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Launch of Fellowship programme to support next generation of Black scientists

The three-year Fellowship is open exclusively to early-stage Black heritage researchers who studied at a UK institution and offers a fully salary, research expenses, training and generous benefits

The Wellcome Sanger Institute has today (8 December) launched the Sanger Excellence Postdoctoral Fellowship – a Fellowship designed to support the training and career development of scientists from Black backgrounds. At least one Fellowship will be awarded each year after a competitive selection process, and successful candidates will join one of the Institute’s research programmes for three years.

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The Fellowship builds on the Institute’s commitment to promote greater equality, diversity and inclusion within the organisation and its science, by recognising the disadvantages that Black people face in all walks of life due to discrimination and racism. The Fellowship will be open exclusively to early-stage researchers who have an undergraduate degree and a PhD (or equivalent research experience) awarded from a UK institution and are from a Black heritage background.

“There is a real problem in attracting and retaining people from Black heritage backgrounds in science. There are barriers that we must remove if we are to better represent society in science and ensure that excellence, regardless of background can thrive. According to a report by the education consultancy, Leading Routes*, over a three year period just 1.2 per cent of nearly 20,000 studentships awarded by all UKRI research councils went to Black or Black Mixed students, with 30 of those being to those from Black Caribbean backgrounds.

“It is our hope that the new Fellowship will help to level the playing field by providing a clear career development pathway, training, mentorship and support to ensure that Black researchers and academics can achieve their full potential.”

Dr Saher Ahmed,Head of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion at the Wellcome Sanger Institute

Applicants to the Fellowship will be able to choose a position in one of the five research programmes at the Sanger Institute: Cancer, Ageing and Somatic Mutation; Cellular Genetics; Human Genetics; Parasites and Microbes; and Tree of Life; or the Ethics and Society Team in Wellcome Connecting Science.

“There’s much talk about what should be done to deal with the challenge of improving diversity in academia. But few step up and actually make a change. This is one of those opportunities where a great team, led by some incredible women of colour, are moving things forward. It has been an honour to work alongside advisory group members Dr Saher Ahmed and Dr Maria Augusta Arruda [from the University of Nottingham], as we play our role in helping to move towards a time when race doesn’t prohibit opportunity or development in academia. There are children in school now who will benefit from this – benefit from an opportunity that will help release the potential of the next generation of Black scientists.”

Dr Jason Arday,Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology at Durham University and Fellowship advisory group member

“The Sanger Excellence Postdoctoral Fellowship is a step towards breaking the ‘glass ceiling’ of career progression for Black scientists, and will help to create a pipeline of talent for the future.

“Diversity is essential to scientific progress. When we have a group composed of individuals with diverse perspectives and approaches, innovation is more likely to flourish leading to new insights and better science.”

Professor Sir Mike Stratton,Director of the Wellcome Sanger Institute

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The deadline for applications to the Sanger Excellence Postdoctoral Fellowship is the 28 February, 2022.Successful candidates will receive a fellow’s salary, research expenses, training and generous Sanger Institute benefits, which include healthcare and an onsite nursery.* The Broken Pipeline – Barriers to Black PHD Students Accessing Research Council Funding.

Available here: The Broken Pipeline – Barriers to Black PhD Students Accessing Research Council Funding – Leading Routes

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