Athena SWAN is open for discussion

Posted by Suzanne Madgwick

Following on from the success of our Athena SWAN Bronze Award we began an open discussion on social media by posting an article about its principles and practice, the good and the bad! It’s been pretty clear that not everyone is entirely happy, some with the charter in principle and others with actions in ICaMB related to the charter. The issue is polarised both nationally and within the department. We certainly don’t want to shy away from this and so we asked you for your anonymous views.

The one consistent thread that emerged again from this feedback is that we all agree on the importance of gender equality in the workplace, this has never been in doubt. HOWEVER opinions on other aspects vary wildly, you’ll see from the following matrix that we don’t even all hold the same views on the AS team.

This has been a very productive exercise with which we can develop our future direction. Thank you for taking the time to post your comments. We’ve put together a team summary statement  and a full comments matrix to highlight our future approach and the types of conversations we are having. We have also organised the comments into a few main topics which are available by clicking on the pages below for a quick view.

We hope we can continue to openly discuss. So have a look at our statement for a more general view, the summaries focusing on the topics that interest you most and please do let us know what you think.

Positive discriminationPositive Discrimination

                                                         A Box ticking exerciseBox ticking 


Butterfly programmeThe Butterfly Program




AS5Having children harms your career

                                                        A historical problem?Historical problem?


Don’t forget to take the time to look through the full matrix. This is a working document that will continue to improve through open discussions and with your valuable feedback and help, so please leave your comments!

Thanks again

The AS team.

Spending Review 2015 – what does it mean for science?

by Paula Salgado

After many months of speculation and concern, the details of the Spending Review 2015 when it comes to science feels, at first, as a massive relief. After all, the Chancellor announced that science funding would be protected in real terms this time, “raised to £4.7bn by 2020 and capital spending to remain at 6.9£bn over this period”. We should be celebrating, surely! However, a detailed analysis shows that this really means that public investment in science will be frozen for the next 5 years. In fact, according to a detailed analysis (source:

  • The Science Budget is and will remain lower in real terms than it was in 2010.
  • The Science Budget is falling per person living in the UK, and as a fraction of GDP. By 2020, the Science Budget will be nearly 20% lower as a fraction of GDP than it was in 2010.

And we also need to look at the details, not just the main headlines. The science resource budget (those £4.7bn) will now include a newly announced Global Challenges Fund “to ensure UK science takes the lead in addressing the problems faced by developing countries whilst developing our ability to deliver cutting-edge research.” Depending on how this fund will be managed and organised, there is a concern that this could mean that some of the funds which are currently part of the Science Budget will be diverted to sustain the Governments commitment to spend 0.7% of GDP on international development.

It is also still not clear how the implementation of the Nurse Review in to how Science is funded in the UK will undoubtedly affect the funding landscape. Setting up an overarching structure will have its costs and we need to see how that will translate into funding allocation.

But most importantly, this flat cash real-terms freeze is yet another failed opportunity to increase investment in research and development that is required to maintain the UK’s leading role and sustain economic growth. Five years of flat cash has already had a detrimental effect on R&D, not only in terms of the decline in available funds but also in reputation and work of labs across the country. With the positive economic signs announced by the Chancellor, the Government had a chance to reverse the current managed decline of R&D in the UK but decided to continue on a similar path. The long term effects of these decisions will only be clear over the next few decades – but that is why many, including the Wellcome Trust and RCUK, reacted with caution at the real-term freeze announcement.

The lead up to the Spending Review

Lettter in FT calling on the Chancellor not to cut science funding (Sept 7, 2015)

Lettter in FT calling on the Chancellor not to cut science funding (Sept 7, 2015)

With rumours of 20 to 40% cuts being “leaked” throughout the summer and even a rushed review from a private consulting company looking on how to make cost savings across the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS), the scientific community had reasons to be concerned. Many voices spoke publicly against the axe falling on public science funding: a letter from many charities and learned societies, together with several companies was published in the Financial Times, UK top scientists sharing their views on Buzzfeed and several opinion pieces in the media from leading scientists and journalists urged the Government to not impose any cuts and seriously consider increasing current investment in order to support future growth. Behind the scenes, influential learned societies and campaign groups lobbied the Chancellor, the new Minister for Universities and Science, Jo Johnson, and the new Secretary for BIS, Sajid Javid to stress the same points. And the House of Commons Science & Technology Committee made detailed recommendations that the science budget should be increased, just a few weeks before the Spending Review announcement.

Science is Vital chair, Dr Jenny Rohhn,  and  vice-chair, Prof Stephen Curry, at the rally in London, 26th October 2015

Science is Vital chair, Dr Jenny Rohhn, and vice-chair, Prof Stephen Curry, at the rally in London, 26th October 2015

But it wasn’t just prominent voices. As in 2010, Science is Vital organised a grass roots campaign to get the voice of scientific community and all supporters of science be heard. There was a big science event in London with scientists, patient groups, journalists and entertainers all rallying to support sustained public investment in science. Across the UK, local events raised the same issues within local communities, getting people to joint watch the event in London but also discuss how science is important to them. And nearly 2000 people wrote a postcard to George Osborne, telling him why they thought Science is Vital.

Science Minister commenting on Science Budget announcement in Spending Review 2015 on Tweeter

Science Minister commenting on Science Budget announcement in Spending Review 2015 on Tweeter

The fact that the Science Minister has now used the phrase “Science is Vital” publicly in at least two occasions, including in his reaction to the SR2015 on social media, means that this important message is getting across our politicians and key decision makers. As more  details of the Spending Review are announced in the coming days and weeks, we will surely have opportunities to continue to let them know why Science is Vital.

What do you think? You can leave your comments below.
Science is Vital is also asking for your reactions.





