Interview

GenPort: the EU's Gender Portal

6. 4. 2016 | Project coordinator Jörg Müller explains why it's important to the EU Commission to pool and present the results from research projects on 'gender and science' that it helped to finance. GenPORT itself is funded under the Commission's 7th framework programme 'Science in Society'.
AcademiaNet: GenPort was established in 2013 – was there a 'trigger' to install it?

Jörg Müller
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Jörg Müller
Jörg Müller: GenPORT is a Coordinating and Support Action financed by the European Commission. It responds to the call to improve the overall dissemination of gender and science project results funded by the Commission over the past years. The portal should serve as a central repository that provides access to the accumulated knowledge regarding gender equality in science, technology and innovation. However, the original idea of our project was never to serve simply as an archive but to facilitate the circulation of this knowledge in ongoing debates and agendas throughout Europe and beyond.

What are GenPORT's aims? And have they changed in the last three years?

The objectives of GenPORT are threefold: first, we want to provide co-ordinated access to high quality research, policy and practical resources. Second, it is our aim to increase the visibility, accessibility and usability of these resources by classifying and organizing them according to the reported needs of targeted stakeholders. And last but not least, we think it is important to promote the exchange of experiences and collaboration between communities of practitioners, to keep this knowledge alive.

Naturally, our priorities have changed during the previous three years: whereas initially we were concerned about compiling the needs of a wide range of people working for gender equality in science, now we have finished the technical implementation and can concentrate on different engagement activities. We aim at building and supporting specific communities, for example people working in gender and medicine or gender and physics.

What has been done and achieved since 2013?

Obviously the main achievement is the portal itself, which will be launched on the 21st of April 2016. However, many activities were implemented in parallel. Since the start of the project, we have carried out for example an extensive 'user needs assessment' in order to learn about the services and functionalities that would be most useful to our users. We also carried out an extensive mapping of existing resources, including a compilation of all previously funded projects on gender and science by the European Commission. We put quite some effort in developing and validating a Gender & Science Taxonomy to classify our content. Hopefully, once translated, this scheme will help coordinate resources between similar sites across Europe.

Currently we are collaborating with the European Institute of Gender Equality EIGE in Wilna to see how our work fits into their broader gender equality glossary. I think, we also managed to build up a recognizable 'brand' of GenPORT as a place where everybody is invited to participate, contribute and share their work on gender equality in science. Last but not least, the Consortium assembled 25 policy briefs and six research synthesis on key topics of gender equality in science such as Education and Training, Academic and Science Careers, or Gender in Research Content and Knowledge Production amongst others.

Which GenPORT function is used the most, in your experience?

I guess the uploading of new resources and organizations is used most frequently, followed by the calendar functions. Most people just consult the information stored on the portal but do not become active. What we would like to promote much more is the 'relations' function, which allows you to indicate how things hang together: who participates in projects or organizes events, which reports have been produced by whom, who coordinates which projects, etc. Let me also add that the two e-discussions that we organized so far were quite successful experiences.

GenPORT is an international network: How does this work, and does it make cooperating more interesting, more challenging, more effective – or all of the above?

One of the needs we identified on the technical side of things is a common language that could be used to easily share resources across countries. Several sites on gender and science do exist in different countries, but their hosted content is not easily accessible beyond the national borders. At the same time there is a huge need for mutual learning where countries with a larger history of gender equality initiatives work together with those countries that are just starting. This concerns the implementation of gender equality plans for example, or the incorporation of a gender perspective into research funding decisions.

I think these international differences make cooperation more interesting but also more challenging because often a common language is missing. Understandings of 'gender' and 'sex' not only changed historically, it also differs between scientific disciplines, let alone countries and languages! We addressed this with the development of the Gender & Science Taxonomy which hopefully facilitates some of this exchange and mutual learning.

What are you planning to achieve until 2017, when the programme ends?

Principally, we aim to gather a critical mass of active users that help us to make GenPORT an interesting site to visit regularly. We also want researchers and gender equality practitioners to perceive the portal as an opportunity to disseminate their work to a larger, global public more easily. But first and foremost we're eager to make this portal sustainable. Although it is community sourced, continuous technical maintenance and editorial work is required. We've made a quite ambitious plan to invite key stakeholders to participate in this project and integrate GenPORT firmly into the support infrastructure for more gender equality in science and research.

Dear Mr. Müller, thank you very much for this interesting interview.

Interview: Susanne Dambeck
  (© AcademiaNet)

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