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A Resource to Raise Women's Visibility

two people reading papers and typing on a laptop
Mikkel Ostergaard/ESOF2014

COPENHAGEN—Surely, one reason women scientists are relatively rare on university faculties—in academic leadership posts such as department chairs and deans, on the programs of scientific meetings, as experts interviewed by the media, on boards, and in other prominent positions—is that women are less visible than men. They’re less visible because they get less publicity and attention than men, even if they are just as accomplished. 

AcademiaNet, a 4-year-old website sponsored by the Robert Bosch Stiftung, a German charitable foundation, and the magazine Spektrum der Wissenschaft, provides an antidote to women’s undeserved obscurity. The aim is to "increase the number of women in leading positions" in academe, government, industry, nonprofit organizations, and elsewhere by "rais[ing] the visibility" of outstanding women, said Ingrid Wünning Tschol, senior vice president for health and science at the Robert Bosch Stiftung, in a speech to the first European Conference for Science Journalists at the Euroscience Open Forum on 22 July.

The publicly available database provides biographical information on 1500 researchers and scholars, listing "only really, really excellent female scientists," she added. Quality is high because only recognized scholarly associations can nominate candidates for the list. They are then vetted by the foundation. To date, 39 organizations from 18 European countries have added names to the august listing. Only European associations are eligible to participate.

The continent's most famous female Ph.D. physicist, German chancellor Angela Merkel, participated in the project's 2010 launch. Today, 12,000 people visit the site each month, Wünning Tschol said. The visitors include journalists seeking sources and universities, hospitals, research organizations, companies, and nonprofit organizations seeking candidates for a variety of posts. 

AcademiaNet’s rules exclude nonEuropeans, but the idea could easily cross the Atlantic. All that's needed is a U.S. organization to establish a similar service. America's outstanding women scholars deserve nothing less.