By Katherine Mathieson, Chief Executive of the British Science Association

Today is International Women’s Day. It’s a fantastic opportunity to celebrate the achievements and successes of women throughout history and around the globe, as well as reflect on what more can be done to achieve equality for all of us.

It’s a happy coincidence that IWD 2018 coincides with the eve of British Science Week, and I have been delighted to see women in science emphasised in both campaigns.

The theme of International Women’s Day for 2018 is ‘Press for Progress’. This strikes a chord for those of us championing diversity in science. For too many years, progress has been slower than we would like. There are many reasons for this, but one is because of society’s attitudes and preconceptions of who can be a scientist and what scientists do.

Press for Progress: The theme of this year's International Women's Day

This is where British Science Week can come in – by providing a UK-wide platform for anyone to engage with science. British Science Week helps to challenge the stereotypes of what a scientist looks and behaves like and opens up the ways that non-scientists can be involved.

Each year, British Science Week is celebrated by thousands of schools, museums, libraries, galleries, community centres and other local hubs across the UK. It’s fantastic to see the Week being marked by large national institutions, such as the British Museum, who will be showcasing the work of its restoration team behind the scenes; the National Waterfront Museum in Swansea are holding a Super Science Saturday packed full of activities and demonstrations; and the Museum of Science & Industry in Manchester are running an event this evening on the theme of women in science, to celebrate both British Science Week and International Women’s Day.

This is all brilliant activity, and we want it to continue year on year. However, at the British Science Association, we see our role in British Science Week as piloting and championing innovative new forms of engagement, finding partners outside of the science and engineering sector, and emboldening grassroots community organisations to participate via our Community Grants scheme. We want to create opportunities for more people to engage with science in a way that is relevant to them, particularly with audiences that are currently under-represented in science, including women and girls.

Last year, we tested the idea of an immersive running app to engage people who wouldn’t describe themselves as ‘sciencey’ but are open to taking part in activities that involve science. Run the Solar System was a great success. It engaged people with science via their hobby, in a fun, interactive and light-touch way. We’re revisiting the idea again this year with a new race called Run to the Deep, encompassing a sense of adventure with the increasingly popular subject of our oceans.

British Science Week 2017: Run the Solar System

The issue of marine plastics is another hot topic that has emerged in the British Science Week campaign this year. Our citizen science partner is The Plastic Tide – who need your help to tag pieces of litter in images of UK beaches, which were taken by a drone flown around the coastlines. We're hoping to get 250,000+ images tagged during British Science Week 2018, so we need people from across the UK to help this crucial research. Whether you live by the ocean or have never seen the sea, whether you love science, love the environment or even love drones – you can do it from the comfort of your own home. It’s easy to take part and everyone can be involved.

The Plastic Tide shows that you don’t need to be ‘sciencey’ to help protect our oceans. But if you’re more of a book-lover than an ocean-lover, then there’s a place for you in British Science Week too. Today marks the publication of Little Miss Inventor, the newest book in the Mr Men series. It follows the adventures of the smart and adaptable female lead character, which we hope will inspire young girls everywhere to get inventing.

Not only that, but we’ve also seen the publication of two other books this year to coincide with British Science Week. Our partners at Puffin have released a new companion to the hugely popular Roald Dahl novel, James & the Giant Peach, called James’ Giant Bug Book, which is all about minibeasts. And our partners at Guinness World Records have published a brand-new book called Science & Stuff. Introduced by BSA Honorary Fellow, the presenter, author and comedian, Robin Ince, this book celebrates the simple joy of finding things out.

Release on International Women's Day, to coincide with British Science Week

If you have a look at our Activity Packs this year, you’ll also see magazine and TV partnerships – with Okido, Bitz and Bob and BBC Terrific Scientific, amongst others. We’ve also worked with 3M to produce top tips for parents, after a 3M survey found that a high percentage of parents want to encourage their children into STEM but may unwittingly put them off due to their own perceptions of science being “not for me”.

And that is just the tip of the iceberg. You can find all the details about ways to get involved on our website, as well as information about events happening near you.

Of course, I am hugely proud of all the fantastic opportunities and partnerships we have created for British Science Week this year, especially those that help to reach new audiences or challenge the stereotypes of science. But just as International Women’s Day is not only about championing equality for a single day, but rather for the whole future, British Science Week is not about challenging stereotypes for just one week. If we want to be able to drive change and if we want the next generation to embrace science as a part of their cultural identity, then we need to talk about and champion equality all year round.