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Background information

The British Society for Immunology (BSI) is the UK organisation that represents scientists and clinicians from academia, industry and healthcare with the aim of forwarding immunology research and application. A key area of our work is supporting current and future generations of immunologists throughout their careers. Given the significant changes that the discipline has undergone in recent years, along with the relative paucity of data specifically related to immunologists’ career pathways, the BSI has conducted a landscape review of immunology careers, both to inform our own work and to provide guidance to the sector as a whole. 

This project, the first of its kind in the UK to focus on the field of immunology, aims to capture data from individuals working across several sectors, industries and institutions. With input from a variety of participants and sources, we hope to have captured a snapshot of the current immunology workforce across multiple disciplines, providing a platform for further research and investigation.

Aims of the project

The aims of the project were to:

  • track the career development and destinations of people who have completed an immunology PhD 
  • analyse the UK’s current immunology workforce in academia
  • highlight the varied career pathways available to immunologists, both inside and outside academic research
  • identify the challenges and barriers facing immunologists during their career.

This project forms one of the BSI’s key strategic priorities for 2016–2020 to ‘offer support to current and future generations of immunologists across their careers’. It has resulted, in part, from feedback received in our 2015 membership survey, where the need for more careers support, especially for early career researchers, was identified.

Summary of tasks

The project falls into three distinct sections, the highlights of which are summarised in this report. They are:

  1. Track the career destinations of people who have completed an immunology PhD in the UK
  2. Analyse the current UK workforce in academia
  3. Conduct a survey of people who currently work in/used to work in immunology to better understand the career progression of immunologists, how they built their careers and the challenges they faced. 

With immunology underpinning so many scientific concepts, the subject is now an essential part of healthcare research. The BSI aims to remain a key source of insight and knowledge for this exciting and expanding field. Through working with the immunology community and gaining this insight, we hope to be able to provide targeted support and guidance to BSI members at all career stages, helping them to fulfil their potential and leading to a stronger immunology workforce. We also hope the findings of this report will be used by others in the sector to inform their work and ensure that the UK continues to be a world-leader in immunological science for many years to come.

You can download the full report here. If you have any queries on the project, please contact our Enagement and Careers Officer, Chris Snowden-Smith


We are grateful to the following people for their work and assistance in the production of this report:

  • Dr Norman Freshney of Freshney Consulting for carrying out the research and analysis in to the thesis author tracking and HESA data. 
  • The British Library for providing the data describing doctoral theses completed on topics related to immunology from their E-thesis online service (EThOS) database.
  • The Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) for providing the data describing the current higher education workforce. Neither the Higher Education Statistics Agency Limited nor HESA Services Limited can accept responsibility for any inferences or conclusions derived by third parties from data or other information supplied by HESA Services.
  • Beth McKendrick for conducting part of the thesis author tracking
  • Andrew Johnson of Andrew P Johnson Ltd and David Wilson of Storia Ltd for conducting and analysing the survey
  • Jennie Evans and Glyn Jones at the BSI for producing this report. 
  • Simone Bryan of the Medical Research Council for advising on the project
  • All individuals who took part in the pre-survey interviews
  • All individuals who completed our online survey