Athena Swan application highlight: Development of flexible working policy

Our previous application for an Athena Swan bronze award identified the need to promote flexible working in the School. We have responded by:

  • Clarification of the flexible working policy included in the School of Biology Handbook.
  • Case studies of staff who have benefited from flexible working included on E&D website.

Six members of staff (5 female, 1 male) have applied for a formal flexible working contract over the past 3 years, and all were successful.

The flexible working practices have been a major factor allowing me to progress in my career and take on new challenges following on from my maternity leave” – Female Research Staff, School of Biology.

Early career researcher Q&A session

On 23 February 2018, we celebrated the United Nations International Day of Women and Girls in Science with a public lecture, which was followed by an early career researcher Q&A session with two esteemed professors in science: Professor Eleanor Riley and the Head of School of Biology Professor Clare Peddie.

The Q&A session took place in the conference room at the Byre theatre which provided an informal setting to discuss issues relating to women progressing in science. The session began with a brief background of each panellist’s career routes to their current positions. Eleanor and Clare had contrasting backgrounds which allowed different views to be discussed and reflected the diversity of career paths and personal circumstances.

The session was attended by 10 early career researchers, with a mix of gender and level (including post-docs, PhD students and Masters students). The session provided the platform for all attendees to ask questions relating to their circumstances and aspirations in an informal and encouraging setting. The session was very positively received and will continue to follow future Women in Science public lectures.

Thank you to our panel, Professor Kevin Laland for chairing the session, and the early career researchers who attended.

2018 International Day of Women and Girls in Science public lecture

On  23 February 2018, we celebrated the International Day of Women and Girls in Science with a public lecture from invited speaker Professor Eleanor Riley. The lecture ‘Combatting Malaria: Using the Immune System for Prevention, Treatments and Control’ was a free event. Professor Garry Taylor, Master of the United College, introduced Professor Riley and the importance of such events at the University of St Andrews. Professor Clare Peddie, Head of the School of Biology, closed the event. The lecture was very well attended by members of the public, University staff and students, as well as pupils from St Leonards School. We received positive feedback (via feedback forms and comments after the event), for example:

“Great diverse audience, engaging topic and speaker”

“Very interesting, clear and experienced, great to see a top woman in the field”

The lecture can be viewed below.


Many thanks to Katrina Falkenberg and Natalie Sinclair for organising this year’s event, to Professor Eleanor Riley for her inspiring talk, to Professor Garry Taylor and Professor Clare Peddie for introducing and closing the lecture, and to the volunteers who collected and processed the feedback forms. We look forward to next year’s lecture.

Photo credit: Frances Entwistle

Athena Swan application highlight: Engagement with HR policy revision

The BE&D committee has provided substantial and detailed feedback (both solicited and unsolicited) on HR policies when issues arise. For example:

  • Keeping in touch days (for those on parental leave) are paid at 1/365 annual salary compared to strike days which are docked at 1/260 annual salary; this policy is currently under review by HR.
  • A change to the expenses policy which prohibited claims for use of AirBnB (with potential impact for staff travelling with young children, who might require additional amenities); this policy change was reversed.
  • Comprehensive feedback on University HR policies (Equality, Flexible Working, Maternity, Paternity, Adoption, Parental Leave, and Special Leave); these changes are being incorporated as policies are revised.


Biology Society International Women in Science Day event

On the 12th February, the University of St Andrews Biology Society (BioSoc) launched their student-led event in honour of International Women in Science Day, in collaboration with other science-related societies within the University. The event was opened by our guest speaker, Prof Clare Peddie who described her fulfilling journey towards a career in science. Her accomplishments, in becoming the first female for multiple high-ranking positions within the Science community in St Andrews, including the first female Head of the School for Biology, is admirable to many.


Her presentation was followed by an interesting panel discussion, facilitated by the stimulating questions which came from the audience. This panel included representatives from the School of Physics (Dr Vivienne Wild), School of Chemistry (Prof. Alexandra Slawin) and School of Biology (Dr Rona Ramsay and Mrs Penny Hood). The discussions brought to light that while science is still percieved as a male-dominated field, more women have undoubtedly begun to leave marks and legacies behind; encouraging a new generation of female scientists to follow in their footsteps. The panelists have also concluded that although there are many improvements still to be made for women in science, the gender equality gap in science has diminished significantly over the last decade.


The evening was later brought to a close with a networking reception of wine and cheese, allowing students and staff to engage in discussion in a more informal environment, which was greatly appreciated by many. It was a wonderful opportunity for the university community of all science disciplines to mingle and discuss the obstacles faced by women in science, and the importance of gender equality, in a casual and informal setting.


International Women in Science Day is a day to celebrate and admire the contributions of women in science. Countless female scientists have had major impacts on the world, but many have gone unnoticed. Because of this, BioSoc endeavours to establish this as an annual event, to recognise achievements made by women in different areas of science, and to provide a platform for students, staff, and the public to acknowledge and discuss the challenges still faced by women in science today.



Athena Swan application highlight: Changes in promotions procedure

In Oct 2015, BE&D reviewed the University’s promotion procedures and, together with the School of Psychology’s E&D committee, produced a joint paper to the Principal’s office. A number of changes were made as a direct result of this review, including:

  • removing the requirement for a minimum of two international references for Reader/Professor, given the potential discrimination against those less able to travel;
  • removing the rule that unsuccessful applicants should not apply in the following year, which would potentially discourage suitable, but cautious, applicants.

