“Traveling in the magical world of Biology” with the ResBios Team
The ResBios team was very proud to be a part of the Bioscience Fair Day on “Traveling in the magical world of Biology” that was held on Wednesday 18 May 2022, in the County Hall of Alexandroupolis, under the auspices of the Prefecture of East Macedonia and Thrace, Chamber of Evros Prefecture.
The event was co-organized by the Directorate of Secondary Education of Evros (DSEE) and the Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics (DMBG) of the Democritus University of Thrace (DUTH), in the context of the cooperation between the two institutions on the occasion of the RESBIOS project, the event was attended by school directors, teachers, family members, students and other guests.
More than 200 students from 9 middle schools of Evros (3 schools from the city region of Alexandroupolis and 6 schools form the broader region of Evros) participated in the event. The students presented works of painting, collages, board games, and many other wonderful ideas, inspired by the curriculum of the Biology syllabus and received congratulations, warm applause and positive reviews from the attendants. The students were very enthusiastic for the unique opportunity to engage with biology in creative ways, fostering a greater understanding and love for this scientific field. Each school received the book “The stuff of life: a graphical guide to genetics and DNA” as a thank you for their participation.
The event was opened by Prof. R. Sandaltzopoulos, Vice-Rector of DUTH, Prof. A. Chlichlia, Chair of the DMBG and Dr. E. Plakoti, Director of DSEE.
This event was organised by; the biology educators from the participating schools, Mr. E. Moutoussidis (Gymnasium of N. Vyssa), Mrs. M. Georgousidou (2nd Gymnasium of Orestiada), Dr. I. Grammatikopoulou (Gymnasium of Lavara), Dr. P. Boudoukas (Gymnasium of Soufli), Dr. P. Miltiadis (Gymnasium of Tychero), Dr. M. Panagopoulou Pantazi (Gymnasium of Feron), Dr. P. Mandalos (Experimental Gymnasium of Alexandroupolis), Dr. I. Bouchliou (3rd Gymnasium of Alexandroupolis) and Dr. A. Tsolou (2nd Gymnasium of Alexandroupolis). collaborated with Mrs. S. Tsiropoulou, Head of School Activities of the DSEE in co-ordination with Profs A. Galanis and A. Pappa, faculty members of the DMBG and members of the RESBIOS-DUTH team, promoting the principles of RRI and the importance of education.
We would also like to thank local news outlets for sharing this event on their networks!
Well done to everyone involved in this fantastic event!
Summer may be just around the corner but the ResBios team are still busy sharing the principles of RRI
Despoina Eugenia Kiousi, PhD candidate and Core Team member of ResBios-DUTH, participated as an organizer of the 10th Summer School of the World Hellenic Biomedical Association (WHBA) in Mani, Neo Oitilo from May 15th to May 21st.
The summer school is aimed at PhD students and young researchers working in the biomedical field and indented to attract scientific talent from Greece and abroad. Despoina led a 1-hour interactive session with panelists with Dr Petro Grivas, Associate Professor at the University of Washington School of Medicine, and Christina Niavi, PhD candidate in Emory University, presenting the aims of the ResBios project and activities organized by DUTH regarding gender equality, education, ethics, open access and citizen engagement (5 RRI keys). The participants had the chance to discuss these topics and share experiences from their institutions. They were encouraged to advocate for inclusivity, equity, and openness in STEM and to actively take part in institutional changes. The total number of PhD students/postdoctoral/research fellows attending the event was twenty-nine (29).
This event also featured sessions from Dr. Elisa Konofagou (Columbia University, USA), who discussed
Harnessing the best of ultrasound – imaging, theranostics and therapeutics, Dimitris Agrafiotis (Pfizer) sharing insights in to Computational Biomedicine -Understanding the structure of data , and Christina Dalla, (University of Athens) – Sex Differences in Neurobiology and Disease, plus many more fantastic presentations.
