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Women in Science

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Video clip: Alison was a principal investigator (PI) and couldn’t leave anyone else to do her job for six months, so when she had her babies she kept in close touch with work. She thinks this was unavoidable.

When you had the six months off did, was that funded? Did anybody pay you for, while you were off?

Yeah, so the university have a really generous 26 weeks on full pay maternity leave.

How did that affect your programme grant? Could they, that just be extended or did you get somebody else to do some of your work while you were off?

Well that’s the thing that really doesn’t work in science. Because nobody can do your job. When you’re a principal investigator nobody can do your job. So financially it was fine being on maternity leave, but it meant that I wasn’t in the lab supervising the projects which has a negative effect. And it has two negative effects. So it has, it has a negative effect on the science but it also had a negative effect on me as someone trying to take maternity leave because I tried to keep both things going.

So I was always on the e-mail. I, you know I came in for lab meetings, I was still very much a part of that research and at the time I thought that was great. That I was really, you know, doing it all, this is being a successful scientist and you’re having a baby. I used to bring the baby in. Both times round, so 2003 and 2007, but now I think actually, I missed some of that time of just being a mother with a new born baby. And just focussing on that and I think I was, in some ways robbed of that period of time because it’s, it’s almost impossible not to carry on doing the science because you have papers that will be under review that you’ll need to move with. There’ll be grants that you’ll need to keep applying for, or you might need to contribute to someone else’s application. And if you don’t then you could miss out on various opportunities that can be really important for the future. So I think the real problem is this inability to stop the clock that happens in academic science.

Thinking back would you have done anything different?

I don’t, I don’t really see how because the structures aren’t really there.


I couldn’t imagine appointing someone; how you could have a six month maternity cover, for a PI with very specialist research area, and a very complicated multi-faceted job.