MIST

Magnetosphere, Ionosphere and Solar-Terrestrial

Latest news

2021 Astronomy Grants

The closing date for the 2021 Astronomy Grants Round is 4th March 2021. Submissions are accepted from now. The Astronomy Guidelines for Applicants have been revised and can be found via the links below (the PDF with the full guidance is available under the ‘who can apply’ section on both pages):

Applicants should ensure they have read the guidelines in detail and contact the office with any queries ahead of submission.

Key points or revisions from the 2020 guidelines have been briefly summarised below for information:

  • Page Limits – The page limit per project has been simplified and is no longer based on a requested FTE calculation.
  • Applicant/Project FTE – There has been a change to the upper limit for requested applicant FTE (25%, not including PI management time). The guidance for total FTE requests per project has also been updated and must be strictly adhered to.
  • Outreach Projects – Clarification on the page limit for outreach projects/outreach funding.
  • Pathways to Impact – UKRI removed the requirement to submit a pathways to impact plan in March 2020; however applicants should still consider impact as part of their case for support (see guidelines for further information).
  • Publications Table – Updates to the information required in the publications table.

New groups submitting their first consolidated grant proposal or those considering a consortium proposal are advised to inform the office ahead of submitting to the closing date. If you have any queries please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

2020 Space Census

MIST members are invited to submit to the 2020 Space Census!

The 2020 Space Census is the first national survey of the UK space workforce. It is a 5-10 minute anonymous online demographic survey of individuals for anyone working in the UK space sector in any capacity. The results will be used to improve what it’s like to work in the sector, to tackle discrimination, and to make the sector more attractive to new recruits.

More information about the Census, along with answers to commonly asked questions, can be found here.

The UK Space Agency’s press release about the Census can be found here.

STFC Policy Internship Scheme now open

This year has proved the critical importance of science having a voice within Parliament. But how does scientific evidence come to the attention of policy makers? If you are a STFC-funded PhD student, you can experience this first-hand through our Policy Internship Scheme, which has just opened for applications for 2020/21. During these three-month placements, students are hosted either at the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST) or the Government Office for Science (GO Science).

POST is an independent office of the Houses of Parliament which provides impartial evidence reviews on topical scientific issues to MPs and Peers. Interns at POST will research, draft, edit and publish a briefing paper summarising the evidence base on an important or emerging scientific issue. GO Science works to ensure that Government policies and decisions are informed by the best scientific evidence and strategic long-term thinking. Placements at GO Science are likely to involve undertaking research, drafting briefing notes and background papers, and organising workshops and meetings.

The scheme offers a unique opportunity to experience the heart of UK policy making and to explore careers within the science-policy interface. The placements are fully funded and successful applicants will receive a three-month extension to their final PhD deadline.

For full information and to see case studies of previous interns, please see our website. The closing date is 10 September 2020 at 16.00.

Applied Sciences special issue: Dynamical processes in space plasmas

 

Applied Sciences is to publish a special issue on the topic of dynamical processes in space plasmas which is being guest edited by Georgious Nicolaou. Submissions are welcome until 31 March 2021, and submission instructions for authors can be found on the journal website. For general questions, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

MIST elections in 2020

The election for the next MIST councillors opens today, and will run until 23:59 on 31 July 2020. The candidates are Michaela Mooney, Matt Owens, and Jasmine Kaur Sandhu. 

If you are subscribed to this mailing list you should receive a bespoke link which will let you vote on the MIST website, which will be sent by This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. If you don’t receive this link, please check your junk folder! The candidates’ platforms are on the voting platform, and also reproduced below for your convenience. 

Michaela Mooney

I’m a final year PhD student at MSSL standing for MIST Council as a student representative. During my PhD, I’ve been actively engaged in the department as a Student Rep in the Staff Student Consultation Committee and in the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Committee. I’m an active member of the MIST research community through proposals for RAS Discussion meetings and NAM sessions on geomagnetic activity. 

My main goals as a MIST Council representative would be to:

  • lobby funding bodies to reduce the impact of the pandemic on PhD students.
  • facilitate the organisation of virtual conferences and careers days to ensure that students continue to have opportunities to present research and access to careers information.
  • support good practises in equality, diversity and inclusion within the MIST community.

