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

24th Sep 2009: Retaining female talent

Retaining Female Talent
Thursday, 24th September at 4 pm in the Senior Common Room Bar in the Queen’s Building at Queen Mary, University of London

It is well known that women are under-represented in SET careers, and a contributing factor to this is that appropriately qualified women are not retained in the same proportions to similarly qualified men. Although biosciences has one of the highest proportions of female undergraduate students at around 60 percent, and in chemistry around half of undergraduates are female, at professor level the proportions of women are much lower, 13 percent for biosciences and 6 percent for chemistry.

In 2006, the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) undertook a survey of chemistry PhD students which revealed that although a greater proportion of women than men began their PhDs with the intention of remaining in research, by the end of the PhD this proportion had halved, while the proportion of men had stayed about the same.

Two years later, the RSC collaborated with the Biochemical Society and the UK Resource Centre for Women in SET (UKRC) on two projects to follow up the 2006 research findings to establish whether the findings for chemistry PhD students are reproduced in the molecular biosciences, and to further explore what happens during the chemistry PhD that deters women from pursuing a research career.

Sarah Dickinson and Sean McWhinnie from the RSC will present the findings from these studies as well their work on Good Practice in University Science Departments.

Sarah Dickinson is the Higher Education Good Practice Specialist at the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC). She graduated in 2003 with a degree in Social Science from the University of Brighton, where she developed an interest in women and education; the focus of her dissertation was meritocracy in the British education system. Sarah has worked for the RSC for over 5 years and as well as the work on the PhD experience, she has coordinated projects on the factors affecting A-level and undergraduate subject choice in physics and chemistry by ethnic group, as well as doing the research and co-authoring the RSC’s Planning for Success: Good Practice in University Science Departments report.

Sean McWhinnie has worked in science policy at the Royal Society of Chemistry for almost 12 years and prior to that held a post as a lecturer in the Chemistry Department at Brunel University for 7 and a half years. Sean has significant knowledge of UK academic chemistry from his time as a chemistry lecturer and subsequent work at the RSC.
Whilst at the RSC Sean has led a number of research projects on a range of subjects including the representation of ethnic groups in Chemistry and Physics, and the recruitment and retention of women in academic Chemistry. Sean lead the development of the RSC’s work in diversity, early on through working with Dame Julia Higgins, and more recently by building partnerships with organisations such as the Athena Project, and the Institute of Physics.