Recognising excellence

Dstl wins the IOP’s Best Practice in Professional Development Award 2010

We’re very happy to announce that the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) has won our annual Best Practice in Professional Development Award. The award aims to commend, celebrate and promote the very best in training and professional development for physicists working in the UK.

Dstl is part of the UK Ministry of Defence. Created in 2001, it employs about 3,600 people, of which around 450 have a physics-related degree. Dstl provides science and technology expertise, making sure that the UK Armed Forces and Government are supported with world-class research and advice.

“The work we do covers every aspect of science and technology,” says Simon Swales of Dstl’s human resources department, “and physics is quite a large area within Dstl. We’re therefore delighted to have won this award.

Professional development: the Dstl approach
“We have a wide-reaching professional development programme,” says Swales. “We aim for our people to see a clear path in their careers, making sure they look at personal development, professional development and work activities.”

Dstl’s annual performance management process ensures that all employees have regular, meaningful conversations about their careers. In partnership with their managers, employees measure and plan progress by identifying development gaps and opportunities.

New starters
Professional development should begin when an employee starts work, and Dstl has a formal three-month induction process. During their first two years, there are a range of training activities for new starters.

Dstl promotes a healthy work-life balance with various sports and social clubs, and on-site sports facilities, as well as occupational health and welfare services. Flexible working is encouraged to enable employees to successfully manage their time.

Chartership and accreditation
For many physicists, chartership goes hand in hand with professional development. Dstl’s Chartership and Accreditation Scheme is linked with 12 professional bodies, including the IOP. A senior mentor manages applications and assigns mentors to applicants, and recorded progress is linked to annual appraisals.

The Institute of Physics has 186 mentees and mentors at Dstl. To take physics to a wider audience, physicists at Dstl have set up a Centre in Salisbury linked to the South West branch of the Institute, in collaboration with the Café Scientifique network.

Dstl encourages staff to make presentations at schools and other community events, promoting their work and the crucial role of science and technology in British society.

Dstl is also rolling out a new approach to capturing technical competencies using its intranet, so staff can create their own profile and highlight qualifications, technical competencies and expertise, enabling others to search for and identify specific skills and competencies within the organisation.

“I’d like to congratulate Dstl on winning this award,” says Steve Prosser, Chair of the Professional Standards Committee of the Institute of Physics. “It’s very encouraging to see Dstl takes such a well thought-out and comprehensive approach to developing their people – an investment that’s sure to pay off in the coming years.”

The IOP awards best practice in professional development on an annual basis. 2009’s winners were AMEC, the National Physical Laboratory and Sellafield Ltd. For more information go to our Awards page, or email