Fellowships ‘succeed in getting female researchers back into scholarship’

Vast majority find position in STEM-related careers, although fewer stay in research over the longer term

October 16, 2015
Female scientist in lab

Taking a break from academia need not prevent scientists returning to research, according to an organisation that helps scholars back into the lab.

The Daphne Jackson Trust supports mainly female researchers who have taken a career break for family, caring or health reasons by securing retraining and a new position for them in a UK university through a two-year fellowship.

According to a new survey from the trust, nine out of ten of those who have completed the fellowship stay in a science, technology, engineering or mathematics related career.

Fewer, although still a majority, continued in research-based jobs. Seven out of ten were still in such positions in the first year after the fellowship, and 57 per cent five years afterwards.

Nearly two-thirds of those who did fellowships continued working at their universities after the two years was up, the survey found.

Most of those in research roles (72 per cent) were on fixed-term contracts rather than permanent ones, although the survey argues that this is “in-line with published data for the higher education sector”.

The balance of fixed-term to permanent contracts varies widely depending on whether academics are teachers or researchers, although in 2013-14 no demographic of staff had fewer than 30 per cent on permanent contracts, according to the Higher Education Statistics Agency.

For the survey, the trust received responses from 70 per cent of former fellows.

“There is increasing recognition that returners represent an untapped pool of talent,” according to “Leading the way for returners: a survey of former Daphne Jackson Fellows, 2015”.

The trust was established in 1992 after the death of the UK’s first female physics professor, Daphne Jackson. So far it has awarded nearly 300 fellowships, and gives out about 25 a year. It started awarding them to men in 2003, although about 95 per cent are still awarded to women. 

david.matthews@tesglobal.com

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