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AQUACROSS interviews address gender equality in research

November 17, 2017


By Manuel Lago, AQUACROSS coordinator

This is the first of a series of blog posts introducing AQUACROSS, an EU Horizon 2020 research and innovation project sponsored by DG Research.


AQUACROSS seeks to advance the application of ecosystem-based management for aquatic ecosystems in an effort to support the EU 2020 Biodiversity Strategy and other international conservation targets. AQUACROSS aims to develop and test an assessment framework which considers the full array of interactions, including human activities, within aquatic ecosystems. The application of the framework is tested in eight case studies across Europe.

AQUACROSS is a truly transdisciplinary and interdisciplinary research effort. Work in the case studies is co-developed with local stakeholders, and need to address complex socio-ecological systems integrates numerous different research disciplines including marine and freshwater ecologists, environmental modellers and social scientists. The project has been running since June 2015 and it is expected to conclude at the end of 2018.

AQUACROSS interview series

We would like to thank the Freshwater Blog for giving us the opportunity to present AQUACROSS. Starting next week, a series of blog posts over the coming months will feature interviews with some of the researchers involved in the project with the aim of introducing different aspects of our work in more detail.

A total of 72 researchers from 16 different research institutions across Europe are involved in AQUACROSS. A selection of these researchers will introduce their diverse research topics and motivations in interviews on the blog.

AQUACROSS and gender equality

We would like to use this opportunity to contribute towards the movement of raising awareness for gender equality. In the field of scientific research, for example. the statistics are well-known. According to a 2015 EU report, only around a third of researchers in the EU, and 20% of the heads of higher education institutions in Europe, are female. This is despite the fact that (according to the same data), 59% of undergraduate degrees went to women, while 46% of PhD graduates are female.

In the field of ecology, where around 70% of the scientific articles are led by men, new evidence (see here and here) suggests that there exists a significant bias in favour of male-led research. So not only there are fewer female ecologists publishing fewer papers in relation to male colleagues; controversially, women’s research is also perceived by their peers as to be of lower quality, according to a recent article by Corey J. A. Bradshaw and Franck Courchamp. The clear message is that, despite widespread progress on the issue, further promotion of the work of female researchers is urgently needed.

In this context, gender equality is one of the priorities of a “Reinforced European Research Area Partnership for Excellence and Growth” (ERA). The European Commission’s actions specifically call for the removal of barriers to the recruitment, retention and career progression of female researchers. Further specific actions also address issues of gender balance in decision-making and research programmes.

Under Horizon 2020, gender equality is a mainstreamed cross-cutting ambition promoting a more integrated approach to research and innovation. This means in practice that grant beneficiaries in H2020 projects are committed to promote equal opportunities and a balanced participation of women and men at all levels in research and innovation teams and in management structures. Specifically in AQUACROSS, gender balance translates into a proportion of 37 female and 35 male researchers working on the project.



The women featured in this AQUACROSS interview blog series will share their common passion for aquatic biodiversity and conservation, their motivations to advance scientific knowledge, and their stellar achievements on this path.

Ultimately, in outstanding research there are no genders. We as researchers share a passion for providing answers and transferring our science to others, with the pledge to leave behind a better world than the one we found. The featured interviews in this blog series will showcase the progress that these AQUACROSS researchers are carrying out towards this goal.

Read the interviews here:


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