Equal Opportunities Initiative Fund

Call for Applications

Next deadline 31 October 2020

Open call for proposals for activities that increase awareness of the problem and possible solutions. Such proposals can include, but are not limited to, short workshops (for instance, on unconscious bias) and/or seminars (with invited speakers) at your home organization, data collection, publication activities and similar events. It must be clear from the proposal how the activity will improve our knowledge and awareness of unequal opportunities, or how the activity will improve equal opportunities directly, in the ESEB specifically, or Evolutionary Biology as a field in general. There are two calls per year, with the deadlines being the 31st of March and the 31st of October.


  • The main applicant must be ESEB member (to become a member of ESEB, please click here or visit our membership page first)
  • Applications can be submitted by scientists at any stage of a professional career (e.g., undergraduate, Masters and PhD students, postdocs, and lecturers).
  • Applicants must provide proof of support of the host institution where the activity should take place, if applicable (letter from head of department)
  • Applicants must explain explicitly how their activity will improve our knowledge, awareness of unequal opportunities, or how the activity will improve equal opportunities directly, in ESEB specifically, or Evolutionary Biology as a field in general.
  • Applicants must detail which group of people, and how many, will benefit from this activity (for instance, 50 undergraduates, 10 graduate students, 15 faculty members)
  • Budgets should be reasonable (usually not exceeding 1000 EUR, if more is required, please contact EO committee first), and, if applicable, detail costs per person (that benefit from this event).


The application should be no more than 3 pages long (excluding CV and support letter) and include:

  • Name of the applicant(s), please indicate the main applicant if appropriate.
  • A proposal of the activity
  • A justification of how the activity will improve our knowledge, awareness of unequal opportunities, or how the activity will improve equal opportunities directly, in ESEB specifically, or Evolutionary Biology as a field in general.
  • Which group of people will benefit (students, staff, general public), and how many
  • A detailed, justified budget (including cost per beneficiary)
  • A time schedule
  • A short summary to be published on the website (100-150 words)
  • CVs of the applicants (1-2 pages)
  • A letter of support of the host institution’s head of the department

Please submit the application as a single PDF-file by email to Ute Moniatte <office@eseb.org; Subject: EO Fund> at the ESEB Office and take care to limit the size of attachments (total < 10 MB) in any one email.

Successful applications must hand in a report about the activity, including details of how funds were spent, within 3 months of the event.

March 2019 – Acepted Proposal

Applicants: Elisa Perez-Badas (UK), in collaboration with Hannah Dugdale and Marina Papadopoulou
Funding provided: 1000 €

Blind reviewing and bias in evolutionary biology

It is now widely acknowledged that female researchers have reduced visibility when compared to their male counterparts, and one potential mechanism behind this trend could be implicit bias (unconscious bias) in the peer-review process. However, whether the peer-review method (single-blind: reviewer-identity concealed; double-blind: author- and reviewer-identity concealed) influences reviewer/editorial decision remains debated. Geographical location explains differences in acceptance rates during single-blind review in the Journal of Evolutionary Biology (JEB), but biases since the introduction of double-blind peer-review have not been assessed. I will investigate whether the change in JEB peer-review explains (i) differences in gender and geographic bias, and (ii) differences in publication outcomes according to gender and geographic location. My project will provide a deeper understanding of the reasons behind publication bias in evolutionary biology. Moreover, I will increase visibility of gender imbalances by making the results of my research easily accessible through ‘BiasWatchEvol’.

March 2018 – Accepted Proposals

Applicants: Brittany A. Leigh (US), Jessamyn I. Perlmutter (US), and Bartholomew P. Roland (US)
Funding provided: 1000 €

Symposium: The attrition of diversity along the postdoc-to-faculty transition

Innovation and discovery are products of diversified thought and approach. Scientists must continuously integrate new perspectives to pioneer their respective fields. However, the goals of intellectual advancement are belied by the lack of diversity in our faculty and institutions. Incorporating more female and underrepresented minority (URM) scientists, mathematicians, and engineers will have a transformative impact on our workplace and our research. This proposal aims to support a half-day symposium to highlight the career developmental challenges faced by members of URM communities. Specific emphasis will be placed on the postdoc-to faculty career transition, and speakers will discuss challenges and remedies for URM career attrition.

