Category Archives: Uncategorized

SET stats – a timely R&D health-check

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 »

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Goodbye to David Willetts

Science Minister David Willetts speaking at CaSE's 25th anniversary celebration in 2011

Former Science Minister David Willetts at CaSE’s 25th anniversary celebration in 2011

Today David Willetts steps down after four years as Science and Universities Minister. Read More »

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CaSE welcomes launch of Race Equality Charter Mark

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 »

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UK science and growth: doing more with the same

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.

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CaSE cross-party debate summary

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 »

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Supporting women in pharmacology

 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.

Professor Amrita Ahluwalia (on the left) became the first Chair of the Women in Pharmacology Committee in 2007 and Professor Jane Mitchell (on the right) won the 2012 AstraZeneca Prize for Women 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.

Useful links

Inspiring women: role models

BPS equality and diversity statement

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Willetts allocates Autumn Statement funding to ‘eight great technologies’

Universities and Science Minister David Willetts

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 »

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CaSE Immigration roundtable meeting

Summary of Home Office (HO) introductory presentations

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 »

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The Year in Science – a Geeky Xmas Quiz

Click here to buy your ticketsFrom 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…

@SciQT

Entry is just £4, and teams can be up to 6 people. Any profits will go directly to support CaSE’s science & engineering advocacy.

Brought to you by James Lush at the Biochemical Society, Imran Khan and Beck Smith at the Campaign for Science and Engineering, and Dr Alice Bell.

 

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Science in the Green Party turns a corner

The Green Party’s Cardiff conference saw the culmination of a two year process completely overhauling our science and technology policies. For me they finally feel like a firm place to stand.

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).

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Scottish Science Question Time

 

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.

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“Science and Growth” – John Denham at 2011 CaSE Lecture

This is a transcript of John Denham MP’s speech at the 2011 CaSE Annual Lecture. You can listen to a recording of the speech here, or read a digest of it here.

 

Chairman,

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).
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Universities find out how much they’ve got to spend

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.

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International Student Visas

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.

Language tests

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.

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MPs report on educating the next generation

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.

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Let’s get more young scientists outside

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.

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25 Years of CaSE – what’s changed?

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.

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Campaign for Science and Engineering reaches 25 Years

The Campaign for Science and Engineering last night celebrated reaching its 25th Anniversary by looking ahead to the next 25 years of science and engineering policy.

The 13th of January 1986 saw the publication in the Times of an advert, paid for by 1,500 scientists, calling on the government to ‘Save British Science’, leading to the birth of a campaign group. Save British Science changed its name to CaSE in 2005.

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CaSE’s 25th Anniversary Reception; a review

Ben Good and Chloe McIvor are students at the Imperial College Science Communication group.

Time changes many things. In the past 25 years we have experienced the birth of the internet, five different Prime Ministers – and the unexpected comeback of leg warmers. However, the Campaign for Science and Engineering (CaSE) is still going strong and yesterday celebrated its 25th anniversary at an event attended by the great and the good of British science.

The event, hosted by the Instituton of Engineering and Technology (IET) and sponsored by Nature, was held in Savoy Place with views looking out over some of the city’s greatest science and engineering achievements, such as the London Eye and the Millennium Bridge. It fitted well with the ethos of an evening that not only looked at CaSE’s past achievements, but looked forward to the challenges ahead.

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Imperial College Union: Life Sciences Restructuring Threatens Teaching


In the summer of 2010, Imperial announced that it was planning to restructure the department of Life Sciences to deal with a £1.5m deficit. The restructure targeted sections they believed were underperforming in research, and their aim was that in getting rid of some academics in these sections, deleting the sections themselves and directing the department towards the new research area of Integrated Cell Biology, the deficit would be tackled.

 

The Students’ Union and Staff Union made representation to the consultation over the summer raising some serious concerns. The data showing the under-performance of the sections appeared to have been misused; no account was taken of the recent move from another campus of a large part of the affected section; and the restructure only assessed research, not teaching or administration.

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