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LIBRA at ESOF2018 in Toulouse

19 Sep 2018

LIBRA organised a panel discussion at the European Science Open Forum with the objective to share our experience in changing institutions towards gender equality. The title was Gender inclusiveness: changing cultures, mind-sets and the design of research structures in life sciences. The session was organised in close collaboration with the coordinator of EU-LIFE Marta Agostinho and Stephane Berghmans, Vice President of Academic & Research Relations at Elsevier.

We started with the question why Gender Equality in research still needs to be discussed, and why equality is not achieved until today. Stephane depictured the current gender landscape in research, drawing upon the recent Elsevier report, Gender in the Global Research Landscape. Key findings on research performance, including output, impact, collaboration, and mobility, were presented through a gender lens across Europe (see infographic). For example, women tend to have the same or a slightly higher share than men of interdisciplinary research across all comparators. However, for all comparators, women’s scholarly output is less likely to result from international collaboration than men’s are. 

The second part of the session gave insights into how LIBRA supported participating research centres to achieve a cultural change towards Gender Equality. Sonja Reiland, the project manager of LIBRA, highlighted that LIBRA is much more than a project. The urgency to work on the Gender domain collaboratively grew naturally inside the EU-LIFE and the members institutes took the opportunity of the H2020 GERI-2014-2015 call, which also allowed  to involve a gender expert organisation ASDO. Implementing the ambitious project generated strong trust amongst partners and LIBRA became a community of practice that will not dissolve once the project is over in April 2019, but will continue under the umbrella of EU-LIFE (link).


Following this short introduction about LIBRA, Michael Wakelam, scientific director of The Babraham Institute, Cambridge UK and Genevieve Almouzni, scientific director of the Institut Curie, Paris, France presented their institute’s specific case of embedding gender equality in the culture of a life-science research institute. The two cases show that the context of an institute can vary strongly, suggesting that needs and opportunities have to be identified thoroughly thorough a gender equality audit.

Examples of work life balance support at The Babraham Institute, obviously benefitting for men and women:



History of successful and recognized women researcher at Institut Curie and the current research culture:

Following up on the presented cases the chair of the session, Marta Agostinho the EU-LIFE coordinator, opened the floor to the audience and engaged participants into a discussion.

What was the discussion about?

  • We all need to work together from different disciplines, since we all have the same issue.
  • How to facilitate the need for mobility in scientific career; the issue of dual career couples
  • Comments related to work life balance, and barriers for women such as the mental burden; the relevance of having a partner and how much the burden is shared (not helping, but sharing the burden)

The panellists were also asked which topics they will tackle in future to further improve Gender Equality in their institutions. Here their answers:

  • Tackle more unconscious bias
  • Sexual harassment
  • The broader view of harassment, not being aware that we are harassing
  • Not only gender but also inclusiveness for different race and culture??

Who was in the audience? (Probably not complete)

  • Research managers, former researchers
  • Nature journalist
  • URI officers
  • Managing director of CEITEC
  • PhD students
  • Communication officer from Elsevier
  • Head of department at Elsevier
  • Head of a learned society and professor at university in the US
  • Dancer
  • Employee from computer science company


LIBRA thanks the panellists and the chair of the session for their collaboration.