This section of the EPWS website is dedicated to different types of policy documents that rather than responding to current policy events, give an overview or analysis of specific issues relevant to the work of EPWS.
Some of you may remember when back in November 2007, EPWS sent out a news alert asking members for their experiences of good practices in terms of both attracting women to science careers and retaining them. As we told you at the time these good practices were to help Danish MEP Britta Thomsen in the drafting of an own-initiative report of the European Parliament on “Women and Science”. Since then the report has been drafted, discussed and amended culminating in the creation of European Parliament Resolution on Women and Science and adopted on 22nd May 2008.
The document EPWS drew up as a result of all the input and suggestions from members of examples of good practice has become a very popular document in it’s own right however. EPWS is always delighted to hear of more good practices to add to the list.
Background to the discussion
Excellence is considered to be the most important measure for a researcher’s work. The understanding of how to measure excellence, however, varies widely. On the one hand, researchers and policy-makers defend the current notion of excellence which upholds the idea that excellence can be measured on the basis of citation indices and the number of peer-reviewed journal articles that have been published. On the other hand, gender and diversity researchers in particular argue that excellence is always socially constructed, that any definition of excellence is based on meritocratic principles related to specific socio-cultural contexts, and that, accordingly, no universal and/or neutral system of measuring excellence exists.
As an issue of key importance to the current status of women researchers, therefore and with significant implications for the greater advancement of female scientists, over a year ago EPWS decided to take a closer look at this question of excellence. Through news alerts and with the help of an online questionnaire, EPWS started to collect the opinions of its members and interested parties to see how excellence is perceived in the research world. These responses were analysed and wherever possible where inserted in our Position Papers and in our responses to our Public Consultations. For example see our Position Paper on the European Institute of Technology and our Reply to the Consultation on the European Research Area. We also raised the issue of excellence in the numerous events we attended in the last year and when invited to speak at conferences or at public occasions we sought to highlight the issue and stimulate the debate.