Proceedings of The Physiological Society

Europhