EC funds 'gender equality in science' study

Despite the grant of €1m for research into making science careers more attractive to women, the British Computer Society is pessimistic

The European Commission has granted funding to academic organisations for the study of how to encourage women to enter scientific professions.

Despite the Commission's funding grants, the British Computer Society (BCS) has said the outlook for EU science research is "very depressing" and that the EU has not allocated enough money to encourage women into IT. 

The EU programme "Practising gender equality in science" (PRAGES) will compare various strategies implemented in Europe and in countries including the US, Australia and Canada that have promoted the presence of women in public scientific research institutions' decision-making bodies.

For the PRAGES programme, €1m (£740,000) will be shared between various European academic institutions, including the Universities of Manchester and Cambridge in the UK, the European Commission announced on Friday.

The Commission has also granted €750,000 to a project entitled "Mind the gap" which will gather, exchange, develop and disseminate good practice in inquiry-based science teaching. The aim of the project is to encourage more young people, especially girls, into science and technology careers. Participating European institutions include Bristol University in the UK.

However, the British Computer Society said that European Commission funding does not go far enough to address the lack of people in Europe seeking IT careers.

Dr Mike Rodd, director of external relations for the BCS, told on Monday that the future for EU science research seemed "very depressing". While ICT research in Europe received increased funding last year, Rodd said that the Commission has not allocated enough specific funding to encourage women into ICT.

"The BCS can only offer a cautious welcome to this EU initiative to encourage careers in science and technology, as the proposed funding would seem to offer little more than damage limitation," said Rodd. "The continuing downward trend amongst young people, particularly women, in choosing to study for and to pursue careers in science and technology is at an all-time low."

Rodd said that the lack of people pursuing science and technology careers spells real danger for the long-term global economic position of the UK and the rest of Europe.

"Unless greater focus and funding is forthcoming, the long-term future for the EU science research programme looks very depressing, especially as this will also impact across much of its industrial and manufacturing base," said Rodd.

The Commission granted €9bn for European research into IT in November last year. However, in December, auditors found that the Commission had inadequate measures in place to evaluate programme outcomes.


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