Women do not reach 30% and the SEA report recognizes that steps are not taken to advance in equality
LA LAGUNA (TENERIFE), 5 Sep. (EUROPA PRESS) –
The number of astronomy professionals has multiplied by two in Spain in the last 20 years, reaching over a thousand people, and the quality and quantity of its scientific publications has placed it in seventh position in the international rankings.
This is stated in the fifth ‘Report on human resources in astronomy and astrophysics’ presented this Monday within the framework of the ‘XV Scientific Meeting of the Spanish Astronomy Society’ which is being held this week in La Laguna with updated data as of May this year of 44 Spanish universities and research centers.
The evolution is positive, but there are also data that can be improved, since only 43% are staff members and the proportion of researchers without a permanent contract is increasing rapidly, with a percentage of women that does not exceed 28%, according to the Spanish Astronomy Society (SEA ) in a note.
The report records a total of 1,081 astrophysics professionals at Spanish universities and research centers, but only 43% are staff and 25% are doctoral students doing their thesis.
To this research staff must be added almost 600 support people specialized in computer science, engineering, management or scientific dissemination, which shows that in the last 20 years the research staff in astrophysics has doubled.
The most significant increase is that of postdoctoral researchers without a fixed position, whose number has tripled over these two decades.
In the last two years alone, the growth of research staff has been 17%, but with an unequal distribution, as staff has increased by 5% while postdoctoral and predoctoral contracted have increased by 27% and 24%, respectively.
This means that the proportion of researchers who do not have an indefinite contract is increasing rapidly, according to the SEA.
In addition, the proportion of doctoral students compared to doctoral researchers has decreased slightly in recent years.
Currently it stands at 34%, so there is one doctoral student for every 3 potential thesis supervisors.
The number of theses in astrophysics defended in Spanish universities since the end of the 1960s is already more than 1,200, but in recent years there has been a worrying continuous drop in the number of theses read annually.
In the 2014-2015 biennium, 124 doctoral theses were defended, in 2016-2017 there were 117, in 2018-2019 they dropped to 90 and in 2020-2021 there were only 72.
ONLY 28% ARE WOMEN
In global figures, only 28% of astronomy research staff are women.
The percentage drops to 25% in the case of permanent staff and reaches 30% in postdoctoral and predoctoral research.
The evolution in the case of permanent staff has improved in the last 20 years (from 17% in 2002 to 25% in 2022) but it is worrying to note that in the last decade the percentage of women with postdoctoral contracts has fallen continuously and PhD.
In fact, the proportion of women who have defended a thesis in astronomy has dropped from 38% to 30% in the last ten years.
“In no case are we detecting progress towards gender equality in astrophysics,” the report concludes.
Faced with this situation, the Women and Astronomy Commission of the Spanish Astronomy Society has been running a mentoring program for astronomers for just over a year under the motto ‘if we are going to walk towards the stars, let’s walk together’.
A total of 50 mentors and mentees have participated in its first edition and a similar number is expected for the second edition.
The goal is for mentees to get first-hand advice from a more experienced mentor, which helps build mentees’ self-confidence, gain a support network, learn from other people’s experiences, and increase productivity. academic and life satisfaction in general.
“Female astronomers are a minority and, in general, they feel more isolated and less supported by their thesis directors or supervisors than their male colleagues. And, probably, this is one of the reasons why the presence of women from of the postdoctoral level is much lower”, specify from the Women and Astronomy Commission of the SEA.
In this context, the mentoring program is a fundamental tool to achieve parity.
“Our mentoring program is not only about putting male and female mentees in contact, but about creating a network of women astronomers who support each other in their careers. With this we hope to gradually approach gender parity in our field” , they detail.
The meeting was opened by Benjamín Montesinos, president of the Spanish Astronomy Society; Rosa Aguilar, rector of the University of La Laguna (ULL); Rafael Rebolo López, director of the Institute of Astrophysics of the Canary Islands (IAC); José Juan Gavilán Barreto, Councilor for Education, Youth, Local Development and OMIC of La Laguna; Carlos Andrés Navarro Martínez, director of the Canarian Agency for Research, Innovation and Information Society and Pedro Martín, president of the Cabildo de Tenerife.
This meeting brings together more than 500 professionals and on the first day the ‘Thesis Awards’ of the last two editions were awarded.
Specifically, the ‘SEA Thesis Award 2021 in Astronomy and Astrophysics’ went to Ana Escorza for her doctoral thesis ‘Barium stars as tracers of binary evolution in the Gaia era’, which studies a family of stars with chemical peculiarities called
‘barium stars’ and carried out at the Katholieke Universiteit de Leuven (KU Leuven) and the Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB).
The ‘SEA Thesis Award 2022 in Astronomy and Astrophysics’ corresponds to Rafael Luque Ramírez for ‘Planetary systems around red dwarf stars and activity of their host stars’, on planetary systems around red dwarf stars and carried out at the Institute of Astrophysics of the Canary Islands ( IAC) while the ‘SEA Thesis Award 2021 in Instrumentation, Computing and Technological Development’ has been awarded to Diego Real for ‘KM3NeT Acquisition Electronics and Temporal Calibration Instrumentation for Telescopes of
Submarine Neutrinos’ carried out at the Institute of Corpuscular Physics (IFIC) of the University of Valencia and the Higher Center for Scientific Research.