Forward Programme

The ‘SET Fair’ report identifies the challenges that Athena now faces which is to embed its good practice into every higher education and research institution. The current programme, which represents the third and final phase of Athena’s work, builds on the successes and outputs of Athena’s previous work and is also engaging with employers of research scientists outside higher education.

Athena’s forward programme continues this work and will focus around two initiatives Athena’s survey of science engineering and technology (ASSET) and the Athena SWAN Charter


In 2003 ASSET was piloted in 23 universities and was the first large-scale survey of science academics in the UK. 2,172 male and female scientists, some 5% of UK ‘s science academics, completed the survey questionnaire. Athena Report 26 (Adobe PDF File, 257kb) published in April 2004 found that women were as ambitious as men, were as academically and research active, but did not make it to the top in the numbers that reflected their contribution to science. And, if they did get to the top, they still felt they were less valued than their male colleagues and generally disadvantaged in terms of salary, promotion and access to career development.

Preliminary results from the 2004 survey which covered research and industry and 15 more universities will be launched at the American Association for the Advancement of Science Meeting in Washington in February 2005. A survey report will be published in autumn 2005.

Over the next two years further use will be made of the data from the ASSET surveys to develop a benchmarking tool kit and the survey will be developed as an open access tool to support the Athena SWAN charter initiative.

Athena SWAN Charter

The SWAN Charter, originally developed by London Metropolitan University’s Scientific Academic Women’s Network won a prize from the Institute of Physics in the 2003 Royal Society Athena Awards. The Athena SWAN charter is being developed with support from the UKRC as a recognition scheme for HE employers

The Athena SWAN Charter scheme which will be launched in summer 2005 will be open to all UK universities who are committed to working towards the achievement of Athena’s aims, objectives and targets. . Membership of the Charter scheme, with its bronze, silver and gold SWAN awards, will enable universities to identify themselves as employers of choice, not only to their staff but to their students, their funders, the research councils and industry. There will be no charge for membership. However, to remain in membership, universities and their SET departments and faculties will be expected to produce action plans, and to measure and report their progress.

The scheme draws together and builds on the successes and outputs of work by Athena and its partner universities, their evidence-based good practice, the recently piloted good practice checklists and the key performance indicators proposed for chemistry departments, and Athena’s ASSET surveys of over 7,000 male and female scientists working in higher education and research.