In addition, there were a number of workshops on talks providing advice and useful skills for young career researchers, including sessions on how to write grants, creating CV’s and cover letters, and effective science communication.
On the 2nd of May 2022, the University of Bremen were the host for the 8th Mentoring Meeting on Education. This was a fantastic opportunity for the Resbios partners to come together and discuss how best to integrate the principles of RRI at an institutional level, within the context of education and the biosciences. The University of Bremen used this opportunity to introduce the audience to the doctoral project Proshed, an initiative of the University of Bremen, the Leibniz-Institute for prevention research and Epidemiology, and working in collaboration with the State University of Zanzibar, that aims to provide information on sustainable health and nutrition education to students in Zanzibar, Africa.
The Proshed project consists of a lecture and further online workshops that are designed to support health and medical students from the State University of Zanzibar. The offers shall provide them tools for a sustainable and efficient communication with their future patients, and the community at large.
An overview of one of a Proshed lecture, that took place in November and December of 2021 was presented. A lecture series that focused on the specific nutritional health challenges present in their local community, insights into current research on nutrition and health education for specific target groups, and best practices on how to use this information to inform their decision-making. This lecture was broken up into five blocks (detailed below), with the fourth part focusing on “transfer knowledge sustainably”, where groups of students develop an instructional strategy for a specific target group. For example, one group worked with a local education organisation- “ZanzibarHelp” – a school for students with mental and physical disabilities in Zanzibar, to develop and organize a short outreach event to educate these students about the importance of healthy snacking and long-term health.
This collaboration between Proshed and ZanzibarHelp was facilitated through the ResBios network.
Students´ Voices and Ramadan
In the block “evaluation and reflection”, the health and medical students were then asked to consider what further work could be done to support other students in their field. Based on the lecture and the final evaluation and reflection, some of the students developed an online format, that would serve as a digital hub for students interested in using the methods described in these Proshed sessions, and how it relates to nutrition and health education. The first contribution to this online format was a discussion about “Diabetes, Health and Nutrition during Ramadan”, which provided information on the research that was being done on how fasting during Ramadan effects patients with diabetes, and what could be done to support these patients during this period of celebration.
On-line format supports reflection about RRI issues
On reflection of the Proshed program and the resulting online format, with regard to RRI and education, it can be said, that the online-format provided the opportunity for health and medical students (and other interested persons) to participate in discussions on RRI-topics, without any prior knowledge (e.g. on health education or RRI) or responsibilities, and is an effective way to share information on current and relevant topics that impact local communities in Zanzibar. The online format allowed for information to be shared, as well as providing materials to support the needs of local societies. It was also a great opportunity for students to get involved and act as mediators to the people within their community, on topics which are important to them, as well as providing a platform for discussions and exchange, between themselves and with lecturers and researchers within these fields of study.
The participants of the UBremen 9th Mentoring Meeting on Education, as well as the participants of the Proshed online-format, suggested that it would be very beneficial to open up these sorts of initiatives and work alongside people from other disciplines and backgrounds, as this would provide more diverse perspectives on these issues, and expand the possibilities of learning from one another. Furthermore, it was highlighted, that it would be more sustainable and fruitful, if exchanges among different disciplines through these online formats, were integrated into the university curricula, and embraced as part of the collaborative nature of working within the fields of biosciences.
All of us at ResBios are so pleased to hear about the fantastic work that is being done by our partners at the University of Gdansk (UG) in addressing gender equality issues! After months of hard work, the University of Gdańsk’s Social Responsibility Committee has outlined key objectives and areas of action to ensure effective diversity management at the institution, within their Gender Equality Plan (GEP), “for the implementation of gender equality policy at the University of Gdańsk.”
