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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 can 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 have been tracked using online tools such as Google, LinkedIn and PubMed. Results describe career destinations by sector (e.g. academia, industry, healthcare), geographical locations and whether individuals are active in research.

Task 2Analysis of the academic workforce in immunology. Data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) has been collected and 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 have been gathered.

Task 3Career pathways, challenges and barriers. A survey has been conducted allowing us to have an overview of the career pathway of immunologists. The survey was open to both BSI members and non-members and captured those currently working in the field as well as those who have moved on to work in other sectors. The survey focused on people's career pathway, the barriers/challenges they may have faced and any help, support or advice they've been given to succeed in their career. The survey is now closed and we will be sharing the results of the survey in the near future. 

Following on from the survey, further discussions and interviews will be proposed with a number of stakeholders from a range of backgrounds to gain more in depth knowledge of their career pathway.


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 working in collaboration with the BSI, assisting with the completion of the first two tasks of the project. With market research consultants Andrew Johnson and David Wilson supporting the design and roll out of the immunology careers mapping survey.


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.


About Andrew Johnson and David Wilson

Andrew Johnson and David Wilson are market research consultants, who are supporting the project by assisting with the development and delivery of a comprehensive online survey gathering feedback from immunologists across the UK. Andrew and David have many years experience delivering market research and marketing programmes for a range of charities and learned societies in the UK and internationally. 


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, Eolan Healy.