Academia in the Time of COVID-19: Towards an Ethics of Care


Computer Platform Gives Visibility to Catalonia's Small Villages

A research team from the UAB, in collaboration with the Association of Microvillages of Catalonia, has created a Geographic Information System (GIS) for Active and Sustainable Hamlets (GISASH), which gathers information on the state of and services offered by the more than 330 municipalities in Catalonia with fewer than 500 inhabitants.

Environmental justice defenders victims of violence and murder

Grassroots movements halt environmental degradation in up to 27% of environmental conflicts worldwide, according to a study by the ICTA-UAB.

El Locos por la Tierra retoma las sesiones en formato virtual

El programa Locos por la Tierra impartido por el ICTA-UAB ha reanudado sus sesiones formativas en formato virtual.

Technological changes and new low-carbon lifestyles, key to mitigating climate change impacts

In order to mitigate climate change impacts and achieve a more sustainable society, it is necessary to transform the current energy system based on fossil fuels into a model based on renewable energies.

Exploring climate change impacts through popular proverbs

Members of an irrigation community doing maintenance work in an acequia de careo (irrigation canal built at the top of the mountain) to improve the circulation of water for irrigation and human consumption.

Neolithic vessels reveal dairy consumption in Europe 7,000 years ago

Pottery from the site located in Verson (Francia) analysed during the research (Picture by Annabelle Cocollos, Conseil départemental du Calvados ou CD14 publicada en Germain-Vallée et al.

Mapping out the impacts of pollution upon Indigenous Peoples worldwide

Sulphur mine in Ijen, Java, Indonesia. Picture by Joan de la Malla.

Economic growth is incompatible with biodiversity conservation

A study involving more than 20 specialists in conservation ecology and ecological economics highlights the contradiction between economic growth and biodiversity conservation.

Encuesta: El rol del verde residencial durante el confinamiento por el brote de COVID-19 en España

El grupo de investigación BCNUEJ ( del ICTA-UAB ( y del IMIM ( está realizando un estudio sobre el papel del verde residencial (vegetación interior, en balcones, en terrazas, cubiertas verdes, jardines particulares, etc.

ICTA-UAB shares protective material with hospitals

ICTA-UAB is since last Monday 16 March 2020, an Institute with Restricted Access. Most of the laboratories are empty, the Scientific and Technical Services are closed, only the basic services are working and most of the people is working and staying at home.

Higher and earlier pollen concentrations expected for this spring

Spring and summer pollination will begin a few days earlier than usual and in important numbers, reaching higher than average levels (from the 1994-2019 period).

Power struggles hinder urban adaptation policies to climate change

Transformative actions implemented by cities to address and mitigate the impacts of climate change may be hindered by political struggles for municipal power.

Analysis of tropical fire soot deposited in the ocean will help predict future global climate changes

The ICTA-UAB begins a scientific expedition in the Atlantic Ocean to collect dust and smoke samples from the fires of tropical Africa deposited in marine sediments.

What elements and characteristics should forests have to influence human health?

Despite the increasing interest of the scientific community and society towards the potential of forests as a source of human health, the existing scientific literature does not allow for a coherent relationship between the type of forest and different health variables.

Red coral effectively recovers in Mediterranean protected areas after decades of overexploitation

Protection measures of the Marine Protected Areas have enable red coral colonies (Corallium rubrum) to recover partially in the Mediterranean Sea, reaching health levels similar to those of the 1980s in Catalonia and of the 1960s in the Ligurian Sea (Northwestern Italy).

Sub-national “climate clubs” could offer key to combating climate change

‘Climate clubs’ offering membership for sub-national states, in addition to just countries, could speed up progress towards a globally-harmonised climate change policy, which in turn offers a way to achieve stronger climate policies in all countries.

Victoria Reyes-García receives an ERC Proof of Concept grant linked to the LICCI project

Victoria Reyes-García ICREA Research Professor at the Institute of Environmental Science and Technology of the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (ICTA-UAB) is one of the 76 top researchers that will receive ERC Proof of Concept grants.