A personal overview of the Science is Vital “R&D to 0.8%” campaign


by Paula Salgado

Science is Vital is a grass roots campaign of UK scientists and supporters of science who believe that a strong science base is vital to the UK’s economy and reputation. It launched its latest initiative to persuade the Government to increase investment in research and  development (R&D) in the 2015-16 budget, details of which will be announced on June 26. ICaMB’s blog own Paula Salgado, member of the Science is Vital Executive Committee, recalls the earlier campaigns and explains all about the current petition and ongoing survey.


It all started in September 2010, when a speech by the then recently appointed BIS secretary, Vince Cable, and rumours from the Government suggested major cuts – up to 25-35% – could hit the science budget. That led Jenny Rohn to a call for action and many scientists and non-scientists responded.

I am happy and proud to say I was of the initial wave of supporters. In only a few hours, there’s a Facebook page, in next couple of days the domain was registered and a  page created: the Science is Vital campaign was born. From the first moment, there was a clear intent to make this campaign about a key point: cutting science funding is not good for the economy. For me, having taken part in many demonstrations and campaigns as a student back in Portugal, this was a crucial point that made believe this was a campaign with a difference.

Delivering Science is Vital petition with ~33K signatures to N.10 (Photo by Joe Dunckley)


A petition gathered over 33,000 signatures in roughly 6 weeks, including many notable scientists and public figures, as well as the support of many learned societies, patient organisations and other NGO groups.



Lobbying Parliament to protect Science Funding (2010)


The campaign also included letters to MPs and a parliamentary lobby session, where we had an opportunity to directly address the issues with our representatives.



Finally, the campaign culminated with a rally in front of the Treasury:

Scientists in white lab coats and many non-scientist supporters at the rally in October 2010

Stewarding at the rally

I was there, helping as a steward (still not sure how that happened!) and seeing a constant stream of white coats and many non-scientist supporters streaming from the tube station was a very memorable sight. I even met a Portuguese colleague that had also been in many of those demonstrations back home and we couldn’t help comparing the situations and behaviours.

The result: cash-freeze

Despite the massive support gathered in such a short period of time, many of those involved, including me, were still unsure of how successful we could be at avoiding cuts… When the announcements were made and it was revealed that the science budget would be frozen for the next 4 years, we felt relieved, happy. I must admit I was also surprised: this was the first campaign I had taken part that was somewhat successful!

However, this was clearly a bitter-sweet victory: we were protected from deep cuts, but a cash-freeze means at least a 10% reduction in real terms due to inflation alone and cuts of up to 50% in capital spending and in many departments R&D budgets meant this was not great news for science in the UK in the long term.

Inspired by this result, SiV has continued to campaign, focusing on issues such as Science Careers and I continued to volunteer and help when I could. Last summer, at the First AGM, I was elected to become a member of the Executive Committee and have therefore become more involved in all aspects of the campaign.

Reverse the decline in science funding – R&D to 0.8% campaign

Despite the welcomed injections of capital by the Government, that somewhat minimised the effects for specific areas, the effects of the cash-freeze and other cuts are already being felt. A recent study by CaSE (Campaign for Science and Engineering) clearly shows that, at the end of the spending review period (2014-15), there will still be a significant shortfall in science funding in real terms, estimated to be around .

This reduction is already having its effects in the research community and it must be reversed if the UK is to remain at the the forefront of scientific research.

Why a new campaign now?

As you might have heard, the Government is currently discussing a budget review for 2015-16, the results of which will be announced on June 26. There are many indicators of further cuts to announced so there is cause for concern. Despite reassurances from Vince Cable that science funding will be protected, we understand that the Treasury favours a continuation of the cash-freeze. This will continue the current decline and will send dangerous signals against long-term public investment in science.

Bringing in the big names

Our first question was: how can we raise awareness of this renewed threat to science funding and make sure there will be a public discussion on the issue? Getting renowned scientists in the UK to get involved was an obvious choice, and we spent a couple of weeks contacting them. At one point, I remember making the wild suggestion of cold emailing Prof Stephen Hawking, which other committee members thought was a good idea – I can’t tell you how surprised and delighted I when I got an email back, fully supporting the campaign!

So the campaign was launched with a letter in the Daily Telegraph signed by more than 50 prominent scientists in the UK, including Stephen Hawking, Martin Rees, Brian Cox, Paul Nurse and ICaMB’s own Jeff Errington.

We are asking the Government to show a clear long-term commitment to science in UK and set a target to increase public investment in R&D to 0.8% GDP – the G8 average – so we will regain our leading position and compete more effectively with the leading economies of the world.

Public spending in R&D as a percentage of GDP (via

Science funding in UK needs your help

Now, it’s your turn to help and support us.

We want to prepare a report, detailing the effects of the current cash-freeze is already having in the research community and alerting the Government for the dangers in pursuing the current policy of managed declined. For that, we need data. So please take our survey and tell us what you think.

We have prepared a public petition and ask you all to sign it. Importantly, we need to spread the word. As in 2010, we have used social media networks to tell people about the campaign. So please, sign it and tell everyone you know.

Also, you can write to your MP to get them involved in the discussion.

Science in UK needs you now. We only have a few weeks to get this important message across: Science is Vital for the UK.


A scientific note:


60 years ago today,  a ground breaking discovery was printed in Nature:

James Watson and Francis Crick published their proposed DNA structure, based on X-ray data collected by Rosalind Franklin, then working with Maurice Wilkins. There is hardly a need to explain the immense impact this paper had in science, medicine and our views of the world.

The fact that this was carried out in UK labs, with public funding, is one of the many examples of excellence in UK science.


We can not let this leading position be eroded, so what better way to celebrate it than join a campaign to help reverse science funding?


Science is Vital
R&D 0.8% campaign