March 10, 2016
Every year OWSD selects 5 great women scientists from scientifically-lagging countries to receive an award in front of an international audience at the AAAS ceremony.
Every year OWSD has the privilege of selecting 5 great women scientists from scientifically-lagging countries to receive an award in front of an international audience at the American Association for the Advancment of Science (AAAS). The awards have been generously sponsored by The Elsevier Foundation (EF) since 2011. In that first year 12 women working in all areas of science received their awards at regional events. But working closely together with EF and our partners, The World Academy of Science (TWAS), we soon realised that the awards needed to be more focused in order to increase visibility both for the awardees and for their countries and regions. Since 2012, the awards have been to only 5 women (one from each of 5 regions in the developing world) and there has been a disciplinary focus each year. This year, for example, the awards are in Biological Sciences, next year they will be in Engineering Sciences, including engineering, innovation and technology. If you know a great woman scientist working in these fields please nominate them (the deadline is 15 September 2016: guidelines for eligibility and a form are available here).
Each year too we have been able to increase the international reach of these awards, thanks to the generous offer from AAAS to host the awards ceremony. Indeed, as well as the traditional breakfast awards event hosted by Shirley Malcom (head of education and human resources programs at AAAS) this year's AAAS President Geraldine Richmond took valuable time out from her conference duties to discuss research issues with the awardees and included a warm reference to them in her inaugural presentation to well over 1,000 international participants. For the last three years also, private donors Gil Omen (past president of AAAS) and Martha Darling have supplemented the USD5,000 award money given by The Elsevier Foundation with a further USD2,500 per awardee to spend on research resources of their choice.
The AAAS conference takes place at a different American city each year and EF covers the costs of travel and accommodation for the awardees to spend the week there, attending appropriate conference sesssions as well as rehearsing their presentations and undertaking media training. This year in Washington D.C. we were able to really take advantage of the location and the awardees presented their research and achievements to the Global Women's Issues section of the U.S. State department as well as to each of the embassies of the awardees' home countries: Indonesia, Nepal, Peru, Uganda and Yemen. The resulting media coverage has been spectacular, with interviews appearing in U.S. News, on national U.S. radio (NPR), on the front page of national newspaperd in Indonesia and Uganda and on BBC television in Kampala and London. More requests for interviews with the awardees are coming in every day.
You can read about the moving personal stories of each of this year's winners in a great article by Alison Bert at Elsevier Connect.
This year, too, we were able to bring Italian film maker Nicole Leghissa to Washington to film the awardees as they attended workshops and began to network with potential collaborators, donors and journalists. This is the second year and second wonderful film Nicole has made of the awardees' experiences at the awards ceremony and she has really become an expert in working closely with the women to draw out their stories: the challenges but mostly great satisfactions of their choices to become scientists in countries that are extremely poor and have few resources for doing advanced research. Please watch the film and share the link with your friends!
OWSD is very proud to be part of these achievements and we wish the women the very best in their future careers and hope they will continue to be ambassadors for their countries and for women in science more generally.