WISRNet Manchester International Launch Report
24 July 2013, Manchester Museum
By Sue Hawkins
WISRNet received its international launch at Manchester Museum on 24 July 2013 to coincide with the massive International Congress of the History of Science, Technology and Medicine, an international conference held every four years. It proved a good choice of venue, benefitting from the concentration of historians of science from all over the world, already gathered in Manchester for the Congress.
We invited people to celebrate the launch of WISRNet with a glass of wine and a canapé, in the stunning setting of Manchester Museum’s fossil gallery. Unsure how many would venture out (it was Manchester and it was raining!), we were stunned by the interest and eventually had to limit attendance to 150. They came from all over the world, representing 25 countries, and created an amazing buzz as the most was made of the networking opportunity.
The event was opened with a truly inspiring address delivered by Professor Ludmilla Jordanova of King’s College London/University of Durham, who reminded everyone that ‘projects on women and science have to grapple with images of science, femininity, and masculinity, which are notoriously hard to get a grip on.’ She nevertheless urged the WISRNet network to take on the challenge: ‘ If this network can enhance and extend our understanding of the intricate ways in which gender, science, history, institutions and public life are interwoven, it will make a very significant contribution indeed. … Societies will be much the poorer if women do not achieve their potential, and the history of science can, through this network, play a creative and politically engaged role through rigorous scholarship.’
Professor Jordanova has set the bar high! (Read Ludmilla’s speech here.)
More than 50% of attendees were from overseas, a very pleasing statistic as WISRNet aims not to be an insular network, but to look to experiences in other countries and cultures to gain further understanding of the challenges facing women in science. We were also delighted that attendees represented a wide range of experiences, from established academics, early career researchers and doctoral candidates, the majority of whom worked on the history of science, medicine and technology. The fact that the project appeals to those at all stages of their academic career is particularly encouraging if we are to build capacity in this area. A small number of scientists also attended, and we made some good contacts with other UK groups pursuing the goal of increased participation (and persistence) of women in science.
The launch generated a huge amount of interest about the project amongst the international academic community and since the launch, members of the project team have been contacted by several researchers and project leads regarding future collaborative work. In addition, so far, over a third of attendees have signed up to the project’s JISCMail list (firstname.lastname@example.org).