Nature letter: YDUN evened out the decade-long shortfall in Danish grant money won by women

In a Nature correspondence letter from March 12, 2015 Darach Watson and Jens Hjorth from Dark Cosmology Centre (DARK) describe that the Danish Council for Independent Research’s (DFF) YDUN-program evened out the shortfall that has been seen for the last ten years in Danish grant money won by women. Under the heading Women’s grants lost in inequality ocean Watson and Hjorth describes that the difference in success rates between men and women corresponds to a male advantage of an average of 104 MDKK, comparable to the entire YDUN funding allocation for women.

The YDUN grants were awarded in 2014 and, from the beginning, the program was conceived as a one-time program. The YDUN program has been criticized for discriminating against men.

In a comment to Information, Professor Peter Munk Christiansen, chairman of the DFF board, says: “Our idea was not to put a few women ahead of men, but to create a motivation and mobilization within the female research society.”

According to Darach Watson, YDUN was a welcome attempt to widen Denmark’s talent pool, and Watson doesn’t think the criticism is justified. In a comment to Information, Watson said, ”The problem when people complain about the program is that they say it’s unfair to men. But the last ten years we have had ’secret funds’ for men which have been automatically disbursed with nobody talking about it. So maybe it’s not unfair. If men have a 20 percent better chance of winning grant money, there must be a problem and we need to address that problem.”

Read more via Information

The Danish National Research Foundation adressed the issue at its annual meeing in November 2014.

Read about the annual meeting here

See the foundation’s publication Getting all Talents in Play here

Professor Liselotte Højgaard, chair of the DNRF board, also chairs the government’s task force on women and gender in research. Højgaard believes that there is a need to collect more knowledge on how special initiatives such as YDUN work. “The debate about equality very quickly becomes polarized and ends in unproductive fights between those who are for and those who are against special initiatives. This is one of the reasons why we haven’t resolved the problems of inequality in the research community,” Højgaard tells Information.

The task force’s recommendations will be ready by April 2015.