<figcaption> Credit: © Getty Images</figcaption>
Credit: © Getty Images

The European Life Scientist Organization (ELSO) is hoping to raise the visibility of European-based female scientists with a new public online database of ?expert women.? Recently launched, the organizers of the Database of Expert Woman in the Molecular Sciences hope it will promote qualified women as candidates for professorships, advisory groups, and committees; as speakers at conferences; and as manuscript reviewers and members of editorial boards, says database coordinator Karla Neugebauer, group leader at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics in Dresden, Germany.

To be accepted into the database, a woman must be an expert in the field, based in Europe and/or a European national (based anywhere in the world), and have published (first or last author) within the past three years a basic research article in an internationally recognized journal. Women can apply online, and people can search the database, by...

The idea for a database was inspired in part by female scientist advocacy groups in the United States, says Neugebauer, an American. She says that gender inequality is more pronounced in Europe; for example, whereas conference organizers in the United States strive to find qualified women speakers, sometimes in Europe only male speakers are invited.

Neugebauer sees the database ? already with more than 300 women listed, each with her own page of biographical information ? partly as a networking tool for women. She also expects that men seeking highly qualified female scientists will be frequent users: ?Since most scientists in power positions are men, men will likely use the database most.? The organizers make the final decisions about who will be listed; they want each woman in the database to be a ?driving force for science,? says Neugebauer. ?Otherwise, we will have thousands of people in there and the database won?t be useful.?

Historically, women have been underrepresented on scientific grant committees, agrees Martin Reddington, director of scientific affairs and communications at Human Frontier Science Program (HFSP), a research grant organization in Strasbourg, France. HFSP is ?always very conscious of the need to have women, [and] I am strongly recommending that my colleagues use the database,? says Reddington.

Toby Freedman, author of Career Opportunities in Biotechnology and Drug Development, to be published by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press in 2006, says that persuading people to use the database for conference invitations may be slow to catch on, as invitations are often made via colleagues, friends, and word-of-mouth. Freedman also cautions that those listed on the database may be overwhelmed by solicitations for career help, informational interviews, and job assistance.


Practical tips for joining a database

Toby Freedman, author of Career Opportunities in Biotechnology and Drug Development, to be published by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press in 2006, offers advice to avoid the pitfalls of being listed in a database:

Create a new E-mail address so that you won?t be spammed (Webcrawlers search the Web to find E-mail addresses and then sell them to spammers)

Don?t offer your work E-mail address; ?if you change jobs, people won?t be able to contact you

Make sure you are specific about your expertise and area(s) of differentiation

List titles for talks that you commonly offer

List meetings and conferences, including titles and dates, where you have given presentations

List topics about which you feel most comfortable speaking

If you don?t want solicitations from ?job-seekers and those seeking career transitions, explicitly say so

Do not offer your phone number (it is easier to disregard an unwanted E-mail solicitation)

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