Challenges of coronavirus/lockdown on staff survey

Lockdown and the coronavirus threat are presenting many new challenges for staff in the School of Biology, particularly in juggling work with family and other personal commitments.

The School of Biology’s Equality and Diversity Committee has launched a short survey to get a better understanding of how staff can be better supported during this time and will do their best to turn these into actions.

The brief poll, which should take less than 2 mins, can be found here and is open for 1 week (closes midday Tuesday 23 June).


Survey Questions

  • How would you feel about having one day each week designated as meeting-free, in order to help prioritise research time?
  • Would having a designated meeting-free period for 1 hour over lunchtime (e.g., 12.30 – 1.30pm) be helpful ?
  • Would you prefer a meeting-free period in the workday at another time?
  • Would getting back to quiet office space help your productivity?
  • Would you like to have a designated staff welfare officer (who could respond to concerns and provide advice)?
  • Do you have any other practical suggestions for actions we could take?
  • We need some information about you to help us interpret these responses.
    • (a) Your gender
    • (b) Do you have caring responsibilities for others within your home?

Addressing racism and prejudice

Statement to all members of staff and students in the School of Biology:

The horrific George Floyd incident and resulting unrest, combined with other high-profile occurrences of racial prejudice, initiatives such as black lives matter, and ethnicity related discrepancies in COVID-19 deaths, have all placed a spotlight on racism in society.

We would like staff and students in the School of Biology to know that the School’s Equality and Diversity (E&D) Committee is actively working to promote equality, diversity and inclusion within the School, and was recognized in feedback on its Athena SWAN Silver award to be a leader in its institution. Recent ethnicity-relevant actions that we have implemented include:

  • Development of a recruitment checklist (aimed at promoting recruitment of minorities, including BAME).
  • Unconscious bias training for all, and recruitment and selection training for those involved in recruitment
  • Undergraduate tutorials on ‘Unconscious Bias’, ‘Bias in race, ethnicity, age, sex in research trials’ and ‘Teamwork and the benefits of a diverse team’
  • Development of procedures for the reporting of bullying and prejudice in the workplace
  • Development of guidelines for the organization of diverse conferences and workshops

Further actions that we are planning include:

  • Compulsory online diversity training for all staff and students
  • Equality, diversity and inclusion to be highlighted in Student Induction 
  • A student BAME representative on our Equality and Diversity Committee

We are also actively lobbying for E&D initiatives at University level, with some success.  The School also has representation on the University’s newly formed Race and Ethnicity Equality Group.

Clearly much more needs to be done to eradicate the inequalities that BAME staff and students, and other minorities, experience daily, and we are far from complacent about addressing that challenge, and achieving balanced representation amongst our community.  Like many of you, we care deeply about these issues, and will continue to work to address your concerns.

If you have concrete suggestions for possible actions that we could implement that would improve equality and diversity within the School, or if you would like to join the E&D committee to help it achieve these objectives, please contact us.

Sascha Hooker (Chair, Biology Equality and Diversity Committee)

Kevin Laland (Deputy Chair, Biology Equality and Diversity Committee)

Frank Gunn-Moore (Head of School)

Election to the Academic Senate

A member of the School of Biology, Dr Tracey Gloster, has been elected by her peers to represent the Life Sciences constituency on Academic Senate. Senate provides academic governance within the University and considers business associated with research, learning and teaching matters and the related student experience. It is also a forum for discussing the University’s academic strategy and new academic initiatives that have importance for the University as a whole. Tracey will join two colleagues from the School of Psychology to represent the life science constituents for the next 4 years.

Highlighting mentoring schemes

The BE&D committee (primarily Prof. Kevin Laland) has compiled a summary of the major mentorship schemes for which staff in the School of Biology may be eligible. Several of these provide mentorship to fellows/postdocs/RAs as well as academic staff. The information can be found here (on Biointernal so VPN access is required if not on campus).

Promotions Workshop 2020

We held an expanded academic promotions workshop on 14 January 2020, inviting other science schools in the North Haugh to attend.  The format included presentation from Mairi Stewart (Head of HR) and Prof. Malcolm White laying out the structure of the promotions procedure, and how it is viewed centrally by the university. The recorded event can be viewed here.

The 2020 round of promotions* has now been launched, and information and forms can be found here.

* Unfortunately the 2020 promotion round was later cancelled.

United Nations International Day of Women and Girls in Science lecture postponed

Unfortunately the public lecture to celebrate the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, organised by the School of Biology Equality & Diversity Committee, has been postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak. The lecture was to be given by Dr Mary Cassie Stoddard of Princeton University on 16 March 2020. We hope to re-organise the event for later this year and will provide more details once confirmed.

Public lecture to celebrate United Nations International Day of Women and Girls in Science

To celebrate the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, the School of Biology Equality & Diversity Committee have organised a public lecture.

The lecture, entitled “Birds and their eggs” will be given by Dr Mary Cassie Stoddard of Princeton University on 16 March 2020 at 1pm in the Byre Theatre.

The Extraordinary World of Birds and their eggs

Dr Cassie Stoddard studies visual communication and signalling in birds. In her public lecture, Cassie will describe her groundbreaking research into animal colouration and patterning, and the evolution of eggs, plumage and camouflage. Cassie is an Assistant Professor of sensory ecology, evolution and behaviour at the Princeton University Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. She received her undergraduate degree from Yale University, and her PhD from the University of Cambridge where she held both Marshall and NSF Graduate Research Fellowships. Cassie joined the Harvard Society of Fellows in 2012 as a Junior Fellow and was subsequently named a 2013 L’Oreal USA For Women in Science Fellow.

The talk is free, but ticketed. Tickets are available from the Byre Theatre or online. All University students and staff, as well as members of the public, are invited to attend. Tea and coffee will be served after the lecture.

Early career researchers are invited to an informal Careers in Science Q&A session with Dr Stoddard between 11.00-12.30 in Studio Level 4 of the Byre Theatre. Please register your interest with Edith Invernizzi.

This event 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.


Ailsa Hall: Inaugural lecture

On Wednesday 12 February 2020, Professor Ailsa Hall gave her inaugural lecture entitled “The No. 1 Ladies Disease Detective Agency: from mortuaries to marine mammals”.  The recorded lecture can be found here.

Ailsa is Director of the Sea Mammal Research Unit, which includes about 50 staff including academics, contract staff, post‐doctoral researchers and PhD students. Her work lies at the interface between discovery and policy‐related science, with research interests primarily in disease and toxicology, and particularly the cumulative effects of different stressors, particularly disease‐causing agents such as pathogens and toxins.

Fellowship writing workshop

A  Fellowship writing workshop was organised by early career researchers on the E&D committee, which took place on 5 February.

Obtaining an Independent Research Fellowship (IRF) enables an individual to become a PI in an institution of their choice, but a successful IRF application involves much preparation and hard work. A workshop was organised on how to write an effective application for an IRF, which brought together 10 speakers, including 6 PIs in the School of Biology and 4 administrative staff in various units supporting grant and fellowship applications. The PIs offered both detailed and broad advice on how to write compelling applications, while the administrative staff offered an overview of institutional steps and  resources available that helps IRF applicants. This workshop was attended by 26 participants, which included research staff and postgraduate students. A video of the workshop is available here.