The Gender & Physics Group

i-GAP: Interferences of Gender and Physics – Engendering Knowledge Production in the Material Sciences

Gender is a relevant category in all knowledge production and thus in all sciences. With regard to physics and related disciplines most investigations have focussed on the situation of women scientists and on doing gender in science education. Existing research has demonstrated how knowledge and knowledge making in biological sciences, social sciences and humanities feed off, and impinge on gendered cultural images and social relations. Similar studies on physics and the material sciences are still few and far between. Hence, the gap between the acclaimed gender-neutrality of doing physics and the highly unbalanced participation of men and women in the material sciences remains a challenge to be explained.

A systematic collaboration between gender studies and science studies reveals in which ways physics and material sciences are informed by gender. Thereby we aim to reach beyond the existing statistics in order to assess the dominant topics, prevailing practices, and major models in these sciences. Analyzing the gender effects in physics research brings forward the following questions: Which/whose perspectives frame relevant physical knowledge? What counts as problems to be approached, how are the findings produced and the facts established? How are valid solutions defined, and which are the settings for working them out? Who qualifies for doing so? How and where are the research results communicated? How are they affected by the imaginaries and demands of society and policy?
The key notion of interferences captures the programmatic idea of thinking categories from different fields of study through another. As interferences in physics, our research program fuses a critical interdisciplinary research approach towards gender, physics and material sciences. The ambition with the International Research Network i-GAP is to critically evaluate established categories in physics and the material sciences with gender as an important tool of analysis. Which interferences can be observed, if we bring together concepts from social theory, science studies and gender studies? How does this challenge our way to think through these sciences? Scientific concepts such as force field, energy, dynamics etc may be fruitfully introduced to rethink social studies of science and gender theory – then: how could this affect our way of thinking gender through physics? The envisioned physics-gender dialogue is directed towards the exploration of an innovative conceptual framework. 

Mission Statement

The i-GAP research network on gender and material sciences integrates expertise from science studies, gender studies, history of science and social sciences as well as from education and politics with that of physics and related sciences. The majority of the collaborators began their professional careers in physics, and some are still active physicists. Crossing disciplinary boundaries has thus become a substantial component of our work. On these grounds we seek to study the full range of gender questions in physics and the related disciplines. This general objective is first of all approached by broadening the scope of topics and problems related to gender and physics in science studies. In addition, we aim to link studies in women’s history and in science education with epistemological perspectives as well as with issues of sustainability science. Here, the participation of women in the shaping of research agendas in physics and the material sciences is seen as a deliberate leverage for developing research projects with an impact on the working of science. As the only existing research unit on gender and physics world-wide it is crucial to build an international research network and to establish stable research collaborations on gender and physics.