By Katherine Mathieson, Chief Executive of the British Science Association 


2019 was a year of action on improving Equality, Diversity and Inclusivity (EDI) at the BSA and beyond. We’ve been able to plant secure roots to enable this important strand of work to grow and flourish. Here’s what we did and what we’ve learnt so far.

Why is EDI important to the BSA?

Making significant progress on EDI is crucial if we’re to achieve our vision. We want more people to see science as part of their culture, their society, and their everyday lives. We know that people and communities who are under-represented in science are also often people and communities who are marginalised and disempowered by structural bias and inequality.


There is a future world in which the only people we succeed in connecting with science are white, able-bodied, heterosexual middle-class men living in the South east. In this world, we would have achieved our stated goal – but we would have exacerbated inequality and injustice. As a charity, this outcome is untenable and unacceptable.


Everyone is welcome in science, of course – but to be blunt, if we do not help to make science more diverse and more inclusive, then we will fail in our overall mission.

For that reason, we have invested considerable resource in accelerating our own progress and understanding, catalysed by the receipt of a Sustaining Excellence Grant from the Wellcome Trust.

To harness the energy from the BSA staff, trustees and stakeholders we created an EDI Action Plan which focusses on three areas:
1. Build our capability
2. Change our programmes
3. Influencing others

1. Build our capability

We have rolled out a ten-day learning programme for all BSA staff and added EDI to our competencies framework at all grades. These initiatives are designed to inform and empower colleagues at all levels and in all teams to create change at the BSA.

We have overhauled our internal HR policies including introducing new policies on diversity and supporting transgender staff. We have updated our recruitment processes to track diversity characteristics at all stages of the recruitment process and to remove details on gender, ethnicity and university from the information that hiring managers use to shortlist candidates for interviews.

We have also recently begun to use external benchmarks (such as Disability Confident) to guide our next steps.

2. Change our programmes

One of the lessons we learned from other sectors, such as creative industries and higher education, is that change starts with data. We have standardised the way we collect and record diversity data about participants in our programmes.

We have committed to avoiding all-male and all-white panels and instead, inviting speakers from diverse backgrounds at our public events such as the British Science Festival and Huxley Summit


Our Community Leaders are helping us understand what grassroots change looks like and how we can help foster it.

We have commissioned new research that is using behavioural science techniques to deepen our understanding of the ways that science is seen in the lives of people who don’t see science as relevant to their culture or community.

3. Influence others

The BSA has established the Inclusive Science Engagement Network (ISEN). Nine members from science engagement organisations, including museums, universities and learned societies are brought together to work on advancing EDI within their organisations by sharing their learning. ISEN members identified eight EDI priority areas which include audiences, leadership, capabilities, evidence and impact, recruitment, accessible space, communications and representation. The Network will develop these over the next 18 months.

We’ve aimed to work alongside existing science engagement events and groups to incorporate EDI content. This includes running a session on accessible events at The BIG Event 2019. We have also worked with the National Forum for Public Engagement in STEM to research ways to diversify career routes into public engagement.

To support widespread change across science engagement we aim to pro-actively disseminate what we have learnt. This will be done by publishing the results of our audience research and sharing detailed case-studies regarding internal changes and EDI training for others to learn from.

Thus, by being entirely honest and reflective when sharing our journey and learning with the sector, including through blogs like this, we aim to work through our opportunities and challenges with others.

Reflecting on our progress and looking ahead

Some days, it feels like we’re still at the beginning of our journey with EDI. However, looking back over the year, I realise how far we’ve come in a relatively short time.

There is still so much to learn and change, but this is a good moment to pause, recognise how much hard work my colleagues have invested, and to be grateful for the wisdom, constructive advice and challenge that we have been fortunate to receive from our EDI Advisory Group and consultants Delta Alpha Psi.

I hope 2020 will be just as challenging - and rewarding - as 2019.