In May 2018, 50 Government Science and Engineering (GSE) Champions visited the National Physical Laboratory (NPL), the UK's National Measurement Institute, in the leafy London suburb of Teddington.
The GSE team and I designed this event to give GSE Champions – self-selected promoters of the GSE profession across government – the chance to get to know each other, learn about the work of NPL and how it is implementing the GSE Strategy and “beta-test” some upcoming projects, such as a chartership and accreditation routemap, for the expanding GSE membership.
It was also great to host the Government Chief Scientific Adviser (GCSA) and Head of GSE profession, Dr Patrick Vallance, who spoke about his priorities for the profession – specifically diversity and inclusion, and developing routes for scientists and engineers to develop their careers and move more freely across government.
The day’s content was influenced by feedback from Champions at last year's at the Met Office HQ in Exeter.
The day's events
Dr JT Janssen, NPL Director of Research and Head of Science and Engineering Profession (HoSEP) for NPL, opened the day by sharing the NPL mission “to provide the measurement capability that underpins the UK's prosperity and quality of life”.
NPL is progressing well with many aspects of the GSE Strategy, particularly in our outreach, talent management and leadership, science and policy engagement, and diversity and inclusion work. I am particularly proud of our successes in diversity and inclusion, especially as Dr Patrick Vallance commented that it was one of his key priorities going forward as the new GCSA.
Among other things, NPL is currently working hard to address gender equality in physics by working with the Institute of Physics and their Project Juno (currently NPL is the only non-academic organisation to be in the Juno Programme). We are also making great strides in LGBT+ inclusion and in addressing neurodiversity in the workplace.
This GSE networking event followed a recent speech by the Prime Minister that focussed entirely on science and engineering. Patrick emphasised the importance of science for the future of the UK and ensuring that scientists and engineers in government become vital to policy decision making.
We also enjoyed three technical presentations from NPL staff, including NPL's role in measurement confidence, work into the applications of ongoing research and how NPL assesses the impact of its work.
Following a networking lunch, the Champions got to see some cutting-edge research going on at NPL by visiting labs on mass spectrometry, air quality and earth observation.
D&I and Beyond
Diversity and inclusion is a top priority for the GSE profession. In our GSE Strategy, we have a dedicated workstream that aims to ensure there is opportunity for all in a diverse and inclusive profession, we want to achieve our ambition for our membership to reflect society.
The afternoon panel discussions focussed on D&I, and I was glad to join Charley Gough (Head of Science and Technology Careers at Dstl), Kirsty McBeath (Senior Stakeholder Manager at Met Office) and Ben Buchanan (Deputy Director of IPO) on the stage to cover a wide range of topics. These including how we have implemented D&I initiatives within our own organisations, how key challenges have been overcome and what has worked well, and how to support staff, particularly those with dyslexia or autism, to unleash their skills and excel in a science and engineering career.
And if this doesn’t sound like a packed-enough day already, we also trialled the new chartership and accreditation route map that the GSE team are currently developing. The map will highlight the opportunities and benefits available to GSE members from professional bodies and institutions, and what steps they need to take to reach them.
By testing the tool, we were able to provide feedback and ultimately ensure that the further development of this tool is aligned with the needs of the community.
Overall, it was a brilliant day and I hope all of the attendees enjoyed visiting NPL as much as I enjoyed hosting the event. With over 200 members, the GSE Champions network is growing fast. We discussed how to better engage with the network and how to organise events such as this in the future. If you have any further ideas, please do get in touch!
If you're a scientist or engineer and a civil, crown or public servant, you can sign up to join the GSE profession here. And if you want to help implement the GSE Strategy and support other scientists and engineers in government to ensure they reach their maximum potential, ask about becoming a GSE Champion by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org.
Announcements for future events like this for GSE members will be made via opportunities posts on the GSE Blog, so keep an eye out. Hopefully we'll see you at an event like this one soon!
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