‘We aim to strengthen the position of the University of Gdańsk as a safe place to work, always respecting equality and diversity. We want to use tools that support building such a work environment, where people with different backgrounds work together in the same team, have space and freedom to demonstrate and develop their talents,’
The development of this document was a result of previous collaborations between the UG and the EU HORIZON 2020 project Modifying Institution by Developing Gender Equality Plans (MINDtheGEPs), which detailed the effective actions to realise effective diversity management at the institution. Which includes specific mention of how data collection and monitoring is conducted, the promotion of good practices that address gender equlity issues, and the organisation of training and capacity building at UG for effective diversity management, and implementing long lasting implementation of gender equality policy at the UG.
For more information about the work being done by the University of Gdansk in addressing gender equaliy, please Click here.
‘Gender equality plans are activities aimed at removing structural and cultural barriers to employment and career development in science and achieving a work-life balance among women and men, counteracting gender disproportionality in university decision-making bodies, and taking fuller account of gender issues in scientific research and educational programmes.’
We would also like to take this opportunity to congratulate the three female bioscience researchers from the University of Gdansk, whose fantastic work was recognised last week by the ‘Pomeranian of the Year’ competition.
The committee awarded first place to prof. dr hab. Krystyna Bieńkowska-Szewczyk, Head of the Department of Virus Molecular Biology, for their work promoting COVID research awareness throughout the global pandemic.
Alongside prof. dr hab. Krystyna Bieńkowska-Szewczyk, the work of our very own dr hab. Natasza Kosakowska-Berezecka, was recognised and was awarded third place, for her continuous research that challenges gender stereotypes and beliefs, and who is responsible for the implementation of the Universitiy’s Gender Equality Plan. As well this, dr Karolina Pierzynowska from UG Biology Department, achieved tenth place for their research efforts into the possibilities of using genistein as a potential treatment in the fight against Huntington’s and Alzheimer’s disease.
A huge congratualtion to all three! We are proud to be partnered with an institute whose work has been so influential in the fields of bioscience.
from the left: prof. dr hab. Krystyna Bieńkowska-Szewczyk, dr Karolina Pierzynowska, dr hab. Natasza Kosakowska-Berezecka, prof. UG.
The next new normal… How our Ukrainian partners are carrying on!
As of the day of writing this, it has been 65 days since Russia invaded Ukraine, and during this time our thoughts have been with our friends, colleagues and the people of Ukraine. And although they have been struggling throughout this difficult time, and despite the fact the conflict has reached the once safe western regions of the country, our partners at the Ivan Franko National University of Lviv (IFNUL) are doing everything they can to continue to carry out activities and help promote the positive changes we hope to achieve through the ResBios project and the implantation of RRI, and we are so proud of our colleagues right now! For continuing to put their students and academic staff first, through the chaos going on around them.
So we just wanted to take this time to talk through how our IFNUL team have had to adapt again to support the education of their students, and promote the ideals of RRI within their institution.
The university resumed their teaching programs a month ago, although some of the logistics involved in migrating lessons to onlines platforms had already been put into place, due to the COVID global pandemic, both academic staff and students now face issues of reliable power supply and internet access. Although with the little time left before the end of the semester and of the academic year, everyone is doing their best to carry on with the teaching program. As students continue to write up their assignments and the final reports needed for them to qualify for their undergraduate degrees, the IFNUL team have created a series of online videos and resources to help their students, including guidance on how students can use the plagiarism checking software they are required to use before submitting pieces of work, including “Reference Manager Zotero” and “Reference Manager Mendeley“), which are posted on the YouTube channel of the Department of Biochemistry of Ivan Franko National University of Lviv. In addition to this, the team has organised workshops for their students on “Working with electronic library and bibliography in reference managers”.
The IFNUL team has also set up a number of online platforms for their students and teachers to connect with each other, and discuss any issues they are currently facing. This has been set up through a number of the Ivan Franko National University of Lviv Telegram channels.
IFNUL team believes “that through our work we also contribute to the defense of our country on the educational front. Today, Ukrainians are fighting on all fronts: with weapons in hand, in the fields, sowing wheat and rye, in bakeries, baking bread for our citizens, in schools, conducting lessons for our children, in virtual classrooms, lecturing for our students. It is our real life today.”
