Realizing that the low representation of women in science and engineering is a major hindrance to global capacity building in science and technology, the IAC formed an Advisory Panel on Women for science with the mandate to review previous studies, provide examples of effective projects already implemented, and issue a set of actionable recommendations addressed particularly to the world’s science and engineering academies.
The recommendations and action items developed through the work of this Panel are presented in this report and are grouped around three themes:
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The world’s science and engineering academies are well placed to facilitate the transfer of technology from developed to developing countries—in part through the academies’ advocacy of research institutes and knowledge centres and in part through fostering science literacy and technological competence among grassroots people. In fulfilling this important role, the academies should keep outreach to women particularly in mind, focusing on the key role that women scientists and engineers must play in the effective transfer of knowledge from research institutes to women at the grassroots.
Indian Academy of Sciences, for example, is already active in this area through its work in Mission 2007, which aims to enlist one million S&T workers as master trainers. Meanwhile, a complementary priority is to build the audience, thereby expanding the number of grassroots people who acquire new knowledge and learn to put it to practical use. Thus Mission 2007, in collaboration with a national alliance called Every Village a Knowledge Centre, aims to set up an actual or virtual knowledge centre in practically every one of the country’s 600,000 rural villages through the integrated use of Internet, cable television, radio, and print media (www.mssrf.org).
In such pursuits, it is clear that academies sometimes need to leave their comfort zones and exert leadership in making science accessible and engaging to the general public, women and men alike. In so doing, they take their events and programmes out into the field —into communities that may well be remote —rather than limit their venues to university campuses or research facilities.
Public engagement programmes, in addition to transferring knowledge of S&T developments in order to improve quality of life, also enable the full cross-section of society to be involved in the social and ethical discussions that lead to better-informed policy. And, last but not least, such programmes raise awareness of the opportunities of working in science and technology. Consistent with the thesis of this report, moreover, public engagement in S&T activities are needed so that the interest of women can be gained; so that they can appreciate the scope and benefits of science and technology; and so that they may share their interest, appreciation, and knowledge with their children and neighbours.
The IAC and IAP are uniquely positioned to stimulate the interest of the S&T community’s governing bodies in the transfer of science and S&T knowledge and a bottom-up engagement of women in science. And in so doing they can build on earlier IAC reports, which address the issues of competence building, improving the quality of schools and universities, and strengthening existing research centres (IAC, 2004a; 2004b).
Several academies in scientifically advanced countries are already working in partnership with academies and research institutions in developing countries. These relationships, built on existing alliances and methods that have proven effective, can be expanded to explicitly include women at all levels.
In summary, the Advisory Panel urges the academies, individually and jointly, to pursue a multi-pronged, strategic approach to engaging grassroots women in science and technology. That approach includes: