Fiocruz's scientific journals: a reflection from women who produce them
Researchers from the institution discuss obstacles, prejudices, and cultural issues related to the role of women in the scientific community
The idea of Open Science is to make all scientific process transparent, inclusive, and democratic, as much as possible. And this is a goal for Fiocruz since 2016. But to have a real Open Science includes changing some stagnated ideas in science itself. One of the most urgent points that need dialogue is the role and place of women in scientific production.
Fiocruz's research body has 56% of women, according to its Science and Technology Observatory in Health (only in Portuguese). Many of them lead the institution's scientific journals. In 2023, five out of nine Fiocruz's scientific journals have women as chief editors. What do they think of being a woman producing a journal nowadays?
To discuss the challenges and progresses made in this realm, we interviewed some of the women forward Fiocruz's scientific journals. Their statements show is still a lack of space for women in scientific environments. And, as in other fields, they suffer pressures of having many social roles. Those women also talked about difficulties of recognizing their own prejudices, their passion for science, and actions to mitigate these issues.
Reducing gender biases
The feminine presence as editors is essential to reduce gender biases in scientific articles’ approval. And also to reinforce gender-related studies, which is an effort of Marilia Sá Carvalho, Chief Editor of Reports in Public Health (CSP). "An important stage of scientific knowledge production is the publication of results and reflections by authors. However, would this article evaluation process - accept or reject - be free of prejudice? Perhaps not explicit, but reflecting what is present in society: are women really good scientists? And furthermore, is it really necessary to include gender as a relevant theme in the analysis?" Sá Carvalho believes the need is real, and CSP is currently working in this direction, opening space for more women to publish their work.
Overload labor is another challenge women must deal with, as mentioned by Sandra Mara Campos Alves, Chief Editor of Iberoamerican Journal of Health Law (CIADS in Portuguese). She states CIADS has been working towards having further women as editors, authors, and reviewers, but it is not enough to overcome gender inequality. “This does not mean that we have overcome the challenges related to gender inequality in this field. We must always act to ensure that what was hard-won by those who came before us thrives”, defends Alves.
Fiocruz's scientific journals are a part of the institution, Fiocruz's Science and Technology Observatory in Health made a recent statement about all work force of the institution and showed the majority of the institution is women. Read it here right now (only in Portuguese).
Competent women, not enough space outside Fiocruz's scientific journals
Although there are numerous competent women in the scientific field, Hikmat Zein, Executive Editor of Memórias do Instituto Oswaldo Cruz says “we still hear the term 'the first woman to occupy the position.' This would not be different in scientific publication, and century-old journals like Memórias and many others differ in this aspect, as they have women in their team, including working as Chief Editor, in their Editorial Team, and as Associate Editors."
Angélica Ferreira Fonseca, Scientific Editor of Trabalho, Educação e Saúde (TES), brings what she thinks could help to reduce gender inequity, “there are diverse strands of research allowing us to identify problems and create political agendas that affect the social production of science. Studies inform us about the inequality in the distribution of research grants, the impact of care activities (for minors and elderly relatives) on career paths; the constant need to assert our capacity in exercising work with a strong intellectual component”, illustrate Fonseca.
She thinks that those studies could help society to face the fact that the inclusion of black women scientists and the recent generation of indigenous researchers brings even more challenging particularities for the implementation of an agenda that connects diversity and the fight against inequalities.
Plurality and diversity as gender topics
For Denise Oliveira e Silva, Chief Editor of Revista de Alimentação e Cultura das Américas (RACA), it is urgent that research consider black women and black population, “I talk about being a black woman, bringing up issues about the black population. What are we studying today? Terreiro (a religious territory of African matrix), holly food, religious factors that also influence food choices”, explains Denise. She also alerts to the necessity to bring plurality and diversity in science and how important feminine gender is nowadays. “The LGBTQIA+ movement teaches us a lot about gender boundaries. They must be plural and coexist with different perspectives. It is through the feminine gender that we will overcome contemporary problems", believes the Chief Editor of RACA.
The difficulties of the gender in science somehow enabled the visibility that the female group itself is diverse, as well as Fiocruz's scientific journals. But some challenges are ordinary for any woman, any place. That is the idea presented by Rosane de Albuquerque dos Santos Abreu, Executive Editor of Revista Fitos (only in Portuguese). "Just like in society, the number of female scientists and editors of scientific journals is much lower than that of men. We know that this is one of the historical evils that we are trying to reverse in this century” points the editor. “I hope to see more (women) scientists and editors involved in science, an area for those who are curious, love to learn and overcome challenges", completes Abreu.
Personal life X professional life
Not having enough space to be a scientist has impacted the career of Simone Nascimento Teixeira, Executive Secretary of Visa em Debate. "I had an education based on 'washing, ironing, and cooking', which consequently led me to have a late and somewhat limited professionalization. I finished high school at 17 and only entered university at 30, but I never stopped” tells Texeira, who believes that family support is still essential for women's participation in science. “Your family believing that you are capable is overcoming limits", concludes the scientist.
Talk about gender challenges and bring solutions to reduce it shows that the subject is complex and need multi actions to change, which, of course, go far beyond Fiocruz's scientific journals. The Global Health Network develops a Hub to offers resources, using digital networks to help reduce the professional burden of gender inequity in the health sciences. Learn more about Women in The Global Health Network here.