Dr. Magdalena Skipper earned her PhD in developmental genetics from the University of Cambridge. She started at Nature Reviews Genetics in 2001, and has also taken several roles at the Nature Partner Journals and Nature Communications. In 2018, she became the first female Editor in Chief of the journal Nature.
What do you think is the most relevant way to measure success against this goal (SDG 5: Gender Equality) in your field?
If I have to choose one measure, it has to be the visible representation of women at every step in their career, starting from seeing girls studying the sciences, maths and engineering, through to women regularly occupying senior positions in institutions, governments and private organisations.
What do you think is the most productive way that researchers can engage policy makers? What has your experience been with policy engagement?
The researcher-policy maker engagement has to start with a mutual understanding of the priorities and the needs of each group. Understanding your audience is the key to successful communication; researchers need to appreciate the timelines and constraints to which policy makers work, and that at times the theoretically ideal solution is not the one that is optimal for practical implementation. As a former researcher, of course I appreciate that this realisation may not be easy to accept.
In my current role as Editor in Chief I strive to work with policy makers in a way that facilitates their interaction with politicians and governments, and with researchers at the same time.
What does public engagement look like in your field and how important do you think it is for researchers to make a societal impact with their work?
As Editor in Chief of Nature I consider myself part of the research community. Public engagement is both an opportunity and duty for the research community. Setting an example for the society as a whole in terms of equal opportunities for women in research, including in positions of leadership, is key. It is also crucial to inform the public about research that is inclusive of women’s needs and perspectives, e.g. we’ve all heard stories of seat belt design being suboptimal for the female anatomy or the first all-female spacewalk being called off because of a shortage of space suits for women. These types of oversight must not continue.
What are the short- and long-term goals of your work?
A key goal of my work is to support researchers and to disseminate robust science to the widest possible audience. I firmly believe that research does not only need to be robust to be impactful, it also needs to be inclusive to have meaningful impact in real life. A key goal in my work is to champion researchers from underrepresented groups, and this unfortunately of course includes women, and to amplify research that is inclusive in its design. At Nature, we are actively working with early career researchers, women researchers and those from other underrepresented groups to help improve the research ecosystem and the research itself.
What progress would you like to see next towards addressing SDG5?
The current pandemic has shown us that the vast majority of caring duties still rests on the shoulder of women. The most important progress towards gender equity and empowering women and girls that I’d like to see is a societal shift towards realising that many of the responsibilities that are currently seen as predominantly the domain of women are in fact the responsibilities of the society as a whole. Once this shared responsibility is accepted many of the SGD5 targets will fall into place.