The recent launch of the government’s Research and Development People and Culture Strategy by Science Minister Amanda Solloway sees the research and innovation ecosystem recognising the different talents required at all levels. A real value is placed in the strategy on the diversity of roles required to make research happen for the UK to remain a world leader. A key element is inclusivity - from attracting a diverse talent pool to including diverse institutions in the research portfolio such as those focusing on the social sciences, humanities and arts (SHAPE) subjects; as well as supporting the most marginalised to engage with research.
The STEM Ambassadors programme, supported by UKRI, recruits volunteers from a range of sectors and career levels – from apprentice and technician level to PhD and from SME companies to multinationals, academia and professional institutions. Over 45% of the 37,000 approved STEM Ambassadors are female; 57% are under 35 years old and 15% are from BAME backgrounds providing relatable role models to young people.
The STEM Ambassadors programme also provides valuable support for teachers – helping them to keep up to date with recent research and updating their subject knowledge. A series of national seminars themed around ‘Cutting Edge Science and Innovation Research’ has been launched. This initiative mobilises leading academic and industrial researcher STEM Ambassadors to improve teachers, careers advisors, technicians and fellow STEM Ambassadors’ subject knowledge of science and engineering research. The first seminar (titled ‘Making Noise about Sound’) highlighted applications of acoustics research delivered by Dr Nikhil Mistry who is a University-based underwater acoustics researcher. The aim is to develop a regular calendar of these seminars demonstrating exciting research happening now.
The STEM Ambassadors programme will continue to work in partnership to foster a culture of research and innovation support – including developing an Innovation pilot with University of Herts which will embed University STEM Ambassador researchers in primary schools. The pilot will develop a structured model for researchers from higher education institutions and industry settings, to effectively engage with primary schools to communicate research skills, values and ways of scientific working to primary age children and teachers. We are also working with key companies to develop a live event for students and teachers to demonstrate the value of team science in research – especially demonstrating the huge team effort and collaboration that is necessary to develop innovation – as seen with the Oxford Astrazeneca Covid-19 vaccine – and the variety of roles and team members needed at all career levels – from apprentices and technicians to engineers, communications, marketing and finance team members.