Interview of the Month: IFZ (08/2019)

Every month, for you, EPWS presents the characteristics and activities of one Member Association.

Read all the previous Interviews with our Members here

Our member for July is the Austrian association IFZ

Anita Thaler. Photo: Young Science

For IFZ – Interdisciplinary Research Centre for Technology, Work and Culture, Dr. Anita Thaler, senior researcher at IFZ and head of the research unit “Women* – Technology – Environment” has accepted to answer the EPWS questionnaire.

Contact this association: office@ifz.at

Contact this member: anita.thaler@ifz.at

Association website: www.ifz.at

EPWS: If you wanted to describe your association in one sentence, what would you say?

With its research IFZ contributes to socially and environmentally sound, sustainable and gender-equitable science and technology.

EPWS: What are the objectives of your association?

We want to do research for a change! We research in multi- and transdisciplinary teams, involve users and stakeholders in the research process, whenever it is possible, integrate research and consultation, initiate social and institutional learning processes, produce meaningful research outcomes with practical relevance with focus on implementation and policy advice, and we are active in science communication.

Anita Thaler with co authors at book presentation 2017

EPWS: What is the history of IFZ, in a few words?

IFZ was founded 1988 by a group of young researchers and students who met at Technical University in Graz and were united by their wish to complement scientific and technological degree courses by social studies and humanities, to aim at educating the next generation of responsible scientists and engineers. This responsibility comprises ethical, environmental, and especially feminist discourses, from the very beginning here at IFZ.

Anita Thaler and Jennifer Dahmen Adkins at their key note speech_STS conference 2017

EPWS: Could you explain the organisation of your association?

The Interdisciplinary Research Centre for Technology, Work and Culture (IFZ) is a registered, non-profit scientific association, mainly financed through research contracts. Our clients and partners include governmental bodies at municipal, provincial, federal and international level along with research institutions and companies. There is a close cooperation between the association IFZ and the Graz University of Technology.

EPWS: What are its recent achievements?

We have several research pillars, which are all following the idea of responsible research, sustainability and social justice. However, a main focus has always been gender in teaching, publication and research:

– IFZ members are regularly teaching gender and sustainability lectures in Graz and Klagenfurt University. This upcoming autumn Sandra Karner and Anita Thaler will give a course on “Practical competencies for gender experts: Fostering gender equality in organizations by means of EU projects”.

– Anita Thaler published a book with Jennifer Dahmen-Adkins (from RWTH Germany), where renowned gender scholars from Austria, Germany and the US wrote about how to reach “Social gender Justice” (the book is accessible publicly: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/316830144_Soziale_Geschlechtergerechtigkeit_in_Wissenschaft_und_Forschung).

And very importantly, last year, IFZ has been awarded with the coordination of a Horizon 2020 project financed by the European Commission called “CHANGE – CHAlleNging Gender (In)Equality in science and research” (https://www.change-h2020.eu):

– In this project we support research and higher education organisations from five countries in Europe and Israel to implement gender equality plans in their institutions.

– We could win high level managers in all these organisations to act as “Transfer Agents”, which means that they are using their authorities to support women’s careers in science and research, overcome barriers, and work towards more gender balanced decision bodies.

– And we do not stop at our own organisations, we already began to network with other research performing and also funding organisations in our regions, to build “Communities of Practices”. As one very successful starting point we organised a session of 11 presentations about similar initiatives (“sister projects”) at our annual conference on “Science, Technology and Society Studies” here in Graz (see more here: https://www.change-h2020.eu/news.php?id=change_067).

EPWS: What is your agenda for the coming months?

In October we will meet our colleagues from the CHANGE project in Piran, Slovenia, this time with all transfer agents, two of our esteemed advisors and an expert from a funding organisation in Austria. The aim is to take a look at how we can integrate gender as a topic in our research and receive funding with this gender research. One of our strategies is to convince researchers that gender is not just a social justice topic, but it actually can increase the quality of research, by reflecting gender and diversity issues and producing more robust knowledge. In one of our other projects at IFZ (“VITAPATCH”), we precisely do that: we work closely with physicists and medicine technology teams and help them include a diverse user-perspective from the beginning of the research and innovation process.

EPWS: Are you collaborating with other EPWS members?

Yes, absolutely. IFZ has begun almost 20 years ago with its first gender projects financed by the European Commission and we built a network of gender colleagues and women scientists, many of them are active members of EPWS. We are very thankful for this strong relationship!

EPWS: What do you expect from EPWS? In what ways can it help you develop your action?

EPWS is a very important network, which provides and shares information on a European level, and it is always crucial for us to be well informed about upcoming activities and policy changes.

A part of the IFZ colleagues at a team workshop.