IRIS is the acronym for Interest and Recruitment In Science. The main objective of this project is to develop more knowledge and recommendations informed by evidence on how young people, and girls in particular, may be attracted to, and retained in, STM higher education. Two related questions will be targeted: What are the priorities, considerations, values and experiences on which young people base their educational choice? What are the success factors for initiatives and efforts aimed at recruiting more young people (women in particular) to higher STM education? In the three years that the project will run, the researchers plan to achieve the following outcomes:

  • A network for the advancement in secondary and tertiary STM education
  • Translatable guidelines for recruitment
  • Tools and methods that translate research outcomes into guidelines for practices
  • Models for dissemination and exchange across institutional and national boundaries
  • Identification of prioritised specific domains for future policy and research actions within the field of STM higher education.

Specifically, the data will gathered with quantitative and qualitative tools: a survey on STM students (and some non-STM students, for comparison) towards the end of the first year of higher education in the IRIS consortium countries as well as in IRIS associated partner countries; a qualitative study of Danish undergraduate female STM students “biographies” , portraying women that have made untypical choices; A focus group study with STM and non-STM undergraduates in England to explore the critical features in their lives (social as well as educational) that led them to study STM; a limited interview/focus group study concerning Slovenian, female PhD students’ background for their choice of research field; a qualitative study on reasons for not completing an STM education at 5 STM programs in Denmark. Quantitative data will be also collected with a quantitative study of fields of research chosen by female and male students and the condition of dropouts/opt-outs within a five year period at ten selected STM higher education programs in Denmark, Norway, Italy, UK and Slovenia focusing on gender differences.

The partner in Iris project are: University of Oslo (Norway, Coordinator); King’s College London (UK); University of Leeds (UK); Iri Ul (Slovenia); Observa Science in Society (Italy); University of Copenhagen (Denmark).

Observa has recently published with the cooperation of UNESCO and Studio Pirovano the book Women and Science 2008 (eds. Arzenton, Nechifor, Pellegrini), a classified collection of data and information on the presence of women in science and their attitudes toward research and innovation, with contributions by well-known female scientists and researchers, such as the Nobel Prize Rita Levi Montalcini and the astrophysician Margherita Hack.