Applicants: Tuul Sepp (EE) & Kristina Noreikiene (EE)
Funding provided: 1000 €

Interdisciplinary workshop in Tartu (Estonia): Evolutionary biology in a gender-neutral world

In evolutionary biology studies the sex of the test subject is a common trait that is very often used in analyzing and interpreting the results. From a science outreach perspective, sex differences found in scientific studies are extra appealing, due to ease of understanding and intriguing (clickbait) nature of reporting this kind of results. However, results on sex differences often get reported in media in a twisted way, either on purpose to get more attention, or due to unconscious biases we know still too little about. Suboptimal communication of results showing existence or, alternatively, lack of sex differences may lead to various misinterpretations. We organised a meeting, bringing together evolutionary biologists, but also scientists from other fields of study, and science journalists. In our seminar-workshop, we aimed develop a better understanding of conscious and unconscious sex-related biases in order to effectively, but also sensitively communicate sex-biased results to the public. We discussed the reasons of miscommunication between science journalists and scientists, and possible solutions to the common problem.

September 2017 – Accepted Proposals

Applicants: Paula Vasconcelos (SE) & Ingrid Ahnesjö (SE)
Funding provided: 1000 €

How to handle gendered assumptions in evolutionary biology research

In evolutionary biology research, we often approach questions on males and females differently. Sometimes there may be good reasons for this. However, it may also be an outcome of gender biased assumptions. In this two day workshop we aim to identify and discuss such gender biased assumptions in scientific publications, as a gateway to more deeply analyze the way we make inferences in our scientific reasoning. Furthermore, we aim to constructively put forward guidelines on how we, as scientists, should handle gendered assumptions. Terminology and language use, theoretical as well as empirical research can all carry these gendered assumptions, so by means of this workshop we hope to address some important gaps in evolutionary biology research.

26-27 April 2018 at Evolutionary Biology Centre, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden

See also https://genderedassumptions.xyz/

Applicant: Karine Ranovona (FR), Hava Guerni (FR), and Dusan Misevic (FR)
Funding provided: 950 €

What (not?) to wear: Evolutionary Conference Photo-Booth
Worrying about the superficial issues of appropriate professional attire adds unnecessary stress, especially for young scientist. “What should I wear?” question is asked in many labs around conference season, but the answers remain vague and often unhelpful, especially when it comes to female scientists, who cannot default to a simple “dress shirt + pants” formula. We propose to directly investigate what scientists wear at conferences and why. We will set up a “photo booth” at the next big SSE + ESEB meeting (Montpellier 2018) to both photograph what scientists are wearing and to record their attitudes towards professional attire. The results will be presented as a photo gallery and questionnaire summary statistical analysis on a simple website (proposed domain: WhatScientistsWear.org). The action has potential to broadly fight stereotypes, but also directly provide valuable advice to young evolutionary scientists.

Applicants: Tugce Bilgin Sonay, Rocio Rama Ballesteros, Ana Claudia Marques, Sarvenaz Choobdar, Yihong Jennifer Tan, Katarina Cisarova, and Reyhan Sonmez (all applicants based in CH)
Funding provided: 900 €

Django Programming Workshop for girls
While coding skills are essential in today’s big data era, informatics technologies are still strongly male biased. It is therefore key to empower females, especially young girls, to learn programming. With this in mind we are organizing a one-and-a-half day programming
Django workshop (https://djangogirls.org) based on Python. The workshop is free and tailored to introduce girls preferably at school age to programming in a friendly and inclusive environment. Our mission is to inspire more women to consider a career in STEM by making some of its most ‘daunting’ aspects, programming, accessible. We will use our experience as evolutionary biologists to illustrate the power of programming to address key questions in biology and evolution, where computational skills are increasingly relevant.

March 2017 – Accepted Proposals

Applicants: Elena Casacuberta (ES), Iñaki Ruíz-Trillo (ES)
Funding provided: 1000 €

Women in Evolution, a gender awareness day at the Institute of Evolutionary Biology, Barcelona

This event took place on 29th May 2017 in the auditorium of the Biomedical Research Park of Barcelona. Three outstanding female researchers, Ángela Nieto, Leslea Hlusko, and Patricia Beldade explained their research accomplishments. We also heard talks by Gerling Wallon (Deputy Director of EMBO) who presented measures being taken by EMBO to minimize gender balance, and by Magdalena Skipper (Senior Editor at Nature Publishing Group) who discussed gender balance issues in peer-review (see full programme below). The session was closed with an open round table that had a lot of interaction from the public.

Our first objective had been to reach a high number of participants so that the visualization of excellent science done in the field of evolutionary biology by female researchers would have a greater impact. Thanks to the excellent speakers as well as the publicity we generated, 109 participants from 13 different research institutions registered. Furthermore, around 60% of IBE members of all staff categories attended the event.

A short survey by the gender balance committee done on the following days with participation of different IBE members showed that the event had a significant impact, especially, with respect to the awareness of the problem and the visualization of the excellent science done by female researchers in evolution. Thus, we strongly believe the short-term objectives were fully accomplished and that the event was a great success.

