Women need not apply

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Female representation remains critically low in a range of fields, including the research sector. A common excuse for exclusively male line-ups is that suitable women couldn’t be found. This has led to a proliferation of initiatives encouraging women to list their details in various directories that are then promoted to conference organisers, company boards, investor groups, the media and beyond. Whilst playing a vital role in promoting women and enhancing their chances of discovery, they also put the onus on women to create and update their profiles across multiple different platforms. This can be incredibly time consuming and repetitive work that may or may not result in any extra opportunities (given the importance of established networks, and that the only people looking at these directories are the ones who already know they want to engage a female).

Given the public data that already exists, we can be smarter in how we manage the challenge of ensuring that no one can claim that a suitable woman “couldn’t be found”. We can also put this information in the places that people are already looking. Designed to boost industry-researcher collaboration, Expert Connect is a publicly searchable database of Australia’s research expertise. Profiles for over 70,000 researchers from over 220 research organisations have been automatically created by drawing together data from IP Australia, The Conversation, ORCID, ARC, NHMRC, and Web of Science. Anyone can search for a topic of interest (using simple, non-scientific language) and find the most relevant researchers to connect with.

Launched for International Women’s Day 2019, Expert Connect can now be filtered to find female experts in any field of research. Currently only 15 per cent of the Expert Connect data is included in the filter (with over 4,500 women profiled). Whilst it’s not a perfect process, we are continually working on improvements, with the number of women profiled continually growing.

The Expert Connect model has advantages for both researchers and those looking to connect:

  • Automatic profile creation & maintenance – whilst there are steps researchers can take to boost where they appear in the search results (such as verifying their profile, and writing regularly for The Conversation), no manual intervention is required to create or keep a profile updated. Any new journal publications, patents, grants etc will automatically be added to the relevant profile.
  • Single researcher list – the more directories that exist, the more places you could potentially be looking for experts, with each one only listing a small subset of the total pool of researchers. Expert Connect brings together researchers from across the country into a single searchable list.
  • Open data – Expert Connect has been built on open data principles, so the complete list of researchers is available via API. This means that anyone can include the full directory of researchers (or a subset of it) on their own platforms, maximising the opportunities for it to be seen and used (with all the data drawn from the central, updated source).

Australian research expertise is just the start. Building on the current dataset, Expert Connect is expanding to include researcher from around the globe. Functionality will also be added to better support additional use cases beyond industry-researcher linkages (such as students seeking supervisors and enhanced identification of speakers, non-executive directors and more).

Powered by CSIRO, Expert Connect has been developed in collaboration with over 60 partners (from across industry, research and government). The beta version of the platform was launched on 28th June 2017 by then Assistant Minister Craig Laundy, with profile completeness and accuracy continuing to evolve as more collaborators and datasets come on board.

Our goal is that Expert Connect, along with the FindHer filter, can serve as a useful starting point for a collaborative effort to dramatically enhance opportunities for women. We want to see a more equitable research ecology, and we’d like to co-create that vision with collaborators from the research sector and beyond.

As with all elements of the Expert Connect platform, we are very open to ideas and suggestions about how to enhance the work we’re doing. We encourage any potential collaborators to get in touch, including those with:

  • Data to contribute
  • An interest using the Expert Connect API (to populate other directories, or to undertake research)
  • Suggestions on additional functionality
  • Additional use cases the platform could support

To get involved in any of the above, or to provide feedback/suggestions, please contact ExpertConnect[@]csiro.au. A series of FAQs are also available on the website.