heiCHANGEMore Visibility for Innovative Women in Science

Press Release No. 2/2023
12 January 2023

Research project at Heidelberg University examines functional mechanisms of academic “visibility”

Shedding more light on the innovative work of women and their achievements in the scholarly context is the focus of a research project led by Prof. Dr Christiane Schwieren. A researcher at the Alfred Weber Institute for Economics and Equal Opportunities Commissioner of Heidelberg University, she wants to explore the functional mechanisms of “visibility”, identify inhibiting and conducive factors, and suggest structural changes. The Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) is funding the research studies for three years to the tune of approximately 540,000 euros. The project, which has now started, is being executed in cooperation with the equal opportunities office and hei_INNOVATION, the transfer agency of Ruperto Carola.

“Innovative scholarly work by women inside and outside the university context is still less visible than that of their male colleagues,” says Prof. Schwieren. With respect to the factors and functional mechanisms of “visibility”, her project “heiCHANGE – Visibility Through Structural Change” aims to study the kind of academic contributions that are not reflected in standard indicators such as publications of research findings. These contributions include, for instance, enthusiastic teaching, participating in committees or transferring knowledge into society. If a spotlight is shone on all facets of university work, women’s “visibility” rises; that is one hypothesis to be tested in the framework of the project. The research led by Prof. Schwieren in the field of organisational behaviour is accompanied by programmes and projects implemented by the transfer agency hei_INNOVATION. Heidelberg University’s central facility UNIFY – Unit for Family, Diversity and Equality plays a bridging role in this connection.

The heiCHANGE project is divided into three main sections. In the field of behavioural economics Prof. Schwieren and her team want to study the extent to which gender-specific preferences play a role when it comes to choosing activities that are of relative benefit to a person’s individual career but fundamental to the success of scholarly and scientific endeavour as such. Parallel to that, elements of individual knowledge and experience are to be analysed in a “real-life laboratory” in order to generate innovative ideas for structural changes. The third heiCHANGE section is the transfer of research findings into society in order to devise and communicate a new image of research as a professional field. That includes a series of events for information and discussion developed by hei_INNOVATION with experts who, based on their individual experience, are able to communicate scientific knowledge and innovative working methods into society.

“The special feature of our project is that it allows for linking up basic research with hands-on options for action as part of my activity as Equal Opportunities Commissioner of Heidelberg University,” says Christiane Schwieren. “Our research studies in connection with proposals for structural measures are intended to make another important contribution towards the innovative, modern, evidence-based career promotion that the university pursues in all academic fields.”

In the context of heiCHANGE, the university is a cooperation partner in the networking initiative of the ZEIT publishing house to foster women in academia. This offers young researchers from all disciplines the opportunity to become part of the network “Zia – Visible Women in Science” and to avail themselves of various career-enhancing opportunities during a one-year fellowship programme. The cooperation, extending over two years, also enables selected fellows to participate in the research project and share in designing the different formats of the ZEIT initiative, such as workshops or podcasts.

The heiCHANGE project led by Prof. Schwieren is part of the funding priority “Innovative Women in Focus”, with which the BMBF seeks to raise women’s chances of participating in science, research and innovation and actually achieving equal opportunities. Its prime goal is to make women’s academic accomplishments and innovative ideas more visible in society.