News

EVENT: Investigating mental health in the research community
11 May 2018 10:00-14:30, London, United Kingdom
We are bringing together early career researchers to identify specific challenges around mental health in the UK research environment, and propose actionable solutions for the learned societies to implement. A series of talks will look at mental health in UK research from three different perspectives:
- an overview of the ‘Understanding mental health in the research environment’ review from Dr Susan Guthrie, RAND
- practical steps to resilience and wellbeing in research from Dr Sara Shinton, University of Edinburgh
- personal perspectives from Dr Joanna Waldie, University of Cambridge. 

This will be followed by a workshop for all attendees to collect the views of those working in academic research and encountering these problems in their own workplaces.

This event is a join event, supported by the Royal Society, Royal Academy of Engineers, Institute of Physics, Royal Society of Biology and the Wellcome Trust.
http://www.rsc.org/events/detail/32166/investigating-mental-health-in-the-research-community

EVENT: Diversity in Geoscience UK (DiG-UK): inaugural meeting and launch event
4 June 2018
Come along to the official launch of the an exciting new initiative on Diversity in Geoscience (DiG-UK) at the Geological Society. Visit the website for further details and how to register:
https://www.geolsoc.org.uk/dig-uk-launch-event 

Chronically Academic 

We’ve been invited to present “Chronically Academic”, a network for academics with disabilities and chronic conditions, at a meeting of the STEMM DAC. We introduced our network with a special focus on an initiative to fund medical leave for PhD students run by Claudia Pama, Edwin Dalmaijer and Stella Prins which is supported by our network.

Chronically Academic wants to make academia accessible for individuals with disabilities and chronic conditions. We are registered as a European charity in Germany but we established ourselves as a worldwide network (with a focus on the UK, USA, Canada and Germany). Our goal is to provide peer support and mentoring for other academics with disabilities and chronic conditions (mainly on Facebook, Twitter and Slack). Academics with disabilities and chronic conditions can also email our advice box to get further support. We also provide advice to supervisors and employers who need external advice on how to deal with disabled staff.

Beyond directly helping each other, we also aim to change the academic workplace to create better working environments for our minority. To achieve this, we run several task groups: on mental health, autism, journal accessibility and the accessibility of funding bodies. Our working groups are currently developing ideas on how to make academic workplaces more accessible. For example, many academic publishers don’t provide simple language introductions, don’t describe what’s on illustrations in academic papers, or use green and red colours in graphs. Because access needs are so diverse, our working groups also encourage to use means of communicating your research beyond the standard journal article to make it more accessible – from simple language introductions, to videos and podcasts.

One of our main goals is to make funding bodies accessible and to this end, we set up a funding body access working group. For example, many funding bodies provide very lengthy and convoluted application documents which might be difficult for disabled academics to navigate. Further issues with funding bodies concern the lack of disability-related extensions to grant deadlines, and shortage of funding, e.g., for additional travel costs arising from a disability.In contrast to many other European countries, UK stipend holders with disabilities are not covered by employment law and therefore to receive paid sick leave and funding bodies typically decide independently whether sick leave for stipend holders is covered by their grant or stipend. This puts many academics who want to go on sick leave, but can’t afford to sustain themselves during this period in a difficult situation. To address this, Chronically Academic is working towards lobbying funding bodies to fund medical leave for PhD students. Together with Edwin Dalmaijer and Stella Prins, Claudia Pama is running an initiative which so far achieved a petition with several hundred signatures, an article in Nature, and in Times Higher Education. In support of their campaign, Cancer Research UK has already adjusted its policies to support PhD students throughout the period of their medical leave. CRUK fund four months of fully paid sick leave and a further four months of half pay and their new sick leave policy might serve as a model for other funding bodies to better support academics with disabilities. Claudia’s story can be found here: https://www.timeshighereducation.com/news/funding-taken-away-phd-student-after-cancer-diagnosis. (May 2018)

Campaign for Science and Engineering diversity review

CaSE has published a policy review on improving diversity and inclusion STEM, with key recommendations for government. This work brings together recent research to make a clear case for improving diversity in STEM, as well as illustrating the progress that has been achieved over the last century. The review shows that despite increased awareness in areas such as ethnicity, disability and socio-economic inequality, continued specific and intentional efforts are needed to ensure that this momentum is sustained throughout the sector.

The key recommendations for Government are:
- A careers strategy that means business: Embed diversity and inclusion through a joined-up national careers strategy and do more to encourage flexible working practices and career pathways.
- Decisive action on diversity data: Government should lead the way with national statistics and coordinate central analysis and monitoring to understand causes of under-representation, ensuring evidence can inform action taken by Government and other organisations.
Read more: http://www.sciencecampaign.org.uk/resource/diversity2018.html  (February 2018)

Disabled graduates still less likely to be in full-time employment than non-disabled peers
AGCAS has published the latest (November 2017) edition of ‘What Happens Next? A report on the first destinations of 2015 disabled graduates’.
Further information: http://bit.ly/2y9NqUM

Department for Business, Innovation and Skills
Targeting funding for disabled students in Higher Education from 2016/17 onwards: Response from the STEMM Disability Advisory Committee

We prepared a report on the proposal of the introduction of targeted funding for disabled students of higher education (HE). In forming our response, all our member bodies were consulted. The STEMM Disability Advisory Committee welcomes the government’s efforts to ensure that the higher education learning environment is accessible to all students. We agree that a move to a more inclusive learning environment at all levels of education, training and employment is a positive step. As demand for workers with high-level science qualifications increases, the UK needs to encourage and facilitate more people to study science-based subjects. Higher education plays a valuable role in training a highly-skilled science workforce.

In the report, we highlight a number of issues regarding the specialist support often required by disabled STEMM students, particularly around the lack of expert and specialist knowledge that exists in HE. We want to make certain that disabled STEMM students do not face additional disadvantages as a result of the government’s proposals.

Our full response can be found in our Policy section.

Collecting Stories for our website

We are keen to highlight and share the stories of those who love studying or working in Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Medicine (STEMM) and also have a disability. If that is you, we would be delighted if you would consider writing a short piece (around 400 words) for our website to share your STEMM story.

In particular, in your piece it would be interesting to hear:

If you are happy to do so, please send your name and a photograph along with your written piece to diversity@royalsociety.org