Erasmus Projekt: Diversity in the Cultures of Physics

The establishment of a Strategic Partnership “Diversity in the Cultures of Physics” seeks to build a transnational network for launching several key actions geared towards improving the gender balance in physics and its subfields. The main network activities will focus on creating spaces for young women to consider physics as a field of academic training and drawing upon the diversity of physics for the career planning of female physics students. These pragmatic interventions will enable the network to establish collaborations in and beyond physics, including scholars from gender studies. The evaluation of the project’s activities and wide circulation of its outcomes will advance gender and diversity awareness in physics. The transnational approach allows for a broadened comprehension of professional cultures of physics and how to make necessary changes. The work programme covers two main lines of action, both combining the creation of tangible results with teaching and learning activities:

(1) Coordinated transnational outreach events addressed to young women will be organized annually. These activities will be prepared through exchange visits and workshops, and based on a comparative approach of best practices in different national educational settings. During the project phase we will seek further collaborators from universities and schools from outside the partnership. Documentation consisting of teaching materials and presentations from the outreach events will be made available to students and teaching staff in secondary and higher education via the project website.

(2) Design, organization and evaluation of a European summer school series for aspiring PhD students, which will be held each year in tandem with changing partners. Key actors are the working groups in the physics departments of the participating universities together with regional research institutes, science policy and gender equality institutions. Essential to the summer school series is experiential reflection within the participating student peer group and the interdisciplinary collaboration of teachers.

A sustainable network will be established through the ensuing mentoring and monitoring contacts. Besides the curriculum development, a collection of lesson plans for “Gender Knowledge in Physics” will be an important transferable outcome of this line of action. As the documentation on each summer school events and the final evaluation, they will be published online. Outputs of the strategic partnership will be made available on the open access platforms of the partner universities for long-term use. In addition, the partnership will encourage active discussion through a range of conference contributions and through its own multiplier events in order to make gender knowledge and diversity awareness an issue in the fields of physics. Summarized results from the project will be published in professional journals. The proposed project builds on the extensive expertise of the partners regarding gender-equality activities in physics. The strategic partnership aims to extend existing networks beyond the national limits and make the disciplinary and cultural diversity of doing physics internationally visible. Diversity functions both as an objective and resource for developing and implementing equality-oriented initiatives in physics teaching and training. Thereby, we draw on the findings of gender studies in science, with a particular focus on physics, EU-wide as well as nationally. These studies have documented the professional cultures of physics in different locations and disciplinary specializations regarding their gender effects. Heightened awareness of the differences in the work areas of physicists, consciousness about the heterogeneous political and everyday contexts of scientific research, and knowledge about equality measures at European universities can provide pathways for women and other under-represented groups in physics to pursue their career and life plans. Identifying and opening up these opportunities is the central goal of this project. Establishing an appropriate network is a fundamental requirement to exploit this potential. The project’s target groups and stakeholders comprise university students, researchers and teachers, representatives from science administration, educational policy and gender equality bodies as well as high-school teachers and their students. The activities of the strategic partnership will bring together actors at various levels (local, regional, national, EU-wide) and strengthen their collaboration. Over the course of the funding period, the partnership envisions gradually expanding its network involving more partners within the EU, esp. in Eastern Europe. Moreover, a successful strategic partnership advancing gender equality in physics may function as a model for other disciplines, because physics is globally connected to a wide range of commercial and industrial activities.

Project Partner

1. University of Sheffield, Sheffield (UK)

2. University of Manchester, Manchester (UK)

3. Uppsala Universitet, Uppsala (SE)

4. Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona, Barcelona (ES)

5. Universitat de Barcelona, Barcelona (ES)

Contact Information

Prof. Elvira Scheich

Physics Department

Arnimallee 14

14195 Berlin

+49 30 838 56171

Website: will follow shortly