• The winners of last year’s Women in Science awards last year pose with Onanong Pratakphiriya (centre), the director of Corporate Communications and Public Affairs of L’Oreal (Thailand).
  • Professor Dr Yongyuth Yuthawong

Making the case for Thai scientists

lifestyle March 06, 2018 01:00


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L'Oreal brings its women in science fellowship programme into line with the digital age

After 15 years of supporting talented female scientists, L’Oreal Thailand has announced changes to its fellowship programme “For Women in Science” as it moves into the 16th year. The aim is address the country’s development in the fields of science.

Moving from the original three award categories of material science, life science and chemistry, this year’s awards are being re-categorised into two branches – life science and physical science.

“The world is changing and science is expanding as its embraces the digital world, artificial intelligence and genomics. Our two new categories address this change and are able to cover more branches,” says Dr Yongyuth Yuthawong, Deputy Prime Minister and the former Minister of Science and Technology, who is a member of the jury. 

Dr Yongyuth adds that the introduction of the new categories will attract a broader range of women scientists to submit their work to win a possible grant of Bt250,000 although the number of awardees will remain the same. 

Joining Dr Yongyuth on the judging will be seven other honorary national experts, namely Dr Kopr Kritayakirana, who will serve as president, Prof Dr Pairash Thajchayapong , Emeritus Prof Dr Wanpen Chaicumpa, Emeritus Prof Dr MR Jisnuson Svasti, Assoc Prof Dr Paritud Bhandhubanyong, Assoc Prof Weerasak Udomkitdecha and Professor Dr Jumras Limtrakul.

For the purposes of the awards, physical sciences are concerned with the study of inanimate natural objects, including chemical science and engineering, computer science and engineering, Earth science and engineering, electrical and electronics engineering, environmental science and engineering, material science and engineering, mechanical engineering, nanoscience and nanoengineering and digital science.

Life sciences, meanwhile, relate to the study of animate natural objects, and life-science related topics, including bioscience and biotechnology, cellular and molecular, marine science, biophysics, plant science, microbiology, bioengineering, environmental science, nanoscience and nanoengineering, and engineering.

The new categories will also apply to the L’Oreal Women Science Award in France.

The programme has been adjusted to allow for recruitment and the research granting process to be done online rather than by post as in previous years. Interested applicants can submit their applications with the research in PDF format to email FWISTH@loreal.com between May 1 and July 31. Announcements of the fellowships will be made in September.

Five grants of Bt250,000 will be awarded. Applicants must be Thai female researchers aged between 25 and 40 years, work in the categories of physical sciences and life sciences and submit research that’s in the process of development and operation.

“The research should be creative, new, knowledgeable and widely accepted internationally,” Dr Yongyuth explains.

One of the measures used in the judging is what is known as the H-index, a matrix that measures both the productivity and citation impact of the publications of a scientist or scholar. The index is based on the set of the scientist’s most cited papers and the number of citations that they have received in other publications.

An average of 45 to 60 research papers have been submitted annually to date and most of the scientists are young. A total of 61 fellowships from 16 organisations have been granted. But while the winners have more than merited their places, no Thai women scientists have made it into the International Rising Talents or top International Awards categories, which reward five outstanding scientists from five regions, namely African and Arab states, Asia Pacific, Europe, Latin America and North America. 

This year, the Thai jury could submit the most outstanding research for the international award.

“Even before I became involved with Women in Science of Thailand, I’ve hoped to see a Thai woman scientist place top and I believe it will happen soon. We have submitted research before but so far none has qualified for the international award,” says Dr Yongyuth.

This year, the programme is also introducing additional activities with the aim of supporting soft skills for past recipients of fellowships through the For Women in Science Academy, an online learning platform offering varied training platforms to leverage their work.

The soft skills, says Onanong Pratakphiriya, the director of corporate communications and public affairs for L’Oreal (Thailand), include management skills, public presentations that women scientists can use in their research management and how they present their research. 

The academy provides four areas to enhance the social skills of fellows including management, empowerment, communication and tutorials. Currently more than 170 online content components are available on the platform, which also allows for discussion and exchange of ideas with L’Oreal fellows across the world.

L’Oreal’s Thailand “For Women in Science” fellowship programme was set up in 2002, offering annual grants to female researchers working in the fields of Life Science, Materials Science and Chemistry. Last year, to mark the 15th anniversary of the event, the programme introduced the honorary “L'Oreal Woman Scientist Crystal Award” to two former fellows. 

This new initiative offers a clear indication of the company’s support to the sustainable development of women in the science profession in Thailand.

L’Oreal’s “For Women in Science” fellowship programme was established in 1997 in collaboration with the Secretariat of the National Commission for Unesco. To date, the programme has offered fellowships to more than 3,122 female scientists and researchers from 117 countries around the world. Ninety-two laureates have been awarded the top International Awards. Two of them went on to become Nobel laureates and another has become president of her country.