ICTA-UAB demands the UAB to reduce number of flights

Given our current climate emergency, recently acknowledged by the UAB, the Institute of Environmental Science and Technology of the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (ICTA-UAB) has drawn up a proposal urging the University to put into action a new travel policy to tackle one of its most polluting activities: Flying.

New assessment finds EU electricity decarbonization discourse in need of overhaul

It’s well known that the EU is focusing its efforts on decarbonizing its economy.

Mining waste dumped into Portmán Bay continues to release metals into the sea 25 years later

The waters of the Mediterranean Sea continue to receive dissolved metals from the mining waste deposited in Portmán Bay (Murcia) 25 years after the cessation of mining activity.

A new ICTA-UAB project to assess the impacts of micro- and nano-plastics in the tropical and temperate oceans

A new project led by ICTA-UAB researcher Patrizia Ziveri is one of five projects selected for funding by the Joint Programming Initiative Healthy and Productive Seas and Oceans (JPI Oceans).
SOMMa 1st meeting on gender equality polic

Date: 2019-10-30


On October the 29th, took place the 1st Gender Equality Event of SOMMa, in Madrid, at the Centro Nacional de Investigaciones Oncológicas (CNIO). The conference was organized both by SOMMa and CNIO's Women in Science Office (WISE), created in 2012 by its director Maria Blasco and coordinated by Isabel López de Silanes. The event also enjoyed the collaboration of the British Embassy in Spain, featuring a talk of the British Ambassador in Spain, Hugh Elliott.

The meeting aimed at sharing best practices in this area at the SOMMa Centres to promote a change of their institutional culture in support of female talent and gender equality in science, and of strategic decision-making in a coordinated and institutional way.

During this first SOMMa meeting on gender balance at CNIO, several directors of SOMMa Centres discussed the network's best practices and shared experiences, so that its members could learn from the experience acquired by other members. This knowledge exchange would help generate a change of culture enabling gender equality to be integrated into strategic decision-making in science.

We must support and facilitate a strategy of excellence in which gender balance benefits from scientific talent,” said Patrizia Ziveri, Chair of the Mobility and Exchange Work Package of SOMMa and Scientific Director at the Institute of Environmental Science and Technology of the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (ICTA-UAB). “Strategic decisions made by mixed-gender groups of experts benefit science and society. The main questions that government agencies and institutions should ask are: How do we back the scientific careers of the best women in the centres of excellence and how do we promote sustained leadership? What are the benefits for science and society of having gender diversity in future strategic decisions in research centres of excellence?”.

“At CNIO we started making structural changes in 2012 to enable more women to take a step forward in their scientific careers,” explains Maria Blasco, CNIO Director and SOMMa Vice-Chair. “For example, the introduction of flexible working hours has significantly reduced the number of women asking for shorter working days. But much remains to be done.”

There is indeed still a long road ahead before reaching gender equity in research. According to data from the recent SRUK/CERU Survey on Gender Equality in Research, male and female scientists doing research in Spain perceive gender inequality in the workplace very differently.

For instance, up to 79% of male researchers feel treated with equity in their workplace. This figure drops to 55% for female researcher answers. Sixty percent of female respondents believe that maternity leave harms their career, whereas only 33% of male respondents think the same about paternity leave. In general, women feel less internal support than men do, more women think that their work is not appreciated, and they feel less encouraged to ask for a promotion. Moreover, only 40% of all Spanish male and female researchers surveyed believe that the departments are committed to gender equality.

British ambassador to Spain Hugh Elliott attended the meeting, and declared that “women and science are words that should go hand in hand more often. We cannot afford this loss of talent, creativity and innovation, and this is why the British Government has committed to promote quality education for girls all over the world as its strategic goal. Governments and societies must commit to work together, to inspire and empower female talent, to support and develop it across all life stages, from school to the board of directors.”

Gender equality expert Cheryl Smythe, International Grants Manager of the Babraham Institute, explained the barriers that her centre identified with regard to the gender gap, and the measures taken to overcome them and to obtain the Athena SWAN Charter, which since 2005 recognizes UK universities and research centres that are committed to the establishment, monitoring and evaluation of practices that lead to real gender equality. In the United Kingdom, such centres must have the Athena SWAN accreditation to be able to request funding for their projects, and more and more experts are now asking that the European Union implement a similar accreditation system.

