Project Juno launches new award as it marks a decade of rewarding gender equality

27 October 2017

Project Juno – the IOP’s initiative to reward good practice in addressing gender issues in physics settings – has launched a new level of award called Juno Excellence and introduced a new principle by which to measure success that refers explicitly to professional conduct for the first time.

Project Juno launches new award as it marks a decade of rewarding gender equality

The innovations were announced at an event to celebrate a decade of Project Juno held in London on 20 October and were warmly welcomed by the audience of scientists and managers in academia, research institutes and industry as well as representatives of other learned societies.

Project Juno launches new award as it marks a decade of rewarding gender equality

Introducing the celebration, IOP president Professor Dame Julia Higgins said that to attract more girls and women into physics it was important to ensure that women who were already in physics careers enjoyed a happy working environment – an objective of Project Juno – and she looked forward to hearing more about the new developments being planned.

Juno Excellence adds a new award to the progressive sequence of Juno Supporter, Juno Practitioner and Juno Champion that physics departments and employers can receive as they show commitment to gender equality and demonstrate how they are delivering equality of opportunity in selection, promotion, participation and flexible working. To receive the new Juno Excellence Award, Juno Champions will also need to develop a programme of activities in conjunction with the Institute to showcase and embed successful and innovative practice nationally.

Project Juno launches new award as it marks a decade of rewarding gender equality

IOP honorary secretary Professor Brian Fulton, praising the programme’s encouraging and supportive processes, said he had always been concerned that departments could “take their foot off the pedal” after receiving recognition and that there was no award for them to aspire to after achieving Champion status. However, there were now to be follow-up site visits from Juno panel members as part of the Champion renewal process, and the Excellence award to reward Champions for their further efforts.

To the five Juno Principles by which applicants are assessed, the IOP is now adding a sixth – that there should be “an environment where professional conduct is embedded into departmental culture and behaviour”. This includes addressing bullying, harassment and misconduct by having a formal policy and reporting mechanism and ensuring all staff are aware of how complaints will be dealt with.

Speaking about the move, the IOP’s head of diversity, Jenni Dyer, said: “For some time we have been discussing a new principle around professional conduct, values and bullying. We think it’s really important that the Institute takes a strong, proactive stance on values for physics. Project Juno was never about hitting people with a big stick – this is about you developing your own set of values and having a policy that people can understand and practise.”

This was already happening in physics departments and there was a real groundswell of support for the principle, but Project Juno was giving people a year to prepare for it to become part of the assessment process and Juno Champion renewal in November 2018, she said.

Asked in a following panel discussion if there was a particular concern about harassment and bullying in physics and engineering, she said there had been some high profile issues identified in the astronomy sector. The new principle had been considered by the IOP’s Council and the Institute wished to address it sensitively. “For us, the most important thing is that it should open up transparent discussions,” she said.

Also on the panel, which was chaired by Professor Fulton, were Professor Farideh Honary of Lancaster University, Dr Rob Nyman of Imperial College London, and Professor Valerie Gibson, chair of the Juno Assessment Panel and head of the High Energy Physics Research Group at the Cavendish Laboratory, Cambridge.

Project Juno launches new award as it marks a decade of rewarding gender equality

Replying to a question on how to deal with bullying within international collaborations, Gibson said people had to act on any conflict between their own department’s code of conduct and the behaviour of others in a collaboration. She said: “I do find that UK physics departments are very advanced in their thinking on this. It’s our responsibility to share the best practice that we have.”

The panel agreed that the same applied to misconduct during conferences, and Dr Nyman pointed out that it was important to reach the transient population among researchers, who could include both victims and perpetrators. One audience member said there was a very high threshold at which people would come forward with complaints, particularly in the postdoc community where people were so dependent on getting a good reference. She suggested that people other than the victim should be willing to raise concerns. Dyer agreed that PhD students and postdocs were a particularly exposed group of people.

A representative of the 1752 Group, a campaign group working to end sexual harassment in HE, said the Universities and Colleges Union had been working closely with the IOP on the issue and was “enthusiastically coming on board”, while a representative of the Royal Astronomical Society said that it thoroughly supported the IOP in having the new principle.

Acknowledging that professional conduct also had to cover managing people and honesty and integrity in handling scientific results, Gibson said: “The wording was chosen very carefully to make it all-encompassing. It’s inevitably broader than sexual harassment and bullying.”

In round-table discussions on further development of Project Juno and possible activities for the Juno Excellence Award, suggestions from the audience included broadening the focus of the award beyond gender to include LGTB+ or disability, widening its scope to include links with industry, helping to set up networks around the country and working for efforts to promote gender equality to be recognised in career terms.

Summing up, Gibson said that the presence of Professor Higgins and IOP chief executive Professor Paul Hardaker at the event showed the IOP’s commitment to diversity and inclusion. Surveying the history of Project Juno, which in the last 10 years has considered almost 100 applications for awards, updates and renewals, provided feedback via the diversity team to more than 40 departments and benefited from thousands of hours of volunteer input, she said: “It’s an incredible journey that we have been on and that we are still going on.

Further information about Project Juno, good practice guides and documentation are available on the IOP website.