Public Release: 

The Gold Standard: John Innes Centre receives Athena SWAN Gold award

John Innes Centre


IMAGE: A world-leading plant and microbial science institute, the John Innes Centre, has become the first institution in the UK to achieve an Athena SWAN Gold Award view more 

Credit: John Innes Centre

A world-leading plant and microbial science institute, the John Innes Centre, has become the first institution in the UK to achieve an Athena SWAN Gold Award.

The Athena SWAN Charter was originally established to encourage and recognise commitment to advancing women's careers in science, technology, engineering, maths, and medicine (STEMM). The Charter now includes addressing gender equality more broadly, not just the barriers to progression that affect women.

The John Innes Centre Athena SWAN application was overseen by a group of staff and students from a spectrum of roles within the organisation. This team is led by Dr Carole Thomas who remarked, "We're dedicated to becoming a work place where everyone is treated with dignity and respect. As we work towards this, it's fantastic to be recognised with the highest award from the Athena SWAN charter, especially as it allows us to reflect on how we can achieve more."

Director of the John Innes Centre, Professor Dale Sanders says: "Receiving the Gold award is a tremendous achievement. It celebrates a genuine commitment to our staff, and to equal opportunities, recognising the work of the whole organisation to become a diverse and inclusive working environment."

"Taking part in the Athena SWAN Charter is a holistic and developmental process, requiring significant commitment to undertake targeted actions aimed at achieving measurable outcomes to change systemic inequality", said Dr Ruth Gilligan, Equality Challenge Unit's Athena SWAN Manager.

"Congratulations to John Innes Centre on being the first research institution to be awarded the Athena SWAN gold award. By achieving this very high standard this demonstrates the centre's commitment to good practice and outcomes which is effecting cultural change within the research institute."

The Athena SWAN Charter is one of two equality charters owned and managed by Equality Challenge Unit (ECU) and provides a mechanism that enables the Institute to reflect on its practices and work towards embedding inclusion and diversity into the culture: "We believe that equality of opportunity is key in achieving our goals and are committed to the positive promotion of equality, diversity, and inclusion amongst all our staff and students," continues Dr Carole Thomas "However, while this award demonstrates the progress we have made in our inclusivity and diversity journey, we know that there is much more we can do."

Over the last three years, the John Innes Centre has worked to improve its suite of family-oriented initiatives to make them more inclusive. Initiatives include a Family Support Fund and new institutional fund that will is designed to supports staff on fixed-term contracts with an extension of employment of up to 6 months following their return from parental leave. These initiatives provide support for staff at what is often a critical time in their personal and scientific lives.

The John Innes Centre's Athena SWAN submission will be made available on our website as soon as possible and will be accessible through the equality and diversity pages.


Notes for Editors

* Press Contact: Adrian Galvin -

* Tel: 01603 450238 Out of Hours Tel: 07881 255193

* Images are available on request

Find out more about the John Innes Centre inclusivity and diversity work;



About the John Innes Centre

The John Innes Centre is an independent, international centre of excellence in plant science and microbiology. Our mission is to generate knowledge of plants and microbes through innovative research, to train scientists for the future, to apply our knowledge of nature's diversity to benefit agriculture, the environment, human health and wellbeing, and engage with policy makers and the public.

To achieve these goals we establish pioneering long-term research objectives in plant and microbial science, with a focus on genetics. These objectives include promoting the translation of research through partnerships to develop improved crops and to make new products from microbes and plants for human health and other applications. We also create new approaches, technologies and resources that enable research advances and help industry to make new products. The knowledge, resources, and trained researchers we generate help global societies address important challenges including providing sufficient and affordable food, making new products for human health and industrial applications, and developing sustainable bio-based manufacturing.

This provides a fertile environment for training the next generation of plant and microbial scientists, many of whom go on to careers in industry and academia, around the world.

The John Innes Centre is strategically funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC). In 2015-2016 the John Innes Centre received a total of £30.1 million from the BBSRC. The John Innes Centre is also supported by the John Innes Foundation through provision of research accommodation and long-term support of the Rotation PhD programme.

The John Innes Centre is the winner of the BBSRC's 2013 - 2016 Excellence With Impact award.

For more information about the John Innes Centre visit

About the BBSRC

The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) invests in world-class bioscience research and training on behalf of the UK public. Our aim is to further scientific knowledge, to promote economic growth, wealth and job creation and to improve quality of life in the UK and beyond.

Funded by Government, BBSRC invested over £473M in world-class bioscience in 2015-16. We support research and training in universities and strategically funded institutes. BBSRC research and the people we fund are helping society to meet major challenges, including food security, green energy and healthier, longer lives. Our investments underpin important UK economic sectors, such as farming, food, industrial biotechnology and pharmaceuticals.

* For more information about BBSRC, our science and our impact see:

* For more information about BBSRC strategically funded institutes see:

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