Within Biology, recommendations (encompassing enhancements in appraisal, career advice, and application guidance) were also passed to Management Group, and subsequently implemented. A gender-balanced School promotions panel (2F:2M) was initiated in 2016 to provide constructive feedback on promotion applications.

Our promotions success has improved dramatically from 55% (2012-16) to 89% (2017), with three women promoted to Professor in 2017.

Postgraduate careers event

On 23rd January 2018, the post-graduate members of the BE&D committee hosted our second annual Postgraduate Careers Event as part of the Biology Postgraduate Research Conference. Our intention was to highlight the diversity of careers available post-PhD, and this year (following last year’s feedback asking for more talks on working in industry and science communication), we had talks from:

Dr Sascha Hooker, Committee Chair: Welcome and Introduction

Dr Rafael da Silva: Working in the Pharmaceutical Industry

Dr Katrina Falkenberg: Science Communication

Dr Lauren Guillette: Fellowships & Lectureships

Dr Chris Leakey, Scottish Natural Heritage: Working in Policy

Dr Iain Matthews: University Teaching

Dr Silvia Paracchini: Biomedical Research

The 80 attendees (both postgraduates and postdoctoral researchers) valued the session highly. We have received many positive comments (both via feedback forms and personal comments after the event). The diversity of career choices the speakers talked about was valued by all, with several students commenting that they would be happy with many of these career options, and some staff commenting that perhaps they should move to industry! The panel discussion was also very much appreciated—discussion points included the perceived necessity for an itinerant postdoc lifestyle, challenges with switching between career paths, and strategies for finding mentors.

Many thanks to Jess Haghkerdar and Natalie Sinclair for organising this year’s event, to all of our speakers, and to attendees for discussion and feedback. We look forward to improving the event even further for PhD students and postdocs next year.


BioSoc event for International Day of Women and Girls in Science

In honour of International Day of Women and Girls in Science, the
Biology Society of the University of St Andrews will be hosting a free
event celebrating the achievements and careers of women working across
the science faculties. Professor Clare Peddie, the first female head
of the School of Biology, will open with a presentation, followed by a
question and answer session with a panel of women from Biology, Maths,
Physics and Chemistry. A wine and cheese reception will be an
opportunity for networking and discussing the issues important to
female scientists today.
The event will be held on Monday 12th February, 2018 in the Union, at
17:30. Please feel free to send along questions for the Q&A to and everyone is absolutely welcome!

Athena Swan application highlight: Actions undertaken by the E&D committee

The Biology Equality and Diversity Committee has been busy over the past couple of years. The timeline highlights the activities and actions initiated and undertaken by the Committee. These activities will continue on a regular basis, plus new ones are currently being discussed and developed. Together these will continue to ensure the School of Biology champions and demonstrates equality and good practice.

2018 International Day of Women and Girls in Science public lecture

To celebrate the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, we welcome you to a public lecture by Professor Eleanor Riley:


Combatting Malaria: Using the Immune System for Prevention, Treatments and Control


Friday 23 February, 1pm at the Byre Theatre

Malaria is a deadly infectious disease caused by protozoan parasites of the genus Plasmodium. The latest estimates from the World Health Organisation indicate that there were over 200 million cases of malaria, and up to half a million deaths from malaria in 2015. Intensive efforts to control malaria over the last 15 years have reduced deaths by about half and have allowed the infection to be eliminated from some countries, but progress has stalled in many areas suggesting that the currently available tools are insufficient. Our ability to control malaria depends on a detailed understanding of the biology of the parasite, its vector (mosquitos), and its human host. Biological insights have underpinned vector control measures and drug development and are informing the development of malaria vaccines. Yet it is often hard for scientists at the “discovery” end of the research pipeline – for example, biochemists, geneticists and immunologists – to appreciate or demonstrate how their work might eventually save lives. In her lecture, Professor Riley will show how fundamental immunological research has helped to shape our understanding of the disease we call “malaria”, its epidemiology, treatment and prevention.

Professor Eleanor Riley is the Director of the Roslin Institute and Dean of Research at the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies of the University of Edinburgh, and a world leader in malaria immunology. Professor Riley is a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences with a background in veterinary medicine, human infectious diseases and global health, and more than 30 years’ research experience in the UK and Africa.

The talk is free, but ticketed. Tickets are available from the Byre Box Office online, via telephone (01334 475000) or email (, or from admin staff in the Harold Mitchell/Dyers Brae (Lianne Baker), SOI (Jane Williamson) and the Biology Hive (Andy Cole) buildings. All university students and staff, as well as members of the public, are invited to attend.


The talk will be introduced by the Master of the United College, Professor Garry Taylor, and celebrates the United Nations International Day of Women and Girls in Science. Each year, the School of Biology’s Equality and Diversity Committee hosts a public lecture that highlights the work of an eminent biologist to celebrate some of the outstanding science being done by women.


Tea and coffee will be served after the talk, then at 3:30pm early career researchers are invited to meet with Professor Riley for an informal Careers in Science Q&A. Please contact Natalie Sinclair ( if interested.