RWTH: Network of German female infection researchers

Although there are a large number of female virologists, microbiologists and infection researchers who hold management positions in German universities and research institutes, they are usually not very visible to the public. The lack of perception of women as science experts was particularly evident during the first phase of the COVID19 pandemic. It was mainly male virologists who appeared in the media and positioned themselves as political advisors.

The Federal Ministry of Education and Research will support the development of a network of German female infection researchers over the next three years as part of the “Innovative Women in Focus” program. RWTH professor Gabriele Pradel, Department of Cellular and Applied Infection Biology at the Institute of Biology 2, is responsible for the Infect-Net project. The founding team includes her colleagues Petra Dersch (University of Münster), Melanie Brinkmann (TU Braunschweig), Sandra Ciesek (University Hospital Frankfurt ) and Iris Bruchhaus (Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine, Hamburg). A total of 30 infection researchers have already joined Infect-Net.

The scientists not only want to form a national network, but also stabilize it by founding an association. The aim is to increase the visibility of female infection researchers and thus give them a stronger position as experts in more gender-equitable scientific communication. Infect-Net particularly seeks dialogue with society, business and politics in the areas of proactive infection education.

The measures include public relations, the creation of a database of female experts, network meetings, workshops, lecture series and mentoring programs. In addition, a “Forum Infection” communication platform is to be established, which will serve to evaluate current infection processes by representatives from science, business and society. Infect-Net also wants to show suitable role models for young female scientists and thus promote their career paths.

The target group for founding the association includes female scientists who work at German universities or public research institutions and represent the research field of human infectious diseases. They come from the fields of medical microbiology, infectiology and epidemiology and primarily represent virologists, bacteriologists, parasitologists and immunologists.