Science and Technology

Antarctic women scientists put heat on Wikipedia

The role of women researchers in Antarctica – and the discrimination that locked the out of the frozen continent for decades – will be highlighted with a “Wikibomb”.
Women scientists were effectively locked out of Antarctica until 1956. Women now comprise 60 per cent of early career Antarctic researchers, but account for only about 10 per cent of relevant awards, prizes and plenaries at scientific conferences.

University of Queensland School of Biological Sciencesecologist and Antarctic researcher Dr Justine Shaw is determined to highlight the roles of Antarctica’s scientific women.

She is one of the organisers of a global “Wikibomb” that will see numerous referenced biographies submitted to Wikipedia over the next month.

“The aim is to tell the world about the many great and generally under-recognised female Antarctic research role models,” Dr Shaw said.

“The Wikibomb will add the profiles of about 100 leading female scientists from 30 countries, including at least 15 Australian researchers.

“The profiles of these women will be officially unveiled at a meeting of the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, this week.

The Wikibomb organisers are led by Dr Jan Strugnell who, with Thomas Schaffee, both from Latrobe University, have coordinated a team of 27 international volunteers to research, write and upload the new Wikipedia biographies.

Dr Shaw, who is also a Research Fellow at the UQ Faculty of Science’s Centre for Biodiversity and Conservation Science and a co-founder of the Women in Polar Science social network is one of seven signatories to a Nature article this month highlighting the important role of women in Antarctic research, despite their low representation.

She said leading palaeobotanist Dr Marie Stopes had been was rejected for Robert Scott’s historic 1910 expedition to the South Pole.

“Soon after, 1300 women applied for another British Antarctic Expedition. None was accepted,” Dr Shaw said.

Women now lead Antarctic science at Germany’s Institute for Polar and Marine Research and the British Antarctic Survey, and South Korea also appointed its first female Antarctic station leader.

“In Australia, our new Chief Scientist at the Australian Antarctic Division is a woman, but we still have a long way to go.”

“There is a leaky pipeline from female students to science leadership roles across all disciplines.”

Dr Shaw said initiatives such as the Wikibomb were important to showcase role models for early career researchers.

“It’s widely recognised that there is a lack of female leadership in science.

“One way we’ve tried to overcome this is by making notable women researchers and their contributions to science more visible.”

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