Gender balance among University Research Fellows- Where are we going wrong?

Last week, the Royal Society published the results of the latest group of researchers to be awarded University Research Fellowships (URF). This award offers stability to early career scientists by giving them 5 years of funding with the possibility to extend for a further 3 years, thereby creating the opportunity for a scientific career which could enable them to become leaders in their field.

Out of the 43 that were successful and awarded the fellowship, only 2 were women. The data published by the Royal Society, showing the number of female applicants awarded the fellowship over the past 4 years can be seen below.
Royal society fellowships history

So where are we going wrong? These statistics are not only very disappointing, they illustrate a confusing trend that once again flags up the “leaky pipeline” in science research. Twitter has been inundated with conversations about these statistics, if you haven’t been following our timeline, have a look for the many comments and join the conversation @WISEQMUL.

The response from the Royal Society came on Friday via Paul Nurse, whereby an investigation has now been launched. Is this drop in numbers of fellowships awarded to women just a fluke, or is it a result of increased Dorothy Hodgkins fellowshops being made available? You can be read the response here.

4th Mar 2014: Women in Science Wikipedia Edit-a-thon at the Royal Society

An opportunity to share, learn and interact, what more to ask!

The Royal Society is organising an engaging event to pour out your thoughts on topics related to women in science and engineering and learn to edit Wikipedia.

The Edit-a-thon is scheduled on Tuesday 4th March 2014, celebrating the arrival of International Women’s Day. Experienced Wikimedians will be present to help and light refreshments will be provide. Please bring in your laptops to join an interactive afternoon/evening session.

Click here to register.

WISE@QMUL seminar: Women in science policy

On 2nd July 2013, WISE@QMUL presented a lunchtime seminar from women working in science policy at the Royal Society and the Wellcome Trust.

This proved a very popular event and we had 36 attendees from departments throughout the STEM sector of the University, including many from the Blizzard Institute. We discussed the transition of female policy workers from academia to science policy, the career trajectories available within science policy, as well as organisations that employ policy workers. Lunch was provided as usual, and went down a treat!


  • Natalie Banner recently joined the Wellcome Trust as a Policy Officer, working on issues around access and sharing of data in genetic and genomic studies, and patient privacy. Before this she spent 3 years as a postdoctoral research fellow at King’s College London. A 3-month fellowship at POST (Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology) spurred her interest in science policy and the ways in which relationships between academics and policy makers could be developed for mutual benefit.
  • Elizabeth Bohm is a Senior Policy Adviser at the Royal Society and has spent the last decade working in policy after training in both science and law. She gravitated towards policy after a narrow escape from a life in corporate law and now uses her skills in a variety of roles for public bodies, research funders and trade unions. In her current role she covers a broad range of topics from research misconduct and public engagement to genetically modified crops and TB in badgers.

Feedback from the event showed that many attendees enjoyed the discussion and found the speakers interesting and engaging. Our great thanks go out to Elizabeth and Natalie for their enthusiasm for being part of this event, they certainly helped to open many people’s eyes to science policy as a potential career.

We hope to see as many new faces attending our next events.

A jammed pack room with many new faces!

A jammed pack room with many new faces

Natalie Banner of Wellcome Trust gave us an insight into policy work, and Science Policy internships within Parliament.

Natalie Banner (Wellcome Trust) gave us an insight into policy work and science policy internships within Parliament