Government Science and Engineering – a high-profile, proud and effective profession

Government Science and Engineering – a high-profile, proud and effective profession

scientist writing chemical formula

Raising the profile and celebrating the success of Government Science and Engineering is not only the right thing to do, but essential to safeguard its future.

Last week I was pleased to attend the launch of a new strategy for the Government Science and Engineering profession.

This was a positive occasion for Prospect because it marked the culmination of 18 months’ collaborative work in which it is clear that GSE has listened to union members.

In particular I want to thank everyone who responded to our GSE survey earlier this year or attended workshops at the Met Office or national conference.

The five-year strategy sets clear commitments and timescales. Although it’s all worth reading, my highlights include:

  • formalising the role of departmental heads of the science and engineering profession. This means that individuals will no longer have to create their own time for professional leadership, but will be recognised for work that is included in their job objectives
  • an external review of pay and reward, to be commissioned in the next 6-12 months. The Government Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir Mark Walport, has acknowledged that reward and recognition is a consistent negative for government scientists and engineers and cannot be ignored
  • working towards external recognition for being an inclusive, diverse and supportive employer. As women currently account for just 21.5% of the GSE profession and Black and Minority Ethnic staff for 3.5%, there is a lot of work to do. Usefully though, the GSE strategy also focuses on hidden neurodiverse conditions on which Prospect has already developed good resources
  • raising awareness of the benefits of mentoring and developing a GSE mentoring scheme.

Alongside the strategy, the Government Office for Science has created a GSE story to raise awareness of the profession’s diverse roles and huge achievements.

All of this must, of course, be seen in the context of the most difficult times for the civil service and wider public sector in more than a generation.

Prospect is listening very carefully to members, including the frustrations that many of them experience on a day-to-day basis.

So this is an important step forward that we must not ignore. Engaging fully with it, as we will be seeking to do, seems the best way to ensure that the GSE strategy meets its targets. 

There’s much for the GSE profession to be proud of, but raising the profile and creating the conditions for it to be fully effective are definitely works in progress.

Sue Ferns

Sue Ferns


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