RRI and citizen science, how these approaches overlap
Summary of the online event “Reaching out and stepping up, how Citizen Science and RRI can enhance bioscience research”, jointly organised by ResBios and Step Change in March 2022
Responsible Research and Innovation, and Citizen Science. How are these approaches intertwined? How can such practices enhance bioscience research? What is the added value of public engagement in this specific research field?
The H2020 projects ResBios and Step Change organised a webinar to combine shared experiences, demonstrate the benefits of public engagement in science, and explore challenges and opportunities. The webinar took place online, on March 28. The event featured contributions from Dr. phil. René von Schomberg, the Kate Hamburger Kolleg; Daniele Mezzana, project manager at ResBios Coordination team – University of Rome Tor Vergata; Prof Elena Buzan, ResBios Project and StepChange Project, University of Primorska; Dr. Carolina Doran, European Citizen Science Association. Dr. Annette Klinkert, Executive Director at the European Science Engagement Association, moderated the discussion.
The event kicked-off hosting a presentation by Dr. phil. René von Schomberg, the Kate Hamburger Kolleg, who launched the conversation explaining what the key elements of RRI are and why those are relevant for the ResBios and Step Change projects. He explained that RRI can be intended as a framework responding to current deficits of the R&I system, and that today we don’t have governance mechanisms thoroughly considering the outcomes of science and technology, which is a major shortcoming. Science, technology and innovation policies are not sufficiently aligned with shared public values. But which are the socially desirable objectives of science? Von Schomberg explained that RRI’s goal is precisely to organise a system in a way that it becomes a driver for socially desirable innovations. He also added that anticipatory governance mechanisms giving direction to innovation should be implemented. He then moved forward, stating that the publish or perish logic, which dominates research today, is paradoxically contributing to making the system somehow less productive, since this logic does not lead to socially desirable outcomes. If it’s important to change the incentive system of science, it’s also relevant to switch from a competitive approach to a collaborative one. Von Schomberg mentioned then Open Science, policy priority for the European Commission, and the relevance of co-design and co-creation of research in synergy with citizens. Co-defining research agendas is very important, he stated, since citizens have to be seen as agents of change.
The conversation moved forward with Daniele Mezzana, project manager at ResBios Coordination team – University of Rome Tor Vergata, who introduced ResBios and its objectives, explaining that the goal of the project is challenging the behaviour of academics while socialising research. He stated that the project aims to root RRI practices in four research organisations in the field of biosciences, namely through 15 grounding actions involving stakeholders from the quadruple helix. Mezzana explained that the relationship between science and society has become increasingly complex, especially in terms of trust, and that RRI is one of the possible ways to somehow exert control on this, trigger a sustainable institutional change, and favouring a stronger science. He then presented a few examples stemming from the implementation of the project.
It was then the turn of Prof Elena Buzan, University of Primorska, who introduced Step Change and explained which the main goals of the project are. She explained that Step Change aims to open science to society, and more in general to people with different backgrounds, outside from the exclusive club of science. She explained her vision of Citizen Science as Responsible Citizen Science, and claimed that it’s paramount to involve citizens in the identification of research priorities as well as in the setting up of methods. She added that citizens have to be included not only as data collectors, since they are meaningful actors who can, if adequately trained, participate in all the stages of the research process. After having touched upon a few challenges, such as validation of data and involvement of stakeholders, she concluded stating that there is certainly a bridge between citizen science and RRI, and that looking at the 10 principles of citizen science, objectives and outcomes of RRI considerably overlap.
