Female Plant Scientists on ‘Women in Science’

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Published on: September 6, 2012
A snapshot of the Smithsonian Institute’s Women In Science archives

This post on ‘Women in Science’ is ghost written by several women working in science, either in research or in science policy. I asked them to give me their thoughts, and as some of them wanted to be anonymous, I collected the common ideas and put them into this blog post. Thank you to everyone who contributed.

Why are there so few women at the highest levels of academia, for example as Heads of School, Directors of Institutes, or Fellows of the Royal Society?

As in many other pieces on women in science, a common response to this question was that an academic career is not family friendly. Day-to-day working life is difficult to manage with a family as a very successful academic career involves unsociable hours and a huge workload. In fact, a study out last week showed that many scientists work all night and through weekends. For many reasons, women are more likely than men to see their families as a more important focus for their time and energy than their careers.

Two of the women I asked pointed out very practical problems of combining family life and research. Firstly, if a woman takes a career break for her children, when she returns to work she may be excluded from grants and fellowships for early career scientists, which set a maximum number of years from PhD graduation to be eligible for the funding. Secondly, a woman who takes ordinary maternity leave and returns to work straight away will probably find maintaining the same level of output as before her pregnancy difficult. Strength of publication record is important for senior scientific positions, so a drop and/or gap in publications caused by maternity leave and subsequent out-of-hours time devoted to a baby may delay or prevent her making applications for more senior positions.

A second theme, again commonly discussed and relevant whether a woman has family commitments or not, is that male dominance at the highest levels of academia is self-perpetuating. Some women, consciously or otherwise, are put off staying in research and aiming for the top positions by the very fact that there are few women at those high levels. Equally, women may not be recommended or headhunted for top positions, not maliciously but automatically, simply because they do not fit the norm.

As in many professions, in academia the lack of women in senior positions is partially due to more men than women forcing their way to the top. The scientists who contributed to this piece thought that women are less likely than men to self-promote, to ask for a promotion, or to apply for the top job. This is the feeling of successful women in other professions too. One of the women I asked felt that women are judged more harshly than men by men and women alike, being seen as aggressive or manipulative if they use the same methods as men to get to the top.

Do you think the programs and awards that encourage ‘women in science’ in some way are necessary, and doing a good job? (more…)

Funding round-up: Deadlines in Autumn 2012

Categories: funding, UKPSF
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Published on: September 4, 2012

A number of grant deadlines are coming up this autumn, from big fellowship grants to funding for development of methodology or for outreach. Many of them are bi-annual, so if you are interested you may want to prepare for a Spring 2013 application instead.

For more funding opportunities, other news and an events calendar, go to the UK Plant Sci website.

Nitrogen Ideas lab: deadline 7 September. You only have 3 days to apply for this but the application form is very short, and $12M funding from the BBSRC and NSF is available for projects that come out of the ideas lab, which will be held in Crewe (UK) from 3-7 December.

Fellowships for established researchers

BBSRC Industry Fellowships scheme: Deadline 5 October. This is funded by the Royal Society, Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, Natural Environment Research Council, Rolls-Royce plc and Astra Zeneca as well as the BBSRC. It is for the transfer of knowledge between industry and academia. Fellowships can run for 2 years full time, or 4 years part time, during which the fellow will establish personal and corporate links between the 2 sectors of work.

The Leverhulme Trust Visiting Professorships: Deadline 11 October. This programme may last three to ten months and funding is dependent on requirement. This is to enable overseas academics with excellent research and teaching skills to spend time at a UK University for the enrichment of the host university, and for the visiting academic.

Leverhulme Trust Research Fellowships: Deadline 8 November. Up to £45 000 for a fellowship of between 3 and 24 months is available for experienced researchers of any discipline. Researchers who have been prevented from doing original research by routine duties should apply for this fellowship.

BBSRC Partnering Awards: Deadline 14 November. Funding to set up partnership links between the UK and one of Japan, China, Indis, the USA, or Brazil. Both single partnerships and consortia are eligible, and partnerships may last up to 4 years.

Doctoral programme

BBSRC BRIC doctoral programme: Deadline 11 October. This four year scholarship is to support new PhD students with interest in the bioprocessing industry. Students will receive £5000 per annum for training and development.

Grants for researchers of any level

Biochemical Society Eric Reid Fund for Methodology: Deadline 1 November. Members of the Biochemical Society may apply for up to £1800 for developing or carrying out a new method, testing the feasibility of a new idea, and other methodology-led projects.

BBSRC International Workshops: Deadline 14 November. Current BBSRC grant holders or researchers at BBSRC funded institutions can apply for approximately £10k of funding for a workshop to involve another country.

Technology Strategy Board Synthetic Biology competition: Briefing event 15 October; Deadline for registration 14 November; deadline for submission 21 November. Up to £6.5M will be invested. Eligible projects will demonstrate the feasibility of a new synthetic biology approach in the creation of novel or improved products or processes. Projects must be collaborative and business-led. The BBSRC is involved in this initiative, and more information can be found in this BBSRC leaflet.

Agricultural Economics Society Prize Essay Competition: Deadline 30 November. £1000 will be awarded to the best essay on any aspect of agricultural economics. Entrants must be within six years of graduation, or under 30 for non-graduates.

Royal Society Brian Mercer Feasibility Award: Rolling bias. Initial support of up to £30 000 is provided to the winner of the grant, to test the technical and economic feasibility of commercializing an aspect of their scientific research.

Outreach grant

British Ecological Society Outreach grants: Deadline 17 September. Up to £2000 is available to support projects that promote ecology to the public. If mid-September is too close, the next deadline is in March 2013.

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September 2012

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