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It is great to see the Liberal Democrats recognising the integral role that a healthy science base plays in supporting and growing innovative businesses. Today’s announcement proposes continuing to ringfence the science budget throughout the next Parliament and is a welcome first step. Read More
Rising popularity of science and maths
Today’s A-level results show the continued rise in popularity of science and maths subjects at A-level. Maths continues its extraordinary rise to overtake English as the highest entry subject with 10.7% of the total A-level entry. Biology retains its position in third place with 7.7% of total entry. Chemistry assumes its highest ranking over the period 2002-2014 to take fifth place. Physics regains a 2002 high of 4.4% after a dip in popularity in the mid-2000s. Read More
In all of the excitement of a major reshuffle, it would have been easy to miss that the ONS published the Government Expenditure on Science, Engineering and Technology (SET) for 2012-13 this week. Read More
Today David Willetts steps down after four years as Science and Universities Minister. Read More
CaSE welcomes today’s launch of the Equality Challenge Unit’s race equality charter mark national trial. Indeed one of the key recommendations from our recent report, ‘Improving Diversity in STEM’ was that universities should proactively engage with the Equality Challenge Unit’s Race Equality Charter Mark, using it as a framework to uncover and address any barriers to access and progression for staff and students from an ethnic minority group. So we are pleased to see this recommendation so broadly adopted. Read More
Sharing scientific kit is not primarily about cutting costs but is giving universities and their business partners access to state-of-the-art research equipment.
In October, CaSE brought together the science spokespeople from each of the main political parties to debate the future direction of science and engineering in the UK. The event, kindly hosted by the Royal Society and chaired by Pallab Ghosh, gave us the opportunity to hear from each party on issues ranging from the use of scientific advice in Government through to research funding and matters around diversity in science and engineering. Read More
CaSE supports increasing diversity in science and engineering. Many of our members are taking pro-active steps to do this. In this guest post Hazel describes the initiatives taken by the British Pharmacological Society (BPS) to address gender imbalance in pharmacology.
In 1935 Mary Pickford became the first woman elected to BPS membership – just four years after the Society was initially formed. Fast forward almost 80 years and the BPS membership currently includes 1,090 female members, representing around 35% of the total. This picture has improved very slowly since 2004 when there was 30% representation – partly because this was when BPS first chose to look into why women were under-represented amongst senior pharmacologists in UK industry, higher education and BPS membership.
Our research showed that while student members were more or less evenly split between the genders (52% female) there was a steady decline in female membership from graduation onwards (25% Full members, 15% Fellows and 8.5% Honorary Fellows). These numbers pointed to a steady ‘leakage’ of women from the pharmacology profession at the mid-career stage – hardly a surprise given that this ‘leakage’ is reflected across many STEM careers.
It is no coincidence that the leaky pipeline begins around the time when many women in pharmacology are considering starting a family. We contacted some of the female pharmacologists who had left the workplace and asked them why they had decided to leave science. Responses were mixed, but a common theme was the perceived inability to remain competitive in a profession where success is measured by papers published and grants won, with little or no consideration given to time away from work e.g. maternity leave/childcare.
It became clear to BPS that there was a specific need to provide additional support and guidance to our female members throughout their careers.
Addressing the imbalance
In 2005 BPS set up a mentoring scheme to support its female members in order to help them stay in pharmacology and to achieve their full potential. To date 95 mentoring partnerships have been established.
The success of the mentoring scheme led to the establishment of the Women in Pharmacology Committee in order to help promote careers for women in pharmacology and clinical pharmacology and to address the under-representation of women at senior level. Professor Amrita Ahluwalia (pictured at the top of the post on the left) became the first Chair of the Women in Pharmacology Committee in 2007.
BPS also organizes training supported by WISE, offering our members leadership skills, career guidance and work life balance workshops at no charge. To help our members attend our events we offer bursaries to help cover any caring costs incurred.
To address the limited female representation amongst the winners of our many awards and prizes the AstraZeneca Prize for Women in Pharmacology was set up in 2009. The 2012 winner Jane Mitchell is pictured at the top of the post on the right and has been filmed reflecting on the role of women in pharmacology. While our longer term aim is to encourage women to nominate themselves and each other across all of our awards, this prize gives us the opportunity to recognize our many female leaders and role models.
Finally, BPS has just introduced a new career break membership category allowing members taking extended leave to retain all of the benefits of membership without cost and regardless of gender.
It remains to be seen how our recent initiatives will improve further the gender balance within BPS, but early indications from data collected is positive. It is clear that alone we cannot do much to tackle gender imbalance in the workplace more broadly, but we are optimistic that our relatively small changes will go someway to effecting change for our members.
Today’s speech by the Universities and Science Minister allocates just over £460m of the £600m allocated to science in the Autumn Statement to the ‘eight great technologies’ the Chancellor outlined in his speech at the Royal Society last year. Read More
There is a Government mandate to reduce net migration down from approximately 240,000 to tens of thousands. The recent changes reflect the Government’s aim of reducing the numbers but also being more selective about the migrants the UK needs. These demonstrate that Britain is open for business. It was emphasised that the HO is keen to protect and encourage the UK as a science hub and that is why the changes encourage scientists to come to work and study in the UK. Read More
From the team behind Science Question Time, we bring you the nerdiest quiz of the year. Think you know your biochemistry from your badgers, and neutrinos from your nuclei? Or just want to relive your old sciencey school daze? Then grab some friends, come down to the Book Club, and show us what you’re made of.
