Gender

Gender equality contributes to diversity, excellence and quality in research outcomes and makes research more responsive to social and societal challenges. The HRB is committed to mainstreaming gender equality in the access to its research funding, within its decision-making processes; and into the design and analysis of its funded-research.

In June 2016 the HRB welcomed the publication of the HEA Expert Group National Review of Gender Quality in Irish Higher Education Institutions and committed to work in partnership with the Higher Education Authority (HEA) and other Irish Funding Agencies on an implementation plan for the broader policy recommendations. The HRB is a member of the Ireland Athena SWAN National Committee,  endorsing the Athena SWAN Charter as a useful tool in assisting institutions in changing their organisational culture and viewing the award status as an important indicator of progress towards gender equality.

In line with the HRB Gender policy, we working to address unconscious bias in peer-review processes, develop our monitoring of gender equality and improve our grant management practices through independent observation study. We strive to ensure gender balance on our international expert panels. This is not always straightforward depending on the subject matter; in some research areas one gender is much more represented than the other.

In 2017 we underwent independent observation to spot potential for unconscious bias in our peer-review processes and are implementing the recommendations arising from this process.

Year

% female applicants

% of female applicants being successful

% male applicants

% of male applicants being successful

2013

54

33

46

27

2014

52

32

48

30

2015

52

35

48

34

2016

62

36

38

30

2017

60

29

41

28

 

 

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Year

% female panel members

% male panel members

2013

39

61

2014

38

62

2015

53

47

2016

63

37

2017

53

47

 

 

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In 2017 the HRB worked with Pearn Kandola to carry out an external review of decision making in the allocation of research funding. Pearn Kandola is a business psychology firm who has worked with several research funding organisations in the area of diversity and inclusion. Their report did not uncover bias from a gender perspective but identified issues where improvements could be made to further minimise unconscious bias in HRB funding review processes. The issues were grouped into three themes, which are typical for research funders that Pearn Kandola has worked with

  1. Clarifying the role and selection of panel Chairs and panel members
  2. Improving the assessment mechanisms of grant applications
  3. Empowering HRB staff to identify and challenge bias in grant reviews and panels. 

We are in the process of implementing changes in light of the recommendations. For example we now request all peer reviewers and panel members to consider unconscious bias in their decision making and ask them to watch a short video (3 minutes) from the Royal Society, UK, explaining unconscious bias (with permission from the Royal Society).

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