This plan explains how the Innaxis Foundation & Research Institute (Innaxis) has conceived its approach to advance and implement the goals of RRI within the organization, according to the guidelines provided by the SeeRRI project for RRI institutional change. The SeeRRI guidelines propose a process in 8 steps:
This document addresses all these aspects in a concise way.
In the development of the concept of Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) to facilitate its implementation, the European Commission identified five RRI operational dimensions:
The actitvity of Innaxis is focused on applied research and the implementation of technological innovations in the sector of aviation and air transport. In particular, Innaxis is developing research and practical applications for a greater use of data in air transport operations, taking stock of latest techniques from the domain of machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI). The sector of air transport is characterized by the presence of strong players with roles established since long in all dimensions of the industrial activity (aircraft manufacturers, airlines, airports, air navigation service providers and so on), as well as in research, innovation and education (with a number of outstanding research centers and universities leading the field). Also, it is a strongly regulated sector for a number of convergent reasons (safety, security, geopolitics, etc). Therefore, even more than in other sectors, the deployment of RRI requires considering the stakeholders involved as parts of whole ecosystems whose behaviour will not significantly change if initiatives are kept at individual level only.
Some of the RRI operational dimensions are already being enforced as standard practices by the funders of new R&I projects, most notably the European Commission and the governments of EU Member States. This is already having an effect in terms of fulfilment of best practices regarding Ethics and Open Access. Innaxis is already following best-of-class recommendations on Ethics. Also, it is strongly contributing to Open Access by promoting projects aiming at the creation of specific data platforms, where state-of-the-art techniques are used to combine a greater accessibility by all stakeholders to the benefits of data and the strongest requirements in terms of confidentiality and information security. This is a central activity of Innaxis, and one in which its business strategy aligns well with a more responsible approach to the use of data for many different sectorial applications.
On the other hand, specific activities are developed since long by leading organizations in the sector to promote scientific and technological dissemination to the general public, which contributes to a certain extent to Public Engagement and Science Education. While on these dimensions room for progress certainly exists, it is unrealistic to think that a strong focus of Innaxis on any of them could produce a significant impact, taking into account resources limitations and the size of Innaxis. Hence, we decided to put the focus on the dimension of Gender Equality, on which Innaxis can act on its own and also use it as a lever for its business strategy (see below).
The current Gender Equality Plan has been proposed and adopted by the Innaxis’ Board of Trustees that includes its directors and top management agents to formalize their commitment to gender equality. This plan aims at setting the baseline as well as the objective to contribute to gender equality in the Innaxis’ area of activity. It includes a number of actions to engage the whole organization to the achievement of higher gender equality levels.
This plan will be continuously monitored and updated as needed based on the results of its implementation and progress achieved. The Board of Trustees will monitored it at least on a yearly basis and decide the necessary updates. Its most updated version will always be published at the Innaxis’ website and communicated through the organization.
Taking into account the activities of Innaxis, the main challenge, as far as Gender Equality is concerned, is the underrepresentation of women in the general area of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), and particularly in the domains of computer science, data science, and machine learning and AI. This is a structural characteristic, which exists way beyond what Innaxis can aspire to change. Such underrepresentation has been the object of substantive analysis by public and private sources (including UNESCO and the European Commission). Overall the analysis shows that the structural imbalance persists over time, with substantial differences when looking at the various subdomains in which STEM can be divided. As illustrated in the following figure, while the trends have been strong in the direction of equality of representation in certain areas, particularly those related to Life and Social Sciences, the evolution is very slow in Engineering areas and oscillates around a low level of 20-40% in Computer and Mathematical disciplines, and below 15% in Engineering. The figure is based on data from the USA but the landscape is quite similar in Europe.
This makes things even more difficult for Innaxis since its position lies exactly at the conjunction of Engineering, Computer Science and Mathematics. Technical competences of relevance in the air transport sector are largely those of engineers (from Aerospace, Civil, Mechanical, and Telecommunications areas). At the same time, the use of data with modern techniques requires skills from Computer Science and Statistics. This makes that, whenever Innaxis opens a position for new recruitment, the percentage of female candidates is very low, eventually as low as 5% of all candidates.
Fig1: Percentage of Women in STEM jobs (1970-2019). Source: US Census Bureau.
Given the size of Innaxis, its potential footprint in changing the structural underrepresentation of women in its sector is limited. Besides aligning with such attempts (f.i. public campaigns to promote computer and mathematics literacy among young girls), the efforts of Innaxis have to concentrate on internal factors that it can effectively shape. This is the focus of the approach described below.