My key priority would be to limit the impact of the pandemic on students and ensure equality of opportunities.

Matt Owens

Now, more than ever, it’s vital our community address its diversity problems. If anyone is standing for MIST council from an underrepresented demographic, I’d encourage you to vote for them; MIST needs their experience and insight. If not, I’ll seek to ensure MIST council continues to promote equality of opportunity and diversity in science.

MIST’s primary role is to represent our solar-terrestrial science within the wider discipline. I’m predominantly a heliospheric scientist, but keep a toe in the solar physics community. E.g., I’ve served in editorial capacities for both JGR and Solar Physics, and have a good deal of experience with both NERC and STFC funding. As such, I’d hope to see MIST working closely with UKSP, as we have a lot of common interest. I am also keen that the MIST community coordinate to make the most of the industrial and operational forecasting opportunities that are open to it. Finally, I’m a very recent convert to open science. I would seek to increase the prevalence of research code publication and use of community tools within our field, for reasons of both efficiency and reproducibility.

Jasmine Kaur Sandhu

I am a post-doctoral research associate at the Mullard Space Science Laboratory, UCL, with a research focus on inner magnetospheric physics. During my time as a Council member I have led a number of initiatives, primarily the MIST Student’s Corner, the MIST Nugget Series, and the MIST online seminar series. If elected, I will continue to focus on supporting early career researchers in ways that promote diversity of both science and the scientists within our community. This will include developing a set of up-to-date, comprehensive, and informative resources on funding opportunities available to early career researchers for travel funding and fellowships. This will be supported by a mentor-like scheme for assistance and guidance on applications.

Farewell to the magnetopause and hello science policy!

by Katie Raymer

Last year, I completed my PhD at the University of Leicester and finally crossed the Earth’s magnetopause one last time and entered the science policy-osphere!

In this blog post I’ll tell you about how I got to where I am now and what a career in science policy entails.

Fake news, POST and parliament

When I started my PhD, I hadn’t thought too much about what I wanted to do afterwards. I quite fancied a post-doc position, but knew it would be difficult to get and wasn’t certain if I wanted to stay in academia in the long term. In the summer of my second year, when I was working incredibly hard* (*procrastinating on Twitter…) I spotted a tweet about a three-month policy Fellowship with the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST). After doing some research and speaking with my supervisors, I decided to apply. I thought it would be a good excuse to start thinking about my CV for post-PhD life and so I felt I had nothing to lose. As it turns out, it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made!

POST are best known for producing short policy briefings on science and technology topics for parliamentarians known as ‘POSTnotes’. POSTnotes distil an incredibly large volume of research into four-pages in a clear, concise and impartial manner.

The Houses of Parliament (left) and my POSTnote.

During my Fellowship, I was tasked with writing a POSTnote on Online information and fake news – a topic completely different to my PhD and highly controversial! It was great getting to grips with something new and putting my research and communication skills to the test. To produce the POSTnote I interviewed academics, civil servants, people from industry and the charity sector, and read a vast range of literature. After going through multiple review stages, it was published!

I would highly recommend doing an internship during your PhD. It teaches you new skills, and how to work with different people and in different environments. It gives you a break from your PhD and it is fantastic for your CV. Applications for UKRI POST fellowships are currently open.

How much does a kilogram weigh?

For me, it wasn’t an option to not have an income once my PhD funding ran out, so as the date loomed, I started job hunting. After a couple of rejections, my friend sent me a link to a Policy Communications role at the National Physical Laboratory (NPL). I sent off my CV and was invited for an interview. They offered me the job and I managed to negotiate starting part time for my first month whilst I finished writing my thesis (which I would wholeheartedly not recommend if you can help it – new job, new career, new city AND writing a thesis… pretty stressful!).

NPL is the home of measurement in the UK: they develop and maintain the national primary measurement standards, as well as undertaking scientific research, development and testing new products and processes. As my role at NPL included comms, I was lucky enough to get involved with the media campaign on redefining the kilogram (and three other SI units!).

'Le Grand K' in fire and bomb proof vault (left)! A BBC News headline of the kilogram redefinition (top right) and the NPL logo (bottom right).

