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University environments across the country are ready to support more diverse research environments joined by Department of Agroecology

AGRO’s newly established Diversity and Gender Equality Committee held their first meeting on 28 September and have been working on an action plan to address diversity, internationality, and gender imbalance, particularly at senior levels within the department. We have also, jointly with ANIVET, been accepted as part of the Living Lab program supported by VILLUM FONDEN, the Novo Nordisk Foundation, and the strategic innovation agency IS IT A BIRD to improve diversity in STEM along with other 11 university environments.

Photo: Colourbox.com

For many years, research environments in the fields of technical and natural sciences have been facing the challenge of attracting and retaining female researchers. However, a significant development is now underway as 13 university environments specializing in STEM subjects have come together in collaboration with VILLUM FONDEN, the Novo Nordisk Foundation, and the strategic innovation agency IS IT A BIRD. Their collective objective is to implement a targeted initiative aimed at enhancing diversity.

Among those who complete a master's degree in STEM subjects, there is a noticeable disparity in the number of women compared to men who choose to pursue careers in academia. This "leaky pipeline" of female talent represents an untapped potential, critical for Denmark's ambition to secure a position as one of the world's leading nations in STEM disciplines in the future. Consequently, VILLUM FONDEN, Novo Nordisk Foundation, and IS IT A BIRD have invited university environments to develop concrete strategies for supporting diversity within their specific research settings. This effort has led to the establishment of a series of collaborations known as 'Living Labs', encompassing a total of 13 research environments across the country.

According to the Villum foundation and NNF,

"the number and diversity of the applications received by IS IT A BIRD shows that the need for change is widely recognized at the Danish universities, and it holds great promise for the development work that the Living Labs are about to undertake."

The goal of 'Living Labs' is to investigate various strategies for providing Danish STEM environments with well-defined ideas and recommendations to enhance diversity and inclusion. The ideas might include initiatives aimed at reshaping maternity and family support systems, emphasizing the recruitment and retention of female staff, or addressing broader cultural shifts within research settings.

It is the research environments themselves that will be developing the initiatives and driving the change processes. At the same time, the team from IS IT A BIRD will follow the Living Labs closely by monitoring and evaluating the initiatives to document what it takes to create lasting positive change within diversity in STEM research.

Building upon a deep knowledge of the diversity challenge

The effort is a follow-up to an anthropological study conducted by IS IT A BIRD, which has investigated barriers and potentials for attracting and retaining female STEM talent in academia. Through ethnographic methods such as participant observation, semi-structured interviews, and focus groups, the study has approached both male and female research talents at different stages of their careers and across STEM departments and faculties. The approach has created a nuanced understanding of the individual researcher's everyday life and identified patterns across the personal stories. The study also points to concrete opportunities where universities can take action to increase diversity and promote better research and education.

Workshop and initiatives

The department of Agroecology will join a series of workshops with participants from the other STEM environments to shape concrete initiatives to create positive change in relation to diversity and to establish a network for knowledge exchange across university environments.


Collaborators: The 12 research environment participating as living labs are:

  • The Department of Computer Science, Aalborg University
  • Globe Institute (the intersection of geobiology, planetary sciences, biology, geology, archaeology and microbiology), University of Copenhagen
  • Department of Green Technology, University of Southern Denmark
  • Faculty of Natural Sciences, Aarhus University
  • Department of Physics and Astronomy, Aarhus University
  • CAPeX, Pioneer Center for Accelerating P2X Materials Discovery, DTU and Aalborg University
  • Department of Agroecology & Department of Animal and Veterinary Sciences, Aarhus University
  • The Department of Chemistry, University of Copenhagen
  • Department of Mathematical Sciences, University of Copenhagen
  • DTU Bioengineering, DTU
  • DTU Compute, DTU
  • Department of Biology, University of Copenhagen
  • Department of Computer Science, University of Copenhagen
External funding Novo nordisk foundation and Villum Fonden
Other This article is a joint press release from all project partners including extra information about the Department of Agroecology’s participation.  
Link to the scientific article Get the Paving the path for a diverse STEM-research environment enabling world class research and edication report here
Contact information

Senior Researcher Fiona Hay, Department of Agroecology, Aarhus University. Email: Fiona.hay@agro.au.dk