The discussion moved on with Dr. Carolina Doran, founder of the Berlin Soapbox Science team and representative of the European Citizen Science Association. She explained that she co-created her presentation with the community of citizen science practitioners. In fact, she reached out to the community to gather information, and learn about main challenges encountered by practitioners implementing citizen science projects in the field of bioscience. Amongst the main challenges mentioned, lack of funding and sustainability of projects in the long term, recruitment, management of participants’ expectations, retaining for long data collection, engagement of high-level decision makers, need of robust scientific data, inclusiveness, and knowledge sharing. As for the lessons learned, she cited the relevance of designing impactful recruitment campaigns, as well as the importance of training local community members, who can carry on expert tasks if provided with guidance. Doran concluded mentioning inclusive terminology, financial facilitation in the global south, and knowledge sharing within the community.
Restoring the trust between science and society, listening to the inputs of citizens to increase the quality of research and innovation, while taking advantage of different expertises available on the field. Among the main takeaways of the event, the need for practitioners working at the interface between science and society to provide visibility to success stories, which should be well communicated to the top level. But also the importance of soliciting decision makers, to show them that practices that could inspire policies are being implemented at the local level. There is political momentum to embrace the inputs of citizens throughout policies, including research and innovation ones, and practitioners working in the fields of RRI and Citizen Science should make the most of it.
To achieve sustainable institutional changes, ResBios is embedding Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) practices within four universities and research institutions in the field of Biosciences in four European countries, through the implementation of RRI Grounding Actions. The project is focused on the biosciences sector which is one of the crossroads in the relations between science and society. It builds upon the EU project StarBios2, which ran between 2016 and 2020, setting the scene for transformative practices and tested interventions aligned with these new science policy frameworks.
Step Change, launched in March 2021, is implementing five Citizen Science Initiatives (CSIs) in the fields of health, energy and environment. The CSIs tackle the issues of wildlife conservation in Slovenia, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease in the UK, energy communities in Germany, infectious disease outbreak preparedness in Italy, and off-grid renewable energy in agriculture in Uganda. To support the spread of citizen science, the project will design a Citizen Science Navigator, a web-based tool that will collect theoretical and practical insights about different citizen science applications. The aim of the project is to ensure that research institutes make the most of what citizen science has to offer, whilst also identifying, analysing, and limiting the associated risks.
Catch up on the full discussion in the recording below.
The Guide has been developed by ResBios and LeTSGEPs project teams, in collaboration with the ICM-CSIC’s Outreach and Communication Office and the ICM-CSIC Equality Working Group.
“As stated George Steiner, ‘what is not mentioned does not exist’. Inclusive communication is not a formality, it is part of the strategies to make not only make visible the presence of women, but also to highlight their contributions to science and society and help them become referents in areas where they have been excluded,”
In this sense, adds Esther Garcés, member of the LeTSGEPs project, “despite the importance of ensuring inclusive and non-sexist communication, some research centres have instruments that are often too generic and do not respond to the needs and activities of the different institutions. Hence the importance of this Guide, developed especially with the ICM in mind”.
From her part, Janire Salazar, one of the ResBios members, points out that “we need to be aware of the way we communicate in science, since it can often be discriminatory and excluding, and provide tools such as the one we have just presented, which incorporate the gender perspective in language”.
Resources, recommendations and strategies for non-sexist language
The Guide is structured in six chapters that include an analysis of how sexism and androcentrism are transferred to language, a compilation of resources and strategies for a non-sexist and inclusive use of language, recommendations on the use of images and implicit contents in texts, tips for oral and visual communication, and a glossary of frequent use in the workplace that includes a series of alternatives to achieve an inclusive and non-sexist use of language. Overall, the aim of all these resources is to facilitate the task of drafting documents.
For example, the document recommends using inclusive terms to refer to groups made up of women and men, such as “scientific staff”, “technical staff” or “administrative staff”, instead of the generic masculine, which makes the presence of women invisible. In the same way, this inclusive and plural vision is to be transferred to the field of visual communication, in order to offer a real image of the centre’s staff.
