Research with numbers and water: Do we have a gender dimension?

In November 2019, the TRR 181 and the Cluster of Excellence CLICCS were proud to host Prof. Londa Schiebinger (Stanford University), the leading expert on gender and science, in Hamburg. One of the first results: No, we do not have a gender dimension in research, but does that mean we cannot think about it?

On Thursday, November 21, we started with a workshop for our current and future project leaders about the gender dimension in science. Prof. Schiebinger distinguishes between three levels of gender dimensions: 1. Fix the numbers of women, 2. fix the institutions and 3. Fix the knowledge. Her work focuses on the third dimension: How is gender influencing science and where do we have to watch out for this? Prof. Schiebinger started the workshop presenting her work on “Gendered Innovations” by providing the participants with some inspirational material for the following task: Does our very theoretical work have a gender dimension? The participants got together in two groups to discuss possible situations and areas were gender could have an impact on their research. First skeptical, the groups did came up with some ideas: Is it important to note if a male or female is taking or handling water samples? Does it matter if you tag male or female seals for measurements underneath the sea ice? An interesting discussion started that got everybody thinking. In the end, we now know that most of our work does not have a gender dimension, but it was an interesting task to understand just how important gender is. Some of the ideas got Prof. Schiebinger very excited and might lead to future collaborations with our project. In the evening, Prof. Schiebinger held an evening lecture about “Gendered Innovations” to a university-wide audience.

On Friday, November 22, we repeated the Thursday workshop but with a broader audience of PhDs and Postdocs from all disciplines. Participants included geographers, neuroscientists, biomechanics, historians and IT-developers. The task done the day before showed that in other areas gender of the research subject or the researcher has a clear impact on the work done. The feedback of this workshop was overwhelmingly positive and we were showered with thanks for the organization. This was also the feedback for the Q&A with Prof. Schiebinger after the workshop. Participants could ask her questions about her career or opinion on gender issues. It was a very lively discussion and some of the participants networked afterwards to exchange further information or ideas on gender in science.

We like to thank Prof. Schiebinger again for her visit and her thought-provoking research.