Danish women face research bias

May 15, 1998

Female Danish researchers are significantly less likely to get a grant from the Danish Medical Research Council than their male colleagues, and the size of the grant is on average only half that awarded to men, the Brussels conference heard.

The results, presented to the women and science conference by Christine Wenneras, author of last year's Swedish study, and covering the period 1994-97, may start alarm bells ringing among European research funders now that two independent studies have suggested evidence of gender bias in grant awards.

Wenneras told the meeting that the Danish research showed women 38 per cent less likely to get a grant than men. However, the authors of the Danish study argue that the difference in success rates is 15 per cent.

The reluctance of many research funders to open up their peer review processes to scrutiny was noted, with calls for secrecy to be abandoned and for serious statistical studies to be undertaken.

Leena Peltonen of the University of Helsinki said: "We need transparency of the evaluation system. All this secrecy, is a justification for bad decisions." The original Swedish study was only possible because of Swedish freedom of information.

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