School of Biomedical Sciences Seminar and Symposium Policy June 2016

The School of Biomedical Sciences at The University of Queensland hosts a range of seminars throughout the year. These seminars cover a broad range of topics that are of interest to the School. Traditionally, the selection of seminar speakers was done based on the recommendations by the academics within the School, which is in turn based on their networks and new research collaborations within their laboratories. Furthermore, some seminars during the year are given by PhD students and postdoctoral fellows within the School itself.

The School has an Equity and Diversity Committee, whose overall goal is to analyse and improve the way the School addresses the equity and diversity aspects within the School, including gender balance. We see gender balance in our seminars and symposia as one avenue to help with this issue.

Why? “It is critical for the future of science that young women and men can see real evidence that scientists can succeed regardless of gender. So, if we are going to encourage women into careers in science we need also to provide role models for them to aspire to. We need to show that being a woman and being a successful scientist are not mutually exclusive. One way of doing that is to give women scientists a platform to present their research. If we don't address gender balance in speaker programs, we will continue to normalise a gendered stereotype of scientific leadership. Then when crunch time comes, women will continue to leave in far greater numbers than men [6]–[9] in part because they see no path ahead for themselves. And that means scientific research potentially loses half of its brightest talent.

Moreover, a speaking invitation contributes enormously to the profile of a researcher. By extending more invitations to women and other under-represented sections of the academic community, we provide a boost to their visibility and their track record. This will help them to progress by raising their national and international profile and help support their applications for grants, academic positions, and fellowships.

Finally, conferences and symposia are great ways of generating new collaborations, new ideas, and new directions in science. If we keep inviting the same people, and the same types of people, over and over again, we limit the diversity of thought and, potentially, the opportunities for innovation.” PLoS Comput Biol. 2014 doi:  10.1371/journal.pcbi.1003903 Ten Simple Rules to Achieve Conference Speaker Gender Balance Jennifer L. Martin*

In light of this, the Equity and Diversity Committee would like to work in collaboration with the School’s seminar and symposium coordinators to see how the selection of the seminar topics, invitation of speakers etc. could be improved to address the equity and diversity issues. While the longer-term goals of this collaboration may also see the inclusion of geographically diverse speakers, and a broader range of seminar topics (such as those of interest to, the teaching-focussed staff of the School, including seminars presented by those staff of the School), the first priority the Equity and Diversity Committee would like to address in this space is the gender equity. Specifically, we aim to implement by the year 2017, a 50:50 gender ratio for speakers for the School seminars. This may include both internal and external speakers. The same ratio would be expected for any School-held symposium (whether scientific, or RHD focussed) and, over time, for public lectures.

The SBMS Executive endorsed this policy on the 9th June 2016.

South Pacific Islander student information session

In September 2016, SBMS lecturer Mary-Louise Roy Manchadi and two current SBMS students, met with 30 Year 10 –12 students from the 120 who responded to the invitation extended by UQ’s South Pacific Islander Association (UQSPIA), to find out about the possibilities of studying at UQ, and what career options might be available when a Bachelor’s Degree is completed. Of the participants, some, maybe many, are the first in their families to really consider a university education.

The session discussed what you might study if you did Physiology, Pharmacology, Neuroscience, Developmental Biology, Anatomy and so on, with the current students talking at regular intervals about their experiences.  The discussion was very interactive, and the students were “rewarded” for asking questions with vouchers given by their guide.

Further information regarding UQSPIA can be found here (

Further information about studying a Bachelor of Biomedical Science can be found here.