Until recently the kilogram was defined by a lump of metal, known as ‘Le Grand K’, which sat in a vault in Paris – whatever this lump of metal weighed set the ‘kilogram’ standard. Immediately you’ll spot the flaws in this – the mass of a lump of metal is not stable and it is estimated that Le Grand K has actually lost about the mass of an eyelash over its lifetime! So the point behind the redefinition of the SI units was to future-proof the system and link all the SI units to physical constants. The kilogram is now realised using the Planck constant. You can read more here if you are interested.

I worked at NPL for about 9 months before moving to where I am now. Lots of people tell you that it looks bad on your CV to only work somewhere for a short amount of time and change jobs frequently. This was certainly a concern of mine especially since I had just changed my career entirely, but I think it’s more important to do a job you really want to do. I enjoyed my time at NPL, but the job wasn’t quite what I wanted to do. I learnt a lot and had some great opportunities (like going to Versailles to watch scientists from all over the world come together to vote to redefine the kilogram!), but the time was right to move on.

Newton’s death mask, science policy and meeting Boaty McBoatface

I started at the Royal Society in March 2019 and have loved it. The Society is a fantastic place to work with an incredible history. It is the oldest scientific academy in continuous existence in the world, and its walls are adorned with paintings of past and present eminent scientists such as Stephen Hawking and Albert Einstein.

One of the exciting opportunities about working at the Society is that I get the chance to explore their library and vaults. They contain a vast array of scientific journals, articles, minutes from every meeting the Society has ever held, artwork, and even Sir Isaac Newton’s death mask (a plastercast of his face made immediately after his death… bit gross really).

The Society has one of the largest science policy teams outside of the civil service. I work as a Policy Adviser in the research systems team. This means I look at things like funding for research and development in the UK, and research culture which encompasses topics such as academic career paths, equality and diversity, research integrity and open access.

One of the cool things about my job is that I often have the opportunity to get out and about and meet people. Below is a photo from a visit to the National Oceanography Centre to discuss immigration policies for researchers. We were given a tour of the labs and I was introduced to Boaty!

A photo from when I met Boaty McBoatface!

What is science policy?

Science policy is often looked at in two ways: science for policy and policy for science. The first is about providing independent, authoritative and accessible scientific advice to decision-makers and to inform public discourse – so this could be providing evidence on climate change for government, for example. The second, which is where my work falls under, is about creating the best possible environment for excellent science by providing evidence and advice for policies that will have a direct impact on research such as migration, exiting the EU, and research culture.

Some of my day-to-day responsibilities include undertaking research, drafting reports and briefings, and organising and managing events and projects. I work with Royal Society Fellows and other experts to develop and promote independent, expert, and timely advice to decision makers.

What jobs are there?

There are lots of different science policy jobs you can do. Policy roles quite often overlap with communications and public affairs, so depending on what you enjoy and where your strengths lie, you could work anywhere on the policy communications spectrum.

You could work for Government in the civil service or be a policy analyst in the House of Commons or Lords Science and Technology Committees. Conversely, you could have more of a lobbying role and work at a learned society or charity like the Institute of Physics, Wellcome Trust or the Campaign for Science and Engineering, or work at a National Academy like the Royal Society or the Royal Academy of Engineering. Instead, you could have a more technical consultancy role and carry out research that will be used by policymakers.

I’ve only mentioned a few, but there are a lot of different jobs out there!

How can you do it?

Here are some of my top tips for starting a career in science policy:

  • The most important skill you need is being able to communicate complex topics to a wide variety of audiences. You can practice this by volunteering for outreach activities (see Affelia’s post for more information), or try writing about your work in a blog.
  • Doing an internship will obviously give you excellent experience, but I know this isn’t always an option for everyone. You can also apply for other things like STEM for Britain and Voice of the Future, which will demonstrate your interest in policy and communication skills.
  • You don’t need to be an expert in politics, but having a basic understanding helps. There are lots of accessible sources out there – check out the Institute for Government or the House of Commons Library and subscribe to their newsletters.
  • Organisational skills are vital – I spend a lot of my time organising events and meetings. Try organising an event at your university or in your research group. Perhaps you could run a journal club or invite a speaker to your university to talk about their research.
  • Think about your CV early on and look at what skills you will need (for whatever career you want to do!). Start identifying and filling the gaps.

Feel free to contact me if you have any questions! I’m on Twitter (@kraymerr) or you can This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. smile