Innaxis has identified 5 dimensions on which it can effectively work to ensure a high level of responsibility as far as Gender Equality is concerned:
The culture at Innaxis is characterized by a strong respect for technical competence and a high appreciation of diversity. Since its creation Innaxis has been working in collaborative R&I projects in a multinational and multicultural environment and with employees of many different nationalities, enjoying a high diversity. As a consequence of both conviction and practice, Innaxis culture is also characterized by a high degree of openness. Also, demographics help: Innaxis employees are young, urban and highly educated. For all these reasons, no particular intervention seems to be required at the cultural level to make the organization sensitive to gender aspects, which are well integrated in mentalities. Though, it is well known that gender biases can persist or develop anew in all kinds of circumstances. The main criterion in this respect is a deliberate observation of how culture evolves over time, including language.
As part of its culture and due to the presence of women since the very beginning, Innaxis has also developed high standards of flexibility as far as the balance of work and life is concerned. While the intensity of work is generally high, and sometimes very high, employees have a high degree of autonomy for their own organization of time. This is an advantage to be preserved, and again the main criterion lies in the observation of how the situation evolves, in particular in regard of new recruitees and their requirements. The following flexibility conditions have been adopted:
Innaxis is a non-profit organization, legally established as a private foundation according to Spanish law. Its governing body is the Board of Trustees. In addition, an operational organigram exists but both structures are largely coincident since the key operational persons are also members of the Board of Trustees. The presence of women in the operational organigram has been important since long. The Board of Trustees also counts with one woman out of three members. Hence there is no aspect in the governance and operational activities of Innaxis from which the presence of women is absent. Looking forward, ensuring that this situation is maintained is an important criterion.
Last but definitely not least, there is a fundamental dimension in which change can be promoted, i.e. the internal and external visibility of the components of the Innaxis approach to Gender Equality. We consider that by both conviction and practice Innaxis has always been working in a responsible manner as far as gender aspects are concerned, but the organization may not have been fully conscious of it and of the differentiating value of doing so. So, it is time to make all aspects described explicit and visible, both internally and externally. We expect this visibility could have different types of consequences:
Civil aviation holds a strong culture of standardisation, with standard worldwide procedures and regulations that enable the highest safety levels and quality in any sector. Accordingly, at the current stage, the research performed by Innaxis is considered gender-agnostic. All data analytics activities correspond to flight performance data together with other contextual data sources (e.g. meteorological data), accordingly, the gender dimension has no impact on the research results. In addition, data analysed during research is de-identified through encryption techniques in order to protect the identity of the human operators according to the confidentiality conditions of the data owners, so gender will not be identifiable.
Innaxis ensures that men and women have equal opportunities to access and develop its careers. Recruitment processes and codes of conduct are carefully developed to ensure gender-neutrality and will be based over technical criteria though skills and competence technical test equal to all candidates. The personal interview will be undertaken after the technical test has been passed (evaluated under objective measurable criteria). Salaries and career development will also be based on objective measurable criteria.
A baseline bias already exists in the percentage of female candidates that apply to Innaxis job positions, making it difficult to compensate the under-representation of women in our disciplines. In order to facilitate bridging this gap in the future, communication actions will be performed to give visibility to the work of women in STEM. Facilitating the participation of women in public events aims at promoting their roles and serve as an example for female students.
A risk always exists of falling into the trap of self-complacency and blind spots. Self-observation is required and useful, but it is also important to promote and preserve the perception of Innaxis as a safe environment, in which all employees are allowed to address if needed their personal issues, and in particular those related to gender. Given its size, this is mainly ensured by a healthy and open atmosphere, with fluid levels of communication among all employees, without obstacles imposed by hierarchical or other considerations. That said, again, it is important to make this situation explicit and to ensure that this advantage is consolidated and preserved.
As said, Innaxis is a non-complex organization with a strong teamwork practice in which basically everybody is a key actor. But of course the most relevant engagement is that of the persons who are at the same time members of the Board of Trustees and operational Directors. Their commitment to Gender Equality and in general to RRI is already ensured.
We have identified 5 actions derived from the previous analysis and opportunities:
The practical implementation of this plan depends on setting the appropriate level of actionable measures to be effective in the Gender Equality dimension while at the same time avoiding an unnecessary workload which could rapidly become an obstacle if perceived as bureaucratic burden. At this stage it is in particular difficult to have a sensible set of significant indicators to monitor the evolution of the Gender Equality dimension.