Benefits from research can be improved by attention to gender

12 Dec 2013

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Prof Orla Feely (left), chair of the Irish Research Council and Dr Eucharia Meehan, director of the Irish Research Council, with the Gender Strategy Action Plan 2013-2020. Photo by Jason Clarke Photography

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If researchers adopt a new strategy developed by the Irish Research Council (IRC), then not only will the quality of research improve, but its results can be applied to both males and females.

The IRC, citing historical instances such as the fact seat belts were originally designed using only a male body type, developed the Gender Strategy Action Plan 2013-2020 to ensure research results are relevant to both sexes.

Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science, launched the Gender Strategy Action Plan 2013-2020 and said not including the gender dimension in the design, methodology, and impact assessment where it is relevant, can lead to poor research.

“The quality of research and innovation is enormously enhanced by regard being had to the impact of that research on both men and women," Geoghegan-Quinn said. "We cannot afford to waste potential innovation opportunities."

The Irish Research Council wants to ensure that, where appropriate, researchers take into account both male and female analysis in their work.

The EU-US ‘Gendered Innovations’ project has indicated that gender can be a critical aspect of research and innovation, in areas ranging from pharmaceuticals to transportation.

Prof Orla Feely, chair of the Irish Research Council, said the council wants to see its funded researchers consider whether gender is a variable relevant to their research, and, if so, how they should respond.

"We can assist them by informing them of international best practice in this area," Feely added. "This will not only increase the potential impact of the research, but it will also improve the ability of Irish-based researchers to compete in international schemes where consideration of gender is increasingly a factor."

Consideration of gender will be a requirement in Horizon 2020, the EU research and innovation programme with nearly €80bn of funding available from 2014 to 2020.

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Tina held senior editorial positions at daily newspapers in Ottawa and Toronto

editorial@siliconrepublic.com