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Women in Science

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Video clip: Irene spent five years helping to review grants for the MRC. She learnt a lot about writing good grants, that the outcome is a question of probabilities and rejection does not devalue the science.

Without the grants you can’t do the science. And, you know, times are tough and competitive, so certainly taking on the responsibility here and in terms of making sure scientifically the vision of where we were going was right and providing the right environment and culture to see people succeed. You obviously have a huge financial responsibility, which is to keep the funding streams alive…


And that is hugely time consuming. And so that’s something still there are many things to share and learn with people about how to succeed in that. I think a lot of people get very, very rejected and dejected when grants don’t happen or fellowships are failed, and one of the things that again I think is helpful for people and I think particularly for group leaders and people as they progress further in their careers to maybe spend time working with one of the panels, you know, like the MRC or the Wellcome Trust or the BBRC, where they rely on academics to go onto panels for several years and help review the grants, and I did that for five years with the MRC. I was deputy Chair for the last two for the Neuroscience mental health panel, and what you learn from that is, obviously you’re doing your good citizenship anyway but you also realise the, you know, you can calibrate then a little bit better and also you realise just, you know, the difficulty and just how well people are doing…


...if they’ve got to that stage through to the triage and in the panel, they really, you know, very much in with a running and at that point, you know, it’s very hard to sort of, you know, predict and therefore there’s no shame, there’s no dejection. I think naturally as academics you take it as a personal insult, you know, the papers rejected or a grant’s.., ‘Oh, they don’t think I’m doing good science.’ And I think by doing that work you realise it’s, it’s absolutely not that. And you can bring that back and explain then to your juniors, ‘You know, you’re absolutely there. You know, the idea’s great, you know, just keep going. It’s just a question of probabilities of luck and funding really.’

You learn a lot from being on the panel.

You do, you learn an awful lot. And I think that really helps you not only just sort of see what makes a good and a bad grant, but also just understand that if you don’t get it, you know, but you’re in the sort of running then it will be funded at some point. And to not give up…