Monthly Archives: June 2013

Diversity in Science Parliamentary Links Day

Today I attended the Parliamentary Links day on the topic of Diversity in STEM. A panel of excellent speakers considered challenges faced on the basis of gender, disability, socioeconomic background, age and ethic group.

The overwhelming take-home message is this: we need to do more to encourage more people, from every possible background, to progress in STEM education and stop the so-called ‘leaky pipeline’ which sees huge numbers leaving STEM at every transition point.

But no solutions were proposed and I’ve come home with more questions than answers.

Firstly- there is no doubt that academics value outreach and that WP is imperative. However, with the current marketisation of HE, it is becoming more and more difficult for us to decouple outreach/engagement and recruitment. Those of you who work with me will know that I am passionate about science and I believe everyone should have an opportunity to access knowledge, and whilst I acknowledge that events such as the Lancashire Science Festival do indirectly lead to recruitment, it is not the aim. HEIs are working against each other to recruit students yet we need to work together to inspire young people, offer worthwhile, long-term engagement and to change perceptions held by influencers such as parents and teachers. There needs to be acknowledgement that this benefits us all and it needs to be funded as such.

Which brings me onto point 2. We all agree that it is important to widen access to education and training, whether this be degrees or apprenticeships. We recognise that not everyone is cut out to be a world leading professor. So why is it then, that government funding available for outreach initiatives is becoming more and more targeted at research intensive universities? Is this a rod we have made for our own backs with the ‘public engagement with research’ agenda? Yes, it makes sense that the Research Councils fund projects that enable engagement with RCUK funded research. BUT- there is an absolute wealth of other work out there that is inspiring, engaging, enthralling. Why doesn’t the government make some of that funding available to other HEIs, grassroots organisations, community groups, individuals? Go on, give me some funding and I’ll show you what I can do. Seriously

Finally a comment on being a woman in science. It never bothered me that I was in the minority- I had a male supervisor, male PhD students outnumbered female by about 8:1. If there had been a quota. e.g. to have 50% female PhD students, I’d have spent the whole time wondering if I should actually be there. I don’t believe quotas are the answer. Cultural change is. Now working in HE, I come across gender bias time and time again, not just in STEM. It does bother me now. There’s a macho attitude to things like working late, answering email over weekends…it seems to be viewed as weak to have a family and to want to spend time with them! This needs to change.

I think we are doing well at UCLan. We do a lot of community outreach and long may it continue. We are addressing gender issues and I’m pleased to be part of a working group looking at gender and career progression. But the sector as a whole has problems. I hope to be part of the solution…


RCUK’s ‘Concordat for Engaging the Public with Research’

We are working on embedding the principles of this document

MMU Research and Knowledge Exchange Blog

Research Councils UKRCUK have written a ‘Concordat for Engaging the Public with Research’, this document outlines the expectations and responsibilities of research funders with respect to public engagement, to help embed public engagement in universities and research institutes. This will enhance the future of research and benefit the UK society and economy.

By setting out clear expectations for research organisations, researcher managers and supporters and researchers themselves, the Concordat aims to strengthen existing good practice in public engagement by ensuring it is valued, recognised and supported.

The Concordat consists of a set of key principles for the future support of public engagement, and under each principle, an explanation of how it may be embedded into institutional practice.

The Concordat’s key principles:

  1. UK research organisations have a strategic commitment to public engagement
  2. Researchers are recognised and valued for their involvement with public engagement activities
  3. Researchers are enabled to participate in public engagement…

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Harris Flights- opportunity to get INVOLVED

 I’m really excited about this new project that has been developed by UCLan’s Professor of Art in Public Places, Charles Quick.

He’s going to have a flight of stairs constructed that lead into the Harris Museum in Preston.

The odd thing about the Harris is that although it has a lovely portico, the steps are actually hidden to the sides of the building, and at first approach it is hard to find the way in! Charles’ idea is to open up the museum, to get the public inside and also- to bring the museum onto the streets.

And that is where you come in. We are looking for dancers, muscians, poets, comedians, scientists, historians, town criers!

Here is the call for activities:harris flights

Have you got ideas/ research/ performances that you want to share with a wider public this summer and autumn then Harris Flights is designed for you.

A dramatic temporary staircase known as the Harris Flights will transport visitors from the Flag market to the 1st floor and through the front door of the Harris Museum and Art Gallery for four weeks from the 17th August to the 15th of September, providing a backdrop for groups and organisations to put on performances and events. 

We are looking for a diverse range of projects which could range from, Science, Archaeology, Fashion, Film, Art and Design, Performing arts, Community and Local Heritage, Journalism & media, Sport activities  and more

The Harris Flights will provide a flexible platform where groups and individuals can present ideas/research/perform to a wider public in the heart of the city.

Please propose your idea on one side of A4 (around 500 words max) and submit it to by 12 noon on Friday 28th of June. We will contact you by the Friday 5th July

If you need any other information or would like to discuss your proposal please contact Charles Quick