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Plymouth Marine Laboratory

Member Profile

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Who are Plymouth Marine Laboratory?

Plymouth Marine Laboratory (PML) is an independent marine science research institute, with a staff of ~160 and up to 30 PhD students. Our research focuses on developing and applying world-leading, integrated marine science towards the sustainable future of the ocean, against a backdrop of global change and for the benefit of society. PML was founded in 1988 principally from the NERC Institute for Marine Environmental Research (IMER), and in 2002 became an independent company with charitable status.

We undertake interdisciplinary research that brings together areas of scientific expertise to address key scientific and socially relevant questions relating to the marine environment. We have built a globally recognised reputation for scientific excellence, culminating in an analysis of the Thomson Reuters’ Essential Citation Indices that indicated that over 10% of PML’s scientists are in the top 1% of environmental scientists in the world. The global strategic impact of our activities was also recognised by our winning of the Environment and Conservation category at the 15th Annual Charity Awards for the Europe-Africa Marine Earth Observation Network (EAMNet Project).

Working with partners both nationally and internationally, we have a research portfolio of over 80 commissioned research projects at any one time. We are a partner for the UK’s Natural Environment Research Council, delivering National Capability in marine science and Earth Observation, as well as leading or partnering on many EU research programmes.

What projects / schemes / initiatives to support women's recruitment, retention and progression in STEM are Plymouth Marine Laboratory involved in?

The process of applying for an Athena SWAN Bronze award has provided the opportunity for us to take stock of the schemes and initiatives that support and encourage female members of staff. As in many scientific organisations, we recognise a lack of women in more senior positions and Athena SWAN has allowed us to formalise our processes and develop a strategy that aims to increase female representation in the higher levels of our organization. A key time for female staff that we have identified is the child-rearing years, when some women experience changed priorities and a decrease in confidence at work. As such, some of our key initiatives aim to provide extra support for women during these potentially challenging times. Here we give a rundown of some of the initiatives we have implemented or plan to implement in the near future:

  • Maternity Returners Scheme: a formalised system that supports a gradual return to full time hours over a 2 – 3 year period after maternity leave.
  • Women’s Forum, Parent’s Forum, PhD Student Forum: monthly informal gatherings with the opportunity for relaxed discussion with colleagues. To encourage networking and support within the organisation.
  • Increase in the number of women taking on line management responsibilities:
  • Gender Equality training course for all staff
  • Formal mentoring systems, both for less senior members of staff and PhD students
  • Recognition of career breaks as part of review/promotion process: outputs (papers/research income) normalised to number of days worked.
  • Introduce mandatory question to career management review that asks why employee has not considered promotion: may help to change the way women think about promotion and career progression.
  • Ensure recruitment selection panel always includes at least one female scientist.
  • Encourage numerical/computer-based groups at PML to host more undergraduate and Masters Students to improve chances of attracting female students into these fields.
Ensure job applications are worded to appeal to female applicants, particularly in numerical/computer-based groups with low number of females.

Why did Plymouth Marine Laboratory join WISE?

Our application for a Bronze Athena SWAN award has inspired a commitment to gender equality within PML, of which WISE membership is a key part. It sends out a message to our female staff that they are supported and valued, that their concerns are taken seriously, and that they can succeed.


Dr Frances Hopkins, marine biogeochemistry researcher, chair of PML’s Athena SWAN committee.

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