“We have the tools, but it will not be easy to achieve an inclusive and non-sexist communication in the Institute without the commitment of all the staff. This is the challenge”
Throughout the ResBios project, our partners have been using this opportunity to mutually learn from each other, both to help each other develop robust RRI initiatives in their respective research institutes, but also using the opportunity to combine their expertise and conduct and publish research papers across the field of biosciences.
Recently our partners from the University of Zagreb Faculty of Agriculture (UNIZG-FAZ) in Croatia, and the University of Primorska in Slovenia, have collaborated on a number of papers focusing on ecology and sustainability, combining their expertise in genetics, ecology and the environment to conduct research on chamois, key stone species of even-toed ungulates (related to antelopes, sheep, and goats) that play a role in maintaining the ecosystems of the Northern Dinaric Mountains of Croatia, a region that is of great environmental significance. Chamois, as iconic alpine species, play a crucial role within its niche, by helping to maintain grassland through grazing activities, providing suitable habitats for many plant, insect and bird populations, as well as being an important prey species.
However, the Balkan chamois subspecies, which inhabit Dinaric Mts, is endangered. Populations are isolated and their numbers are critically low due to many treats such unsustainable management and illegal poaching. Preserving their genetic diversity is crucial to allow future adaptation to climatic and landscape changes in mountain environments.
Through this collaboration, we can learn more about the genetic health and distribution of the Balkan subspecies, and help protect the environment they call home.
As well as this, the team at UNIZG-FAZ has also been researching the introduced species of aoudad, an ungulate native to the mountain ranges of North Africa, but introduced to several locations in Europe for hunting purposes. With the hope of understanding the sustainability of all European populations, they analysed their population structure and genetic structure. Based on the results they were able to reconstruct probable introduction routes and origins of European aoudad populations.
ResBios- reaching out to our friends and colleagues in Ukraine.
All of the ResBios team were holding their breath and hoping for the best last week, but when Russian troops crossed Ukraine’s borders on Thursday 24th of February, words cannot describe how saddened we all were. So now, our thoughts go out to all the people of Ukraine, as well as to our friends and ResBios colleagues at the Ivan Franko National University of Lviv. Over the past three years, it has been our pleasure working alongside our Ukrainian friends, and there is nothing more we could hope for more than a swift resolution to this conflict, and an opportunity to see our friends, their families, and their fellow citizens safe and well.
The European Union was created to help heal old wounds, and to try to ensure that the atrocities of the past do not repeat themselves, and EU projects such as ResBios and countless others, help to cement these bonds of friendships and sense of collaboration, and to help improve the world for the better. And although a sad cloud has settled over the EU, we hope that we can all Ukraine weather the storm and come out the other side. And over the weekend we saw people all across Europe,coming together to make their voices heard and to speak out for the people of Ukraine, with protests even being held in St Petersburg.
These last couple of years have been difficult for all of us, but the trials are not yet over. We must all continue to stand together and make sure that we do whatever we can to help bring this to a peaceful conclusion, as soon as possible.
We hope for the best and we will continue to strive to do whatever we can to help, and like the rest of the EU, we hope to see our friends safe and sound, very soon!
Keeping Women in STEM Careers- Fixing the Leaky Pipe- Webinar
As part of the Institut de Ciències del Mar (ICM-CSIC) Awareness month. The ResBios project is taking part in a discussion on Keeping Women in STEM Careers- Fixing the Leaky Pipe. on Feburary 22nd at 15:00 CET
Featuring contributions from:
Prof Doris Elster – Biology and Science Education, University of Bremen- “Interest and Recruitment in Science – Why Women choose STEM Studies”
Prof Natalia Marek- Trzonkowska– International Centre for Cancer Vaccine Science, University of Gdańsk- “Why so few women reach professorship positions in science and how we can change it”.
Following these presentation the floor will then be opened for questions and comments from the audience to discuss these issues further and share experiences and collect feedback.
If you are interested in taking part in this discussion please click here to register.
The Webinar will be presented in English and hosted via Zoom. Link and reminder will be timely provided.