The European Commission has heightened the urgency of certifying the gender equality performance of research organizations by stipulating that access to its €95.5 billion Horizon Europe funding program (2021–7) is contingent upon the submission of evidence of a gender equality plan. This certification would be a common validation framework aimed to prevent gender equality plans from becoming mere formalities, commonly referred to as ‘box-ticking’ practices.


The research team of the Horizon 2020 CASPER project has published an article presenting the findings of their research on the feasibility of establishing a European Certification/Award Scheme for Gender Equality (GECAS) in research organizations and designing four alternative scenarios for its set-up. The article is co-authored by Jörg Müller, a senior researcher at GenTIC, along with researchers Marina Cacace and Francesca Pugliese from Knowledge and Innovation, Charikleia Tzanakou from the Centre for Diversity Policy Research and Practice at Oxford Brookes University, Alain Denis from Yellow Window, and Maria Sangiuliano from Smart Venice.


The publication is structured into various sections. First, it addresses the certification of social issues and its associated challenges and explores the intricate and ‘wicked’ nature of gender inequality, which amplifies the difficulties in certification efforts. Also, the authors discuss how engagement strategies involving multiple stakeholders could support the set-up and implementation of certification systems targeting such complex social problems. In another section, the authors present the case of the European gender equality certification scheme for research organizations and describe the policy framework, methodology, and resulting certification scenarios. The fourth section is devoted to the validation process of these certification scenarios, offering insights into stakeholders’ perspectives on the challenges, benefits, and feasibility associated with each scenario. Finally, the concluding section discusses the results of the scenario-building process and the theoretical and methodological starting points and highlights the contribution of participatory multi-stakeholder approaches to certification to effectively address complexity and social change processes.


In sum, this study contributes to the existing work and debates around the needed conditions for developing certification schemes addressing complex social problems even beyond gender equality.


Find the publication in the journal Science and Public Policy.



Cacace, M. [Marina], Pugliese, F. [Francesca], Tzanakou, C. [Charikleia], Müller, J. [Jörg], Denis, A. [Alain], Sangiuliano, M. [Maria]. (2023). Certifying complexity? The case of a European gender equality certification scheme for research-performing organizations, Science and Public Policy, scad069.


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