GRC advocates equality for women researchers, interdisciplinarity

Subhra Priyadarshini

doi:10.1038/nindia.2016.68 Published online 27 May 2016


The Global Research Council (GRC), a virtual organisation of the heads of research councils from around the world, has urged national administrations to facilitate larger participation of women in research and to promote funding of interdisciplinary research.

"There is growing evidence worldwide, in different ways and in different places, that we are not maximising the use of the abilities of talented women researchers," said Rick Rylance, a member of the GRC governing board at the end of the 3-day GRC meeting in New Delhi today.

Rylance, the chief executive of the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) United Kingdom, said the fifth GRC had resulted in two statements around "Equality and Status of Women in Research" and "Interdisciplinarity" — the themes of this year's meeting — that would be released in the next couple of days.

"If any system discriminates against talented women, it is unfair and also wasteful since it does not make the best use of talent," he said. The GRC discussed issues like how to enable talented female researchers to come back to research after they take time off to start a family or to design programmes that give everyone equal opportunity. "These are policy questions that the GRC is keen at addressing," he said.

Interdisciplinary research, he said, poses issues such as how to stimulate larger interaction between disciplines. "The recommendations are around what's the most appropriate way to fund such research. Also, what familiar challenges exist in the interdisciplinary world, for example how to do peer review, how such research material can be published and how to facilitate exchange between disciplinary experts who may come from different knowledge traditions."

GRC chairperson Yuichiro Anzai, President of the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) said the "publish or perish" paradigm in research encourages specialisation. Funding organisations have been brainstorming on how to overcome this challenge and to design policies that encourage funding of more interdisciplinary research.

According to Ashutosh Sharma, secretary of India's Department of Science and Technology, many Indian programmes such as "Swachch Bharat" (Clean India) or "Make in India" look at problems of interdisciplinary science. "We have to bring in engineers, social scientists and the participation of people for these missions to succeed," he said.

Sharma said India's funding agencies got a good chance to learn from international best practices and interact closely with global funding bodies on the sidelines of the Delhi GRC meet, which was co-hosted by Research Councils UK and India's national agency Science and Engineering Research Board (SERB). 

The next GRC meeting will be held in Ottawa, Canada from 29 to 31 May, 2017. It will be co-hosted by Peru, said  Mario Pinto, President of the Natural Science and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) Canada.The 6th GRC will examine the dynamic interplay between fundamental research and applied research/innovation; and capacity building.

Related articles:

1. Rylance, R. Grant giving: Global funders to focus on interdisciplinarity. Nature 525, 313–315 (2015) doi: 10.1038/525313a

2. Nature Special: Interdisciplinarity

3. Nature Special: Women in Science