Call for participants: women in STEMM communication study

Participant Information Sheet


My name is Dr Merryn McKinnon and I am a lecturer and researcher at the Centre for the Public Awareness of Science at the Australian National University. I am conducting this research in collaboration with Dr Christine O’Connell, an Associate Professor of Science Communication at the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University, New York, United States of America.

Project Title: Women in science and the role of communication

General Outline of the Project: 

  • Description and Methodology: This project aims to discuss and document science communication challenges that impact women in STEM and explore possible solutions. Short surveys, focus groups and/or interviews will be used to evaluate the effectiveness and impact of different professional development programs on participants as a means of identifying best practice.
  • Participants:  We are looking for females and female identifying individuals working in STEM roles. We are aiming to include about 30 participants overall.
  • Use of Data and Feedback:  The findings of this study will be written up into peer reviewed journal articles and presented at a range of conferences, workshops and other forums. Participants will be able to access a high-level summary of the study findings via a shared folder on Google Drive on .

Participant Involvement:

  •          Voluntary Participation & Withdrawal: Your participation in this project is voluntary and you may, without negative consequences, decline to take part or withdraw from the research without providing an explanation at any time until the work is prepared for publication. You can refuse to answer any question. If you do withdraw your participation from the focus groups, your comments will not be transcribed or included in any analysis, unless you give permission for your data to be included. Given the nature of the focus group it is not possible to isolate or destroy individual contributions, however confidentiality will be protected as far as the law allows.
  •          What does participation in the research entail? You will be asked to participate in a focus group of up to eight people. First you will be taken though a facilitated focus group to document gender barriers and communication challenges in STEM. This focus group will be audio and/or video recorded – you have the option to not appear on any visual recording, you may indicate your consent or not on the consent form. Only the members of the research team will have access to these recordings – they will not be disseminated or used as part of the research output, only de-identified transcripts will comprise the presentation of data. After the focus group you will be provided with a short workshop on strategies to overcome some of these potential barriers, in order to examine how effective training is as a means of addressing this issue and the potential role it can play in a broader inclusion and equity strategy.  You will be taken through a series of exercises that build connection and common ground to improve communication skills and begin to quantitatively assess gender bias in communication. You may be contacted for follow up surveys or short interviews 6 - 12 months after the workshop to explore the longevity and nature of the impacts, if any, if you agree to be contacted.
  •          Location and Duration: The focus group and workshop will be conducted at the Centre for the Public Awareness of Science, Red Room, Ground Floor, Peter Baume Building 42A, Australian National University, Canberra. Any subsequent surveys can be conducted online and interviews will take place via a time and mechanism of your choosing. The focus group and workshop should take about three hours – it depends on the depth of the discussion. The survey should take no longer than 20 minutes and an interview no more than 30 minutes although again, this depends upon how much you wish to say. In total your participation in this research should take less than five hours of your time over a period of about 12 months
  •        Risks: It is possible that these focus groups may unveil stories and experiences of women who have been disadvantaged or discriminated against on the basis of their gender. The questions being asked are not of a particularly personal or intrusive nature, however the resulting answers/stories may be distressing for some participants. If you prefer to remain anonymous in this research then you should be aware you may still be able to be identified by your comments. You should not tell the researchers anything that would incriminate you or cause others to take an unfavourable view of you.
  •         Benefits: It is unlikely that you will personally benefit from participating in this research, beyond potentially being given a supportive forum to discuss your communication challenges. More broadly however your participation will allow for the incorporation of part of this research and workshops in Alda Center and ANU workshops for Women in STEM.  A diversity of voices in STEM is essential, and, to this end, we need to foster career development and advancement specifically for women. Our findings will also provide science communication trainers, and developers of initiatives to support women in the workforce (STEM in particular) insight into what is required and effective, guiding future investment into best practice initiatives.

Exclusion criteria:

  •          Participant Limitation: We are seeking the input of female and female identifying STEM professionals – specifically scientists, researchers and science communicators.


  •         Confidentiality:  All surveys, focus group and interview transcripts will be de-identified and accessible only by the research team. You can indicate how you wish to be identified on the accompanying consent form. Those who do not wish to be named will have their transcripts de-identified and results reported under a pseudonym or no attribution within published materials according to your wishes. If you prefer to remain anonymous in this research then you should be aware you may still be able to be identified by your comments. Focus group participants are requested to maintain the confidentiality of group discussions. You should not tell the researchers anything that would incriminate you, is of a confidential nature or defamatory of another person. Confidentiality will be protected as far as the law allows.

Privacy Notice:

In collecting your personal information within this research, the ANU must comply with the Privacy Act 1988. The ANU Privacy Policy is available at and it contains information about how a person can:

  •          Access or seek correction to their personal information;
  •          Complain about a breach of an Australian Privacy Principle by ANU, and how ANU will handle the complaint.

Data Storage:

  •         Where: All study materials (including consent forms, audio files, and transcripts) will be stored in electronic files on both Universities' secured servers. All files will be saved in a password-protected format and only accessible to the study team. Any hard copies of data (e.g., consent forms) will be scanned and saved electronically in the secured folders prior to being shredded.
  •         How long: All research data will be retained and securely stored for at least five years following publications arising from the research.
  •          Handling of Data following the required storage period: After the storage period, the de-identified data will be retained indefinitely on a password protected drive in a locked office, as it may be used to inform future studies of a similar nature.

Queries and Concerns:

  •          Contact Details if in Distress: If you find you are affected by participating in these discussions you are encouraged to seek support via a service such as Lifeline on 13 11 14.

Ethics Committee Clearance:

The ethical aspects of this research have been approved by the ANU Human Research Ethics Committee (Protocol 2017/593). If you have any concerns or complaints about how this research has been conducted, please contact:

Ethics Manager
The ANU Human Research Ethics Committee
The Australian National University
Telephone: +61 2 6125 3427




ANU, Gender Institute

Date posted

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Updated:  7 November 2012/Responsible Officer:  Convenor, Gender Institute/Page Contact:  Web manager, Gender Institute