Download the program of the event: Women in Evolution 2017

Applicant: Hannah Edwards (UK)
Funding provided: 1000 €

Gender differences in authorships are not associated with publication bias in an evolutionary journal

The EO Initiative grant allowed Dr Hannah Edwards to investigate whether there was publication bias according to gender and continent in the Journal of Evolutionary Biology (JEB). Conducting implicit bias research in evolutionary biology scholarly publishing is important because a lower number of published papers and reduced visibility of female compared to male scientists contributes to the ‘leaky pipeline’ – the loss of talented female scientists from more senior academic positions.
The research found that female first-authors (the lead role) were six times less likely to be named as the corresponding author than male first-authors, and that female first-authors were more likely to be displaced as corresponding authors by female co-authors than were male first-authors. There was an under-representation of female first- and last-authors compared to baseline populations of members of the European Society for Evolutionary Biology (ESEB) and of Evolutionary Biology faculty at the world top-10 universities for the Life Sciences, respectively. Additionally, manuscripts from Asia were four times more likely to be rejected on the first decision and five times on the final
decision. Overall the results suggest that the peer review process at the Journal of Evolutionary Biology is gender-neutral and not a contributing factor to differences in authorship in this journal, and gender inequality in Evolutionary Biology in general.

This research has resulted in a publication in PLoS ONE: https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0201725

Applicant: Zenobia Lewis (UK), Klara Wanelik (UK), Joanne Griffin (UK)
Funding provided: 1000 €

In recent years the academic community has made great progress in addressing the historic underrepresentation of women in STEM subjects. What has received less attention are the minorities identifying with other protected characteristics, such as race/ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic background. There has been very little discussion with regards the effect of coming from a protected group, despite evidence that this can have a strong effect on the probability of retaining an academic career (e.g. Heward, Taylor & Vickers 1997; Fang et al. 2000; Ng et al. 2005). These protected groups can face a multitude of barriers, including financial worries, and negative perceptions of their own academic career success (Paul 2016). This is not only leading to the loss of talented individuals, but also to the loss of diversity per se which has been shown to promote innovation and productivity in the workplace (recently highlighted in Tachibana 2012).

We recently held a workshop here at the University of Liverpool on breaking (non-gender related) barriers in STEM. The event was extremely well attended and received; one attendee commented: “The event was an important outlet to discuss some of the more personal issues that affect many people in STEM. There has been no other outlet for this purpose, and this event showed just how much we needed one!”

We now wish to further this discussion more widely by writing an open access evidence-based article on some of the challenges faced by scientists that do not come from a ‘traditional’ background, and how some of these challenges can be overcome.

Applicant: Jessica Stapley (CH), Sara Petchey (CH)
Funding provided: 820 €

We organised an event entitled “Let’s redress the leaky pipeline”, which featured a seminar from Dr Rhonda Snook, an evolutionary biologist and gender equality champion. Dr Snook introduced the problem of the leaky pipeline and discussed the role of unconscious bias in this process. Following Dr Snook’s seminar representatives from ETH Zürich (ETHZ) and University of Zurich (UZH) presented relevant data on the proportion of men and women at academic levels within ETHZ and UZH, and outlined the measures that these Institutions are taking to improve gender equality. Following these talks, we hosted a workshop where participants could share their experience with unconscious bias and explore ideas about how we can reduce the influence of unconscious bias in academia. The event was attended by over 70 participants – ranging from PhD students to Professors from across the life sciences at ETHZ and UZH.

September 2016 – Accepted Proposals

Applicant: Marina Papadopoulou (UK)
Funding provided: 1160 €

The last decade, gender imbalances have been noted to persist in the global research output, along with significant inequities in authorship of publications across different disciplines. In this project, I studied the role of gender in the authorship of papers on evolutionary biology. I firstly collected data on the gender of authors of more than 40,000 papers published in journals of ecology and evolutionary biology in the last 15 years, investigating the gender composition of theirs authors groups. I examined the dataset for gender bias in first-author position and the effect of authors’ gender ratio on the citation impact of each paper. Finally, a website has been created (called ‘BiasWatchEvol’), hosting the results of this analysis, in order to raise awareness of gender issues in evolutionary biology and create a common ground for all scientist to work towards gender equality.

The website is available at www.biaswatchevol.com

Applicants: Gabby Salazar (UK) and Sarah Gluszek (UK)
Funding provided: 1000 €

New research has shown that young female scientists face an increased risk of harassment while pursuing fieldwork, above and beyond the inherent risk to fieldwork. Female scientists thus may be discouraged from pursuing further fieldwork or from even staying in the scientific community. We organised two events to increase the capacity of female biologists to stay safe during remote fieldwork at Imperial College’s Silwood Park Campus. Both events were well attended by students and staff members. The first event was a panel discussion focused on issues facing female scientists both in and out of the field. The panel was followed by a self-defence workshop for female students and staff members in the fields of evolutionary biology and ecology.

