Irish Research Council award figures demonstrate strong commitment to equal opportunities for female researchers

Posted: 27 June, 2016

In the wake of the Gender Review report launched by the Higher Education Authority, the Irish Research Council has published an update on progress on gender equality, including indicators of the positive impact to-date of its gender strategy and action plan.

Gender-blind assessment of funding awards

Amongst other findings, it shows how the introduction of gender-blind assessment for the Irish Research Council’s 2014 and 2015 calls for STEM postdoctoral schemes significantly increased the percentage of awards given to women: when the assessment was not anonymised in 2013, women represented only 35 per cent of awardees in comparison to 43 per cent of applicants.  After the applications were anonymised, the number of women receiving awards rose to 44 per cent in 2014 and 45 per cent in 2015.

Distribution by gender of early-stage and principal investigator research funding

The summary document published today also contains headline statistics on the distribution by gender of the Irish Research Council’s early-stage research funding awards from 2013 to 2015.  During this period, female researchers won:

  • 60 per cent of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences (AHSS) Government of Ireland postgraduate (GOI) awards.
  • 41 per cent of GOI Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) postgraduate awards.
  • 47 per cent of GOI AHSS postdoctoral awards.
  • 44 per cent of GOI STEM postdoctoral awards.
  • Female Principal Investigators won 55 per cent of 2013 research project awards and 47 per cent of 2015 research project awards.

Welcoming the publication of the Gender Review report today, Professor Jane Ohlmeyer, Chair of the Irish Research Council, said: “I think it is fair to say that the national gender review is among the most keenly anticipated publications in higher education and research for some time.

“As a research funder, the Irish Research Council is committed to playing its part in the implementation of the report’s recommendations, in doing so building on our work to date and contributing further to a research eco-system that cultivates excellence and equal opportunities regardless of gender.

“The Irish Research Council is leading on gender internationally, with many research funding agencies in Europe and beyond looking to the Council’s gender policies as a model of good practice that can be replicated locally. We were the first research funding agency in Ireland to publish a gender strategy, which aims to support gender equality in research careers across all disciplines and support the integration of sex and gender analysis into research content.

“We were also the first research funding agency to integrate the sex / gender dimension into applications to our funding programmes: since 2014, applicants for awards under our core programmes have been required to indicate if there is a sex or gender dimension to the research being proposed and how such dimensions will be appropriately addressed in the conduct of the research.”

Professor Ohlmeyer said that, in addition to gender-blinding of applications for evaluation so as to mitigate any gender bias in assessment, the Irish Research Council has also introduced gender balance in assessment panels for Council awards.  Since 2013, just under 60 per cent of Council panels have comprised a minimum of 40 per cent female representation.

Statement on dignity in the conduct of research

The Irish Research Council also launched its ‘Statement on Dignity in the Conduct of Research’ today, the first such statement to be issued by an Irish funding agency. The statement is designed to support the creation of a research system in which all researchers, regardless of gender, are able to reach their full potential at all stages of their career.

In the statement, the Irish Research Council emphasises that people are at the heart of research; that respect for the dignity of the individual is something that the entire research community has a responsibility to protect and promote; and that all researchers are entitled to carry out their work free from any form of harassment, victimisation, or bullying.

Going forward, the Statement on Dignity in the Conduct of Research will be integrated into all Council programmes.

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