“How does one promote women researchers in academia”? It is exactly ten years now since the German Chancellor Dr Angela Merkel asked this question. The occasion was the official launch of AcademiaNet, the database set up in 2010 by the Robert Bosch Stiftung in collaboration with the publishing house Spektrum der Wissenschaft. Their aim was, and still is, to make women in research more visible and increase the share of women in academic leadership positions. “I myself enjoyed working as a physicist,” Merkel said in her speech, but added: “The statistics show: there is still a lot to do.”
AcademiaNet started with 500 profiles of women scientists from German-speaking countries. Today the database consists of nearly 3,000 profiles of researchers from 44 countries. Applying stringent criteria, more than 40 European science organisations nominate women researchers for AcademiaNet. The nomination process ensures that women who are at the top of their discipline are included in the database.
“AcademiaNet shows that there are excellent women researchers in every discipline. Given that there are 3,000 profiles, nobody can claim that they weren’t able to find any women for a panel and that’s why they have invited only men,” says Laura Lots, the project manager for AcademiaNet at the Swiss National Science Foundation, which has hosted the platform since the beginning of 2020. “Many of ‘our’ scientists have told us that AcademiaNet had helped them to advance their careers. For example, a woman researcher gained a professorship at the University of Bern after being contacted as a candidate via AcademiaNet,” Laura Lots says.
AcademiaNet’s jubilee year will be celebrated online from November 2020 to November 2021. Under the hashtag #10yearsAcademiaNet, researchers and senior administrators at European science organisations will look back on the success stories that AcademiaNet has helped to create. In December, representatives of partner organisations and women researchers will come together to celebrate the jubilee and think of ways to increase the database’s appeal in the future.
The SNSF is developing AcademiaNet together with partner organisations across Europe and Spektrum der Wissenschaft. The plan is to expand networking opportunities. In the past ten years, AcademiaNet clubs where women can build networks have been founded at 20 university towns, including Cambridge, Vienna and Brussels. In addition, plans are afoot to further internationalise the platform. “By the time we celebrate AcademiaNet’s 15th birthday in 2025, the database should contain the profiles of 5,500 outstanding women researchers,” says Laura Lots. (© AcademiaNet / Spektrum der Wissenschaft)