GRIP affiliate Dr. Susanne Koch together with Prof. Nelius Boshoff have been granted funding by the German Research Council (DFG) to conduct a collaborative project starting in 2022: With a team comprising scholars from Africa and Europe, they will investigate how gender- and geography-related inequalities shape forest research and the knowledge it generates. Their multi-method study ‘In-Forest’ seeks to enhance the understanding of why inequalities in academia persist, which is a crucial condition for overcoming them.
Science is far from being an equal and inclusive playing field. This has been the case before the corona pandemic, but as in other societal areas, the latter has exacerbated existing inequalities: During national lockdowns urged by COVID-19, article submission rates of women have significantly decreased. Particularly female scientists with young children experienced a substantial decline in time devoted to research. Researchers in and from the Global South, often operating in already under-resourced systems, are facing further budget cuts following the economic decline caused by the pandemic. A new research project involving scholars from Europe and Africa will explore how imbalances in the social structure of science manifest and play out at the knowledge level, using the interdisciplinary and planet-critical field of forest science as empirical case.
A MULTI-METHOD STUDY OF INEQUALITY IN FOREST SCIENCE WITH A FOCUS ON GENDER AND GEOGRAPHY
Funded by the German Research Council (DFG), the project “Science as a field of struggle: a multi-method empirical study of inequality and its epistemic effects in forest research” (In-Forest) seeks to capture gender and spatial inequalities in forest science and explore how these shape knowledge production and publication in the field. Forest research delivers knowledge that informs scientific forestry world-wide and decision-making across various sectors, including climate politics. A substantial part of it, however, is generated by (predominantly male) scholars at scientific centres in the Global North whose perspectives shape dominant discourses both in science and policy spheres. Their core assumptions may not necessarily correspond to understandings of nature existing in different societies. Problems with regard to forest policy and management often diagnosed in countries of the South might also result from this imbalance and the disregard of alternative perspectives that remain unrecognised.
To contrast such perspectives, the team will triangulate qualitative and quantitative methods, including author-level bibliometrics, ethnographic methods and comparative content analysis of forest research published internationally and in local journals of South Africa and Tanzania. The two countries are hotspots of forest research on the African continent. Many scholars based there are highly respected, yet dependent on international collaboration. How locality in intersection with the category of gender affects scholarly positions in the field is a core question of the study.
While focusing on forest research as empirical case, the project teams aims to contribute to broader debates on inequality, inclusivity and diversity in science. Its ambition is much in line with GRIP’s core objective, namely to understand and address inequality by adopting an interdisciplinary approach and bridging North-South knowledge divides.
AN INTERDISCIPLINARY AFRICAN-EUROPEAN RESEARCH TEAM
The In-Forest project team consists of African and European scholars with extensive expertise and experience in qualitative science studies and sociology, bibliometrics and scientometrics, forest research and land use planning and sustainability studies
Prof. Nelius Boshoff is an Associate Professor at the Centre for Research on Evaluation, Science and Technology (CREST) at Stellenbosch University, and the current Chairperson of CREST. He has a PhD in Science and Technology Studies, with interests in studies of research uptake and impact, research collaboration, and bibliometric analysis with a focus on research in Africa. The project on inequality in forest science is embedded in the broader research portfolio of the DSI-NRF Centre of Excellence in Scientometrics and STI Policy (SciSTIP), housed at CREST. The project offers a unique opportunity to apply bibliometric methods in the study of inequality in science, within both the global and African context. Boshoff leads the project together with Susanne Koch.
Dr. Rodrigo Costas is a senior researcher at the Centre for Science and Technology Studies (CWTS) at Leiden University in the Netherlands and will be involved in the project as Mercator Fellow. Rodrigo’s research focuses on the development of new social media metrics (altmetrics). Currently, he is developing scientometric approaches to measure diversity and equality in science.
Jonathan Dudek is a junior researcher at the Centre for Science and Technology Studies (CWTS) at Leiden University in the Netherlands. He studies science communication on social media, new data sources for altmetrics, and researcher mobility. Jonathan will contribute to the project with database support and bibliographic analyses.
Dr. Susanne Koch is a sociologist of science and will co-lead the project at the newly established Department of Science, Technology and Society (STS) of the Technical University of Munich (TUM). She is also a Research Fellow of CREST at Stellenbosch University and GRIP Affiliate since 2020. Holding a PhD from Bielefeld University (Germany), her research focuses on gender- and geography-related inequalities in science and knowledge diversity in the context of societal transformation.
Dr. Similo Ngwenya is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the DSI-NRF Centre of Excellence in Scientometrics and STI Policy (SciSTIP), hosted by the Centre for Research on Evaluation, Science and Technology (CREST), Stellenbosch University, South Africa. She holds a PhD in Science and Technology Studies and an MPhil in Science and Technology Studies, both from Stellenbosch University. She also has an MSc in Library and Information Science and a BA in History and Development Studies. Her main research interests are studies of science policy, research collaboration, research uptake, research evaluation and bibliometric analysis.
Camilla Tetley will be involved in the project as a PhD researcher at the Technical University of Munich. She has a BSc in Science and Technology Studies from UCL, and an MSc in Sustainable Development from the University of Sussex’s Science Policy Research Unit. Camilla has researched barriers to inclusive collaboration and policy towards net zero, and worked to promote collaborative innovation at the Royal Society (the UK’s national academy for science). She is passionate about inclusion in R&D and policy processes, as well as socio-environmental sustainability.
Dr. Amani J. Uisso is a land use planner, social-economics forester and natural resources assessment and management specialist with over 16 years experience and will be involved in the project as Mercator Fellow. He is currently working with the Tanzania Forestry Research Institute (TAFORI) under the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism (MNRT) where he is involved in researches and consultancies related to land use planning including land evaluations/suitability analysis, feasibility studies, social-economic surveys, climate change mitigation and adaptation, forestry and allied natural resources. He holds a PhD in Forest Science (Forest and Natural Resource Sciences) at Stellenbosch University (SU) in South Africa. He also holds an MSc in Natural Resources Assessment and Management and a BSc in Urban and Regional Planning both from the University of Dar es Salaam (UDSM) in Tanzania.