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University is partner in new international project on gender equality

Loughborough University is to contribute to a new international project that aims to advance knowledge and sharing on gender equality.

ACT (Communities of Practice for Accelerating Gender Equality and Institutional Change in Research and Innovation across Europe) is a Coordination and Support Action project funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme.

The project, which has a total budget of €3m, looks to advance gender equality at research-performing organizations and research-funding organizations.

It aims to do this by strengthening the existing infrastructure for knowledge sharing and mutual learning to increase gender expertise and engagement for institutional change.

ACT is being coordinated by Universitat Oberta de Catalunya researcher Jörg Müller and involves 17 partners from 10 European countries as well as Argentina.

The interdisciplinary Loughborough University team is led by Dr Sarah Barnard from the School of Business and Economics in collaboration with Professor Tarek Hassan and Professor Andrew Dainty from the School of Architecture, Building and Civil Engineering.

This work builds on other European research work the Loughborough team has participated in such as GenderTime and HELENA.

The project launched in Barcelona, Spain, last week (17-18 May) and it is to run for three years (until April 2021).

ACT is to promote communities of practice as agents to develop gender equality actions at research organizations in the European Research Area, including integration of the gender dimension into research and education content.

It aims to address known gender inequalities in three fields: human resource management, decision-making processes and Research and Innovation (R&I) content, including higher education curricula.

Considerable advances have been made in the European Union in the last decade in these areas, but the resulting experiences and practices are scattered widely, which prevents systematic and systemic action.

ACT will tackle this situation by developing a network of ‘seven Communities of Practice’.

These networks with be supported with tailor-made mechanisms for new learning and practice such as: 

  • an online Hub for knowledge sharing
  • an adaptable and flexible evaluation framework for monitoring activities and gender equality plans
  • toolkits for the adoption of best practices
  • training materials and workshops in participatory methods for institutional change
  • synergy conferences (online and face-to-face) or thematic videos addressing shared needs.

These measures will be designed to reflect institutional diversity as well as differences in national contexts. The expected impacts include: 

  • Improved transnational learning on gender equality knowledge and practices in R&I, ensuring that the research community is better equipped to prevent gender bias.
  • Better understanding of how gender issues influence the quality of R&I processes and science knowledge-making.
  • Enhanced standards for the assessment of institutional excellence that incorporate gender equality as a criterion of success.
  • More systematic and systemic adoption of best tools and practices for the implementation of gender equality plans.

Dr Barnard describes key aspects of the project: “ACT will bring together a diverse range of networks and stakeholders to try to further advance gender issues in the European context.

“A strategic approach is sorely needed given continuing gender inequalities, so we are delighted to collaborate on this project.”

ACT is to create a hub for Communities of Practice (CoPs) building upon the existing GenPORT portal.

GenPORT is a community-based internet portal for sharing resources on gender and science.

During the ACT project, GenPORT will be transformed into GenPORT+, a central gender equality knowledge and practice-sharing hub for CoPs across Europe.