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HoD Prof Francis Barr says “I firmly believe that Athena Swan plays a central role both as a driver and as a catalyst for transforming the culture of our department”

Department of Biochemistry: increasing representation

As part of Biochemistry’s application for the Silver Award, the Department set up and rebooted a variety of networks to give staff and students a greater say in the running of the Department.  Each of these networks has a representative on the Departmental Strategy Group with a standing agenda item to raise issues and report on activities.

PSS Network

The first of these is the Professional Support Staff (PSS) network to establish better communication between scientists and staff, and to give staff a stronger say in how the Department is run. The committee meets monthly to discuss Departmental issues, arrange events as well as to support PSS career development and reports to the Departmental Strategy Group.  The PSS network has a budget to host social events and improve communication with academic staff by organising accessible science research talks with coffee. It also has a dedicated Teams channel to encourage and facilitate communication between PSS network members.

Oxford Biochemistry Biochemical Society and Postdoc Association

The Department has given new impetus to the Oxford University Biochemical Society, to help masters, DPhil students, and postdoc researchers have their voices heard. This society has a budget to host events (such as seminars, poster sessions, and networking events) that are of professional benefit to their members and organises termly external seminar speakers. 

To empower postdoc researchers, Biochemistry engaged with a group of enthusiastic PDRAs to launch a PDRA Association (OBPA) (Action 5.13). The OBPA committee (9F:5M) manage a budget from the Department, plus sponsorship they raise, to organise an annual OBPA retreat and a program of social and career-related activities.

The retreats in 2017 and 18 included academic and non-academic careers talks (6F:5M presenters in 2018), skills workshops, Brexit information and a sit-down lunch. The retreats and other activities, including monthly coffee sessions with speakers (covering careers, fellowship opportunities, training), two grant writing workshops, public engagement seminars and poster sessions have been well received, with 83%F:90%M of PDRAs saying the association is a positive development

“The grant-writing workshop was so helpful and given me the confidence to work towards a fellowship application.” Female PDRA, Workshop Feedback18

“The retreat was an excellent opportunity to hear about a wide range of career options and initiatives for postdoc career development.” Female PDRA, Retreat Feedback17

Read more about the societies here:

Equality and Diversity Information for new PIs.

All newly appointed group leaders automatically join the Equality and Diversity Committee for one year. This is not onerous but introduces them to the Departmental culture on Equality and Diversity from the outset, encourages them to discuss best practice from other places they have worked and also is an opportunity to meet a diverse range of Department members to facilitate integration.

An image of the OUBS logo with some feedback from a grant writing session: "“The grant-writing workshop was so helpful and given me the confidence to work towards a fellowship application.”


Click here to read about EDI activity in one of our other 16 departments:

MSD Goes Silver: 10 Years of Athena Swan