Newsletter August 2020
Welcome to the first Society newsletter. We shall be producing these periodically to keep subscribers in touch with the activities of the Society.
We had planned an event to mark the launch of the national Society for Natural Sciences. However, as a result of COVID-19, the decision was taken to cancel the event. Our current plans are to work towards an inaugural meeting in March 2021.
The delayed Annual General Meeting of the Society took place virtually on August 4. Professsors Geraint Thomas, Roddy Vann and Derek Raine were re-elected as Trustees. Academic members (paid subscriptions for 2019-20) will receive a copy of the minutes.
One of the major achievements of the Natural Sciences Network has been the Student Conference in which final year students are invited to present their project work. This year should have seen the first of these meetings under the auspices of the Society, but this turned out to be another casualty of COVID-19. Current plans are for a conference in York, Monday 29-Tuesday 30 March.
STEM Horizons Conference
The Society had agreed to sponsor a session on Interdisciplinary Science at this year’s STEM-Horizons meeting in Nottingham. As it turned out the meeting went ahead online and without the need for sponsorship. Chris Brignell was on the organising committee. Sarah Gretton and Derek Raine presented a paper on Interdisciplinarity and Sustainability.
Professors Nicola King and Geraint Thomas will attend the Science Council virtual AGM in September with a view to making progress with our application for membership.
We now have over 200 associate (student members) and 14 institutional members. The web site is being developed to facilitate greater networking opportunities for members. Suggestions for member events are welcome.
Membership fees are charged annually and can be paid through the web site https://www.socnatsci.org/.
Channel Talent: This is a facility for running online outreach and recruitment activities in schools. In principle it allows us to reach a greater number of pupils without the travel time overhead. We have run a couple of pilots to evaluate the cost-effectiveness as a result of which we plan 6 events in 2020-21. We shall report further in the next newsletter.
One event that did get in before lockdown was the December meeting of Institutional Representatives, held this year in Keele, where we took the opportunity to modify the committee structure. The new structure of the Society is
Chair: Professor Nicola King
CEO: Professor Derek Raine
Sub-Committees (and chairs)
Accreditation Professor Nicola King
EDI Dr Ella Metcalf
External Relations Dr Sarah Gretton
Heads of Natural Sciences Dr Eleanor Crabb
Membership Dr Ali Mozaffari
Pedagogic Research and SoTL Dr Sarah Gretton
Research into Teaching and Learning
Getting into PedR in STEM. Two online seminars were delivered through Advance HE Connect. These seminars were aimed at STEM academics new to research in teaching and learning to encourage dissemination of development work and new approaches. Recordings of the seminars are available on Advance HE Connect under the Society for Natural Sciences Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Group https://connect.advance-he.ac.uk/topics/17696/feed
HESTEM Teaching Survey: A collaboration with the Physiological Society on a survey of teaching staff in HE gave disappointingly low returns (around 400 across STEM, with around half in biosciences with a reasonable representation across types of institution) but some interesting provisional data. Two points stand out:
Almost 50% thought that teaching had improved in the last five years and only around 15% thought it had got worse. This is encouraging.
We asked how valued teaching staff felt by students, colleagues and management. Around 70% of teaching staff feel highly-valued by students (and of the rest all but a few per cent somewhat valued). Only 25% feel highly valued by colleagues with the majority feeling somewhat valued and only around 10% feeling not valued at all. Around a third of respondents felt not at all valued by senior management. Interestingly this was largely independent of whether the respondents were on teaching contracts or teaching and research contracts. This is in line with previous surveys and should perhaps be a source of concern.
One other point of interest was the number of respondents who felt their roles now differed from their contracts with a shift towards management away from discipline research. (Teaching and Research roles from 231 to 166; management from 36 to 70, with the remaining loss from T&R to “other” roles that were largely management-related.)
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