Australia’s leading funder of medical research, the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), is introducing a new quota from 2023 to improve gender equality. In his largest funding program, half of the funders will be women and non-binary people. The organization announced last week that this applies to applications from mid-career scientists and in management positions, but not to young researchers. First, “Nature” magazine reported.
The so-called “Detectives’ Scholarships” are designed for a period of five years and are awarded at 400,000 Australian dollars (about 250,000 euros) annually. Funding recipients can use them to fund their research and stipend.
According to the report, the NHMRC is responding with change to a study by two Melbourne researchers, which showed more men would benefit from this support program in 2021. They received 23 per cent more investigator grants than women. Then the funding agency had one own analysis In the past three years of funding, under which male applicants received about 35 percent more “Detective Scholarships” and 67 percent more funding than female applicants between 2019 and 2021.
In addition, the NHRC has identified a gender gap, particularly in its funding of accredited researchers. This is already made clear in the applications: in 2021, only 20 percent of applications in this professional group were women. The planned quota should now ensure parity with the hope that more established female researchers will then step in.
No quota for young women scientists
According to the funding organization, women are not underrepresented among researchers who are still in the beginning of their careers. At this point in their careers, they account for just over half of the applicants and recipients of Investigator Scholarships. Therefore, no quota is necessary for the award.
Anna Maria Arabia, executive director of the Australian Academy of Sciences, called the new quota a “game-changer”. It eliminates the grievance that in the past had led to a significant underrepresentation of women in senior positions. According to the report, the Director General of the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering, Kylie Walker, sees the plan as “an important step in the right direction”.
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