Directors and representatives of ten other SOMMa institutions presented initiatives deployed at their institutions. They were: Maria Blasco of the local host, CNIO, Patrizia Ziveri of ICTA-UAB, José Luis Riechmann of the Centre for Research in Agricultural Genomics (CRAG), Bruna Vives of the Centre for Genomic Regulation (CRG), Teresa Sanchís of the Institute for Bioengineering of Catalonia (IBEC), Josefa Masegosa of the Instituto de Astrofísica de Andalucía (IAA-CSIC), Neus Domingo of the Catalan Institute of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology (ICN2), Aurelio Ruiz of the Information and Communication Technologies Engineering Department at Universitat Pompeu Fabra (DTIC - UPF), María Santos of the Department of Signal Theory and Communications of the Polytechnic University of Barcelona (COMMSENSLAB, UPC), and Roberta Zambrini of the Institute for Cross-Disciplinary Physics and Complex Systems (IFISC).

Setting the stage with some context about the Babraham Institute, and the difference between the concepts of equality, equity and inclusion, Cheryl Smythe started her keynote talk. Attendees were invited to take the test for implicit bias, being warned that the results might reveal aspects one may be unaware of. Awareness of it, indeed, is one of the requirements for being able to act on bias, affirmed Smythe.

Cheryl Smythe further elaborated about a number of challenging factors for reaching gender equality in research, factors that lie broadly in areas such as: decision making inside institutions, work-life balance (and relatedly, family leaves), institutional culture and awareness, recruitment practices, promotion and career, development and training practices. Strategies to overcome some of those hurdles were proposed over the discussion, and actions that led to the obtention of the Athena SWAN Charter by the Babraham Institute.

The statistics presented by Aurelio Ruiz (DTIC) earlier during the event showcased something that was perhaps yet foreseen: data showed that the representation of women decreased with increasing seniority level of the research positions at hand. This would be reflecting the underlying problems that female researchers face in their careers. Flash talks of SOMMa directors and other representatives showed the steps taken to attain gender equality at several members.

The importance of acquiring reliable data of the situation in order to take informed decisions, as well as an appropriate follow-up of the impact of the measures was highlighted as also a key for success. During the talks, it was underscored that there are specific hurdles for the attraction of women to technology careers and research, one of the specific fields where female researchers are more scarce.

Connecting with the previous, one of the exposed initiatives aimed at providing visible role models for prospective female researchers (in that specific case, engineers), which is particularly urgent in technological fields of research. There, women are at a clear minority even at the undergraduate level. Other measures focused on conciliation, support in child-care, “stop-the-clock” policies during parental leaves, prevention of discrimination, or training and education against gender bias. Recruitment bias, for instance applying measures as gender-balanced evaluation panels was another focus point mentioned.

Ana Puy, Director of the Women and Science Unit at the Spanish Ministry of Science, Innovation and Universities, closed the meeting talking about work in course to establish an upcoming system for evaluating at a national level the gender policies implemented by Spanish universities and research and innovation institutions.

Among the ideas that appeared repeatedly during the event were the need for a systemic commitment inside institutions, both top-down and bottom-up, ensuring an adequate provision of resources, and the commitment to the proposed action plans, as well as the value of diversity in decision making.

While a good number of initiatives were presented, hurdles in the way ahead were also made evident. For instance, initiatives were often found to be rather individual than institutional, could perhaps be missing dedicated resources or the required critical mass leading to stability over time necessary to consolidate real transformation. As initiatives undertaken initially in a relative isolation from fellow SOMMa members, they did not benefit from the experience acquired to date by the other institutions of the network. This is something that SOMMa aims to change.

Neither research nor any society can afford to overlook a significant portion of the talent or potential of half of its population. Rescuing the words of Ambassador Hugh Elliott during his address: it is of the greatest strategic importance to empower women everywhere.

Watch the video of the full event

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