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Landscaping review of immunology careers


The British Society for Immunology is conducting a careers mapping project focusing on the immunology workforce in the UK. The project will look at the career path chosen by immunologists and the barriers they face.

The following areas of immunology careers will be investigated:

Tracking the career development and destinations of PhD students who have completed an immunology based thesis. 

Gaining insight into immunology careers in research, academia, industry and within the public sector.

Identifying the gaps and barriers facing those pursuing a career in immunology within the UK. 

Reasoning behind the project

This project forms one of the BSI’s key strategic priorities for 2016-2020 by ‘offering support to current and future generations of immunologists across their careers’. It came as a result of the Membership Survey conducted in 2015, were results showed that our members would like more careers support, including advice and support for early career scientists.

Through gaining insight relating to specific topics within immunology a more detailed picture of the UK workforce will be captured, spanning several sectors, industries and institutions. By capturing this information and analysing the results the BSI will gain a detailed map of immunology careers and be ideally placed to advise and guide its members, leading to a stronger, better suited immunology workforce.

Summary of tasksTwo female researchers in lab

Task 1Career destinations of people who have completed their PhDs in an immunology-related topic in the UK. Using the British Library’s E-thesis online service (EThOS2) database, a random sample of authors of immunology based PhD theses have been selected. The career destinations of these authors are being tracked using online tools such as Google, LinkedIn and PubMed. Results will describe career destinations by sector (e.g. academia, industry, healthcare) and whether individuals are active in research or not.

Task 2Analysis of the academic workforce in immunology. Data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) has been collected and is being analysed to describe academic roles within the field of immunology in higher education. Details relating to type of role, location, gender, nationality and numbers working in research or teaching will be gathered. We will also be looking at clinical academic roles using data from the Medical Schools Council (MSC) to ensure a full picture of immunology careers within higher education is obtained.

Task 3Career pathways, challenges and barriers. A survey is being designed and will be sent out to all known immunologists, in the hope of gaining further information about the career pathways of immunologists. The survey will be open to both BSI members and non-members in the hope to maximise participation and completion. A particular focus of the survey will be the barriers/challenges facing individuals pursuing a career in immunology and the hurdles they have to overcome. Following on from the survey, further discussions and interviews are proposed with a number of stakeholders from a range of backgrounds to gain more in depth knowledge of their career pathway.

Task 4Career pathways in industry, the NHS and the public sector. We plan to obtain further insight relating to the career pathways of immunologists working in industry, the NHS and the public sector. Once again surveys will be used to gain detailed knowledge of the careers pathway of immunologists working within these sectors. 

Who's involved

The project is being overseen by BSI President Peter Openshaw, Education Secretary Helen Collins along with other members of an advisory board. External consultant Norman Freshney is also working in collaboration with the BSI, assisting with the completion of the project.

About Freshney Consulting

Dr Norman Freshney is an independent consultant with 25 years’ experience working with charities, the government and academic sectors both within the UK and abroad. Norman holds a wealth of knowledge and experience on matters relating to evaluation and strategy development. Freshney Consulting will collaborate closely with the BSI to strengthen the project and ensure maximum impact is achieved by the BSI to benefit its stakeholders.

Keeping up to date

Regular updates on the progress of the review will be provided on this page, with appropriate milestones being reported to members through the monthly e-news bulletin.

We are always happy to receive input from our members. If you would like to get involved with the project please contact our Education and Careers Officer, Glyn Jones.