Use our successful approach to supporting women in research

Today we share a glowing independent evaluation of our SUSTAIN programme supporting women in research. We are growing the programme we run and would like to encourage and support others to create similar programmes.

Our SUSTAIN programme for women in research takes women in their first independent research positions, selected at random from eligible applicants across the breadth of scientific research, and gives them a year of support within a cohort of peers.  

A new independent evaluation of SUSTAIN is overwhelmingly positive. 9 in 10 women said SUSTAIN “helped thethrive” as independent researchers. Explore visual highlights below. 

SUSTAIN - our programme for women in science

We invite organisations from across the UK research ecosystem to get in touch and discuss using our programme model.

Eligible researchers are also encouraged to apply now for the sixth round of our SUSTAIN programme.  

Starting from this year, we are doubling our SUSTAIN programme to support 48 women, or two cohorts, a year. Applications for the 2022 SUSTAIN summer cohort are open now: find out more and apply here.

Alongside this we have worked with some universities to develop their own version of our SUSTAIN programme and would like to support more organisations to replicate our approach.  

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For example, the University of Edinburgh and the University of Birmingham have set up their own versions of the SUSTAIN programme following our model of mentoring, skills workshops, peer coaching, and networking. 

Professor Wiebke Arlt FMedSci from the University of Birmingham said:

“People in their first independent research positions face an extremely difficult situation in academia, but we need their brains and energy. The Academy’s SUSTAIN programme not only revealed the needs of our own researchers but also gave us the blueprint to scale up.  

“There has definitely been a ripple effect – even a tsunami! – from SUSTAIN into our university. We want our success to motivate other universities to set up similar programmes.”

Explore more about how we run SUSTAIN through our new toolkit page.

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Dr Rachel Macdonald, Head of Programmes at the Academy, said:

“This independent evaluation shows we have created a fantastic programme to support women in research. I am very proud of our team, and hugely grateful to all our participants, mentors, trainers and funders.  

“Yet maintaining SUSTAIN’s small group camaraderie is central to its success. To reach more researchers we encourage others to offer similar programmes.

“I would love to hear from any STEM organisation that would like to use our model to support women in your area. My team and I can share all the insights of seven years’ experience to help you make it work.”

You can contact Rachel on rachel.macdonald@acmedsci.ac.uk

The Academy’s SUSTAIN programme has been running since 2015, funded by a collaboration between the Academy of Medical Sciences, the Medical Research Council, the Royal Society and the Royal Academy of Engineering.

To date we have run five cohorts and supported 122 women across the breadth of research, including engineering, medicine, chemistry, biology and more. Each round selects 24 participants by random stratified sample from eligible applicants, balanced by research discipline and geographical location.  

Read the full independent review of our SUSTAIN programme for women in science through the evaluation summary and evaluation report. 

Read details of how our team run SUSTAIN through our new toolkit page, including workshop topic choice, participant selection, creating networks and more.

We are proud to have continued to run our SUSTAIN programme through COVID-19, using a combination of in-person, virtual and hybrid work. Alongside career support, the Academy continues to break down structural barriers facing researchers from the impacts of COVID-19 on research careers. For example, we are streamlining our COVID-19 grant extension processes (see Careers and grants tab here), encouraging funders to factor COVID-19 into assessments, and championing research investment 

Find out more about all our career support work here. The Academy is an independent charity – find ways to support us here. 

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