Clip Swan's wings

September 8, 2011

Upon opening last week's copy of Times Higher Education, I flicked to the Letters pages eager to read the undoubted responses to the plethora of articles on equality and diversity in the 25 August issue. Imagine my surprise to find that the magazine did nothing more than give the Athena Scientific Women's Academic Network (Swan) further free advertising ("Rewarding equality", 1 September).

Some preliminary research reveals no independent evaluation of the difference Athena Swan has made to women in science, technology, engineering and maths/medicine. I'm happy to be proved wrong, but I could find nothing. Case studies posted on its website appear to show good practice already under way to obtain the award rather than as a direct result of it.

I applaud the "celebration" of good practice but am disturbed by the increasing importance attached to an award of (as yet) unproven efficacy to the issue it is trying to address. That the Department of Health would restrict its funding based on such an award beggars belief.

The decision made by the department might be irreversible, but could I ask THE to stop giving free advertising to the organisation?

Alison Hay, Glasgow

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