously to increase gender equality within research, for example when allocating support to research and within our own application review organisation. One way is to let gender equality observers take part in the meetings where subject experts assess which researchers should be given support. The task of the observers is to monitor how the process works from a gender equality perspective.

“The gender equality observations have contributed to us having a more formalised process, with clearer guidelines for the assessment. The training courses we conduct with panel members have also increased awareness of gender equality. This has led to higher quality in our review process,” says Sven Stafström, Director General of the Swedish Research Council.

The most recent gender equality observations were conducted in 2019. At most of the 15 ‘review panel meetings’ observed, the roles and the group dynamics worked well in general.

At previous gender equality observations, the observers had noted that panel members sometimes brought up informal information about the applicants when assessing grant applications. All such discussions were now consistently stopped by the Swedish Research Council personnel or by the chair of the review panel.

Comments about a researcher’s independence also used to be made, in particular in relation to applications from women. Now, no such differences between genders were noted.

“The observations from 2019 show that we need to continue developing the assessment of applications. One factor we did identify is that there is a risk of reinforcing the current lack of gender equality in academia if researchers’ merits are given too much weight in the assessment of applications. We did also see that there could be a value in giving panel members the time to jointly reflect on the concepts of gender equality, objectivity and bias. This would clarify that there might be differences between individuals’ interpretation of these central concepts,” says Lisbeth Söderqvist, Senior Analyst at the Swedish Research Council.

PUBLISHED ON 07 May 2020

UpDATED ON 07 May 2020

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