We’ll be dredging up the year’s breakthroughs and blunders in science – taking in its highs and lows in the media, as well as use and abuse in politics. Special guests include:
- Aleks Krotoski, host of the Guardian’s Tech Weekly podcast (Technology round)
- Pallab Ghosh, the BBC’s Science Correspondent (Politics)
- Alex Bellos, author of “Alex’s Adventures in Numberland / Here’s Looking at Euclid” (Maths)
- Adam Rutherford, presenter of the BBC’s “The Gene Code” and “The Cell” (Science Fiction)
- Louise Crane, co-organiser of “Science Showoff” (Picture rounds)
There’ll be prizes for the geekiest costumes, nerdiest names, and brainiest teams – and, if you’re lucky, some very special guest appearances…
Entry is just £4, and teams can be up to 6 people. Any profits will go directly to support CaSE’s science & engineering advocacy.
In the past there had been the tendency for the party to view science with suspicion, as part of the problem rather than part of the solution. This resulted in what could only be described as some extraordinary and backwards positions in our policy document, Policies for a Sustainable Society (PSS).
The Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) hosted a Question Time in the Scottish Parliament on the 9th March in advance of the Scottish Elections, focussing on science. The event was opened by the RSC President David Phillips who talked the engagement role that the RSC has fulfilled for many years with Parliamentarians, including the Science and the Parliament annual event. He also talked of some of the goals of IYC2011 such as to increase the public appreciation of chemistry in meeting world needs, to encourage interest in chemistry among young people, and to generate enthusiasm for the creative future of chemistry.
I was delighted by your invitation to give this lecture in what is CaSE’s 25th anniversary year.
Previous lecturers have included both distinguished science ministers and distinguished scientists. I’m flattered to be in their company..
25 years ago, before e-communication, Twitter and Facebook, a group of scientists got in touch by phone, letter and perhaps a few new fangled fax machines to place an advert in the Times to launch Save British Science.
In 1986, climate change was a topic of discussion only in the best informed scientific circles. (To be fair, ten years earlier when I worked for Friends of the Earth, some of the after work pub discussion was about speculative science papers about a greenhouse effect, but I won’t claim we were sure it was really significant).
The Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE – the non-departmental public body responsible for distributing public money for teaching and research to universities and colleges) has announced its provisional funding for Higher Education Institutions in England today. There are reductions to research funding and a considerable reduction in capital funding which are going to raise concerns over the impact across science.
But there is a spot of very good news for medical research charities; the charity research support funding through which government partners charities to support the full costs of research in universities is being maintained in cash terms at £197.5 million. In 2009-10, medical research charities invested over £1 billion in medical research in the UK and a whopping 80% of this is spent in UK universities, so this fund is really important.
Co-authored by James Lush, CaSE intern, and Imran Khan, CaSE Director
The Home Office’s plans to restrict student visas present some potentially damaging implications for UK science and engineering. CaSE has responded to the consultation, here is a summary of our concerns and suggestions.
The Government is planning to introduce tougher language tests for potential students. However, science and engineering are inherently international activities, with recognition based on academic merit.
This week the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC) published their latest report, Educating the next generation of scientists, examining increasing take-up and achievement, improving teaching staff and facilities, and developing a more coherent strategy for school science and maths.
The report recognises that the Department for Education has made impressive progress on aspects of science and maths secondary education in recent years, including triple science take-up (rising by almost 150% between 2004-05 and 2009-10), an increase in the number of pupils taking A-level chemistry and maths (though physics has increased more slowly) and increased attainment alongside take-up.
Dr Steve Tilling is Director of Communications at the Field Studies Council
Those of you with an interest in science education in our secondary schools might have seen a recent flurry of media coverage highlighting the need for more science fieldwork – using outdoor sites and experiences for teaching and learning in science. Most traditional biologists and earth scientists, and many physicists and chemists, would accept that taking students outside to learn about the world around them is a sensible way to introduce scientific concepts which otherwise remain abstract, intractable, and often divorced from everyday lives.
The ‘Outdoor Classroom’ is where many children discover how science really works – that sometimes science doesn’t bear any resemblance to the sanitised, prescribed, and formulaic version they might have encountered previously.
This is an edited version of the address CaSE Director Imran Khan gave at the campaign’s 25th Anniversary Reception.
On January 13th 1986, fifteen hundred scientists clubbed together and paid for advert, to appear in The Times. It called on the government to Save British Science – and thus a campaigning group was born.
Although we’ve changed our name, we’re still here, 25 years on. We’re still making it our mission to coax and cajole politicians of all stripes into supporting science and engineering.
CaSE marked our 25th birthday by looking ahead to the next 25 years of science and engineering policy. But it’s also worth taking a look back.