DOI: https://www.doi.org/10.53289/IJWW7657

Bringing the sector together

Rachel Lambert-Forsyth

Rachel Lambert-Forsyth is Chief Executive of the British Pharmacological Society (BPS) and Managing Director of BPS Assessment Ltd (BPSA). Working closely with the BPS Council and senior leadership team, Rachel is responsible for delivering the vision, mission and strategy of the British Pharmacological Society, and its subsidiary companies. Prior to moving to the BPS in March 2020 she held the position of Director of Membership and Professional Affairs at the Royal Society of Biology. At the time of the session, she held the role of Diversity Champion on the Science Council Board of Trustees.


  • To succeed there needs to be senior level commitment
  • It needs to be effectively embedded in the organisation
  • Social justice is a crucial element in the programme
  • it is not just what we do but how we do it
  • We need to make better use of data.

The Declaration on Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (see box) was developed by the Science Council with its membership in 2014. All members of the Science Council sign up to this when they join. It is designed to be an outward statement of their commitment to ensuring EDI is embedded across the organisation and can be used to drive commitment and action in this area.

In 2022, the Science Council’s EDI steering group reviewed the Declaration and updated it. We updated the language, moving from a focus on ‘equality’ to one on ‘equity’, i.e. equality of outcomes.

Within it, there are four key elements. First, appoint a board level diversity champion. Their role is to work in partnership with the senior executive team to advocate for equity, diversity, and inclusion. This commitment must come from the top of the organisation and the appointed champion must have an interest, a passion and an enthusiasm for moving this work forward. Otherwise, it will never become embedded at the heart of the organisation and be a golden thread running through all programmes, projects, outcomes, decisions and processes.

Such an appointment also ensures accountability at board level, and within the senior leadership team, improving practice and communicating what the EDI strategies are, so that staff and other stakeholders can get involved and contribute to progress.

The second area concerns planning and implementing an effective programme of work that will embed these aims in the organisation. The third is introducing measurement, assessment, and reflection on progress – and then of course reporting on those results. Data is crucial to support this process.

It is easy to state a commitment to increased and broader diversity but what does that really mean, especially if the baselines from which they start are not clear? It is not possible to know whether the commitment has made a real difference if continual measurement and reporting are not carried out using adequate levels of data.

To be effective, our commitment to measuring and reporting data must be renewed on a regular basis and maintained in between. The Science Council can help hold their members to account by asking them for data and encouraging them to show how they are improving.

The final element goes back to the convening opportunity within the Science Council. We want to share progress and learning across the sector. There is much that has already been done and is being done. We want to reduce duplication and bring together learnings so that everyone can share good practice.

Science capital is often referred to in discussions about young people and the different stages of their careers. The work that has been carried out by Professor Louise Archer1 can help organisations like the Science Council to understand how we can effect change in the system and so widen and increase participation in STEM long term.

The Science Council, in reviewing the Declaration in 2022, took the decision to change its language to ensure that equitable approaches are harnessed to deliver equality of outcomes. Our membership is broad with differences in size and resources, so it was not surprising there were challenges to that change of language. We have spent a lot of time working with the member organisations to understand how this change in language affects their practice, but there is still work to be done.


By living the values of equity, diversity and inclusion, and critically assessing and acknowledging the inequalities that exist, the Science Council and its member bodies will create greater opportunity for any individual to fulfil their scientific potential, irrespective of their background or circumstances. In so doing it will also help science to better serve society by attracting the widest possible talent to the science workforce and fostering a greater diversity of scientific ideas, research and technology

Despite all the investments that have been made, science and STEM have not moved away from the stereotype of the white, middle class, able-bodied man in a white coat 

Social justice

Social justice is then the next area of focus. Where are the barriers? How can we break down the structures that are maintaining those inequalities? There have been many efforts over the years to widen participation in STEM. So, how can these be brought together better? Where are the data that help us verify what is working and what is not? Data can identify projects that are not working or indeed might be detrimental to progress, and can identify programmes that are making a positive difference. Decisions can then be taken about where to use often limited resources, to further positive interventions and stop or change those interventions which are not working.

One point to note is that, despite all the investments that have been made, science and STEM mostly remain dominated by privileged people. By that, I mean white, male, middle class, able-bodied, non-neurodiverse, etc. That is especially true in subjects like engineering, physics, and computing, but not solely those subjects. Existing efforts often focus on expanding the young people coming in, rather than changing the system around them. This creates barriers to STEM and exacerbates inequalities.

If that is true, then the main issues are the systems (white supremacy, patriarchy, social class and ablism etc) and those practices that play a role in excluding and dissuading people from choosing and remaining in STEM and science. That is why this concept of social justice is important to progress further.

Yet it is not just what we do but the way we do it that is important. Approaching these discussions with kindness and understanding and an openness to other views is important. Often the underpinning values and mindset that pervade our organisations come from us. So, we must be more self-reflective and open to critical analysis of our own natural biases, in order to identify how this affects our decision making.


The Science Council’s Progression Framework was developed in 2016 in collaboration with the Royal Academy of Engineering. It aimed to help professional bodies, track and plan progress on diversity and inclusion.

We updated it together in 2020. It now sets out four levels of good practice across 10 areas of activity that professional institutions and scientific bodies encompass, from governance and education to outreach and metrics. It provides a framework within which to assess each of those functions – how we are doing, the areas where we need to invest more time or effort and those parts of the organisation where we are doing well.

Recently we have been reflecting on the impact of this framework and how we can make better use of longitudinal studies to gather the data to understand the process of change and the opportunities we have to make it more effective.

Working together for change

The Select Committee report highlighted the need for the sector to take a more systematic approach to EDI, making the STEM ecosystem a beacon of good practice when it comes to addressing underrepresentation. This is exactly what the Science Council has been trying to do for its own community. We are keen to work with the Government to grow this activity further. Some of the examples given in the report – around diversity in decision-making, various hiring practices, are a great challenge to the community. There are ways that the Science Council can convene and discuss these ideas further and we look forward to continuing to work with our members and the wider scientific community to ensure science really is for everybody.

1. www.ucl.ac.uk/ioe/departments-and-centres/departments/education-practice-and-society/stem-participation-social-justice-research#sciencecapital