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Diana Morant, Minister of Science: 'Research centers must have a plan for equality'

Diana Morant, Minister of Science: ‘Research centers must have a plan for equality’

The “Me Too” movement has succeeded in exposing cases of discrimination and harassment in Spanish universities and research centers. More than 25 professionals at EL PERIÓDICO have deplored the scope of this problem. What is your plan to address the problem?

First of all, I would like to thank EL PERIÓDICO for that report. Issues that are just as important as sexual harassment should be made more clear. So my appreciation is to the media, and to you, who have given these women a voice. I also had the opportunity to speak with Angela Bernardo, author of Harassment, whose work has also shown that the field of science and innovation does not escape gender-biased attitudes. The first thing we want to say is that there is zero tolerance for sexual harassment on the grounds of gender, sexual orientation and of any kind. In this sense, in the law of science, we include for the first time the gender perspective in a cross-sectional manner. From now on, for example, all research centers will have to adopt an equality plan and review it every year. They should also have an anti-harassment protocol that we will implement.

Various reports indicate that women are still a minority in various scientific sectors. Especially in positions of responsibility. How do you plan to reverse this situation?

We have published several policies to address this issue. Initiating plans to awaken scientific calls for girls and to promote women’s role models in the scientific field. It is disturbing to see that after a certain age girls no longer feel qualified to study science or mathematics. We work alongside the Department of Education, and the new LOMLOE law, to bring science closer to new generations and break stereotypes.

Science professionals continue to denounce that, to this day, there is still a glass ceiling preventing them from advancing in their careers. What policies?

Regarding specific policies, there are several plans in progress. For example, we want to extend our mentoring plans to all research centers so that professionals can feel included. We will create a badge of equality, for centers of value where, in addition to scientific excellence, we ensure that women have the same opportunities as their male colleagues. Henceforth, it will also be mandatory for women to be present in courts and appraisal bodies. In terms of conciliation, we changed the regulations to prevent periods of leave, due to pregnancy for example, from penalizing the profession of researchers. We also want to attack the biases that have so far caused many investigations to exclude women from the samples studied. Science cannot be of quality if it does not take women into account.

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“We will create an equality badge to recognize positions where we ensure that women have the same opportunities.”

In 2018, the Departments of Health and Science promoted a plan to deal with pseudoscience. After the pandemic, we see the disenfranchisement and anti-vaccine movement infiltrate various sectors of society. How do you plan to stop their progress?In Spain, science has won the battle against denial. One of the greatest exponents of how citizens find the scientific method is the very high degree of vaccination in our country. We are one of the countries with the highest vaccination rate in the world. This is because the citizens decided to ally with science against denial. In terms of the progress of these movements, we believe the best strategy to counter them is to bring science closer to the citizens. In this sense, we will allocate the largest budget in the history of our country for scientific publishing. We need to ensure that citizens have access to accurate knowledge in order to make their decisions.

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