Applicant: Anna Vinton (US)
Funding provided: 1000 €

Yale University has a strong history of bringing together women of many stages in their career for discussion groups through WISAY. Recent surveys suggest even with progress such as this, there still exists a significant gender gap in the field of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology. Therefore, many Ecologists and Evolutionary Biologists are not reached by current women-only discussions regarding the gender gap. It’s for this reason that we held a public seminar and small faculty workshop led by Dr. Chris Kilmartin, an expert in the psychology of masculinity and gender issues, directed towards males in Evolutionary Biology, designed to bring them up to date on issues of diversity and discuss how to be an effective ally. We had high attendance for both events, encouraging us to hold more ally events in the future. We produced a blog outlining some of the main points we took from the events with Dr. Kilmartin https://dynamicecology.wordpress.com/2017/08/30/if-there-were-no-barriers-to-mens-participation-we-would-all-be-doing-it-a-unique-perspective-on-how-to-be-a-male-ally-to-women-in-ecology/

March 2016 – Accepted Proposals

Applicant: Liliana Ballesteros-Mejia (BR)
Funding provided: 1000 €

Despite of some attempts to give equal participation to women in science, there is still a steep imbalance in the representation of women in higher positions within science academia. On September 20th, we carried out a workshop with 100 participants where three successful women professors inspired young scientist with their unique contrasting stories about their life in academia. Afterwards, three discussion groups tackled important topics such as: life-career balance, job and challenges, mobility and career strategies that contributed with specific actions. Finally, we compiled information on rates about women at different career stages from the two major universities in central-west Brazil (Universidade Federal de Goias UFG & Universidad de Brasilia-UnB) to write a paper evaluating the positioning of women in the Brazilian science.

Applicants: Luc F. Bussière (UK), Elizabeth J. Herridge (UK), Kirsty Park (UK)
Funding provided: 1000 €

In monitoring student academic achievement by gender within our department, we had previously found concerning preliminary evidence that female students appeared less likely to achieve a first class degree. This effect was not statistically significant, however, and based on analyses of the final degree class instead of individual module grades. To explore the effects of gender on performance and test potential causes, we analysed the effects of gender on numerical academic achievement within individual modules provided by our department over three academic years. Our database included 101 modules offered from 2013/14 through 2015/16, with between one and twenty module grades for each of 2,233 individual students. We analyzed the effects of gender as well as possible mediating effects of assessment type (coursework or exam), exam weighting, anonymous marking, and academic stage.

Our findings reveal a main effect of gender on performance, but it is inconsistent with the previously suspected pattern: males scored more poorly than females on average (by a modest 1.6%), and this effect did not depend on any other variable in our analysis, as might be expected if the sexes differed in academic development or their response to assessment types. We did find that males tended to vary more in their grades than females did, which was superficially consistent with one hypothesis for gender differences in attainment: that males tend to pursue high-risk but high-reward strategies in academic assessments, resulting in more males at both extremes of the distribution. However, close examination of the distribution of grades reveals that our data do not in fact support this hypothesis as an explanation for a deficiency in first class degrees for women: while the distributions of male and female grades diverge below the first class threshold, they are virtually identical above it (see Figure 1). Our findings suggest that despite the prior evidence, both genders are equally likely to achieve a first class module grade in our unit. We will now follow up on this work by extracting data on lecturer and supervisor gender (which we were unable to incorporate in the current analysis), and explore possible gender differences in dissertation performance, which has an outsized role relative to other modules in determining degree class.

Figure 1: Density histograms illustrating final academic performance in modules (as a percentage) for students in Biological and Environmental Sciences at the University of Stirling, 2013-2016. The female histogram and smoother are illustrated in red, while males are in blue. A vertical dashed line illustrates the demarcation of first-class performances at 70%. While the histograms diverge below the first class threshold, the smoothing lines are virtually identical above it.

Applicants: Florence Débarre (FR), Nicolas Rode (FR), Line Ugelvig (DK)
Funding provided: 500 €

Although the proportion of women in science, and in evolutionary biology in particular, has dramatically increased over the last century, women remain underrepresented in academia, and even more so at senior levels. In addition, their scientific achievements do not always receive the same level of recognition as do men’s (a phenomenon called “Matilda effect”). Here, we want to quantify the representation of women as invited speakers in conferences, workshops and courses in evolutionary biology, and investigate the influence of the organizers and of potential gender-ratio requirements by funding bodies on the proportion of invited women. Our postulate is that a greater awareness of organizers to the issues faced by women in science, and/or constrains imposed by the funders, will be reflected in the proportion of invited female speakers.

The results of the analysis are now published: F. Débarre, N. O. Rode, and L. V. Ugelvig “Gender equity at scientific events” (https://doi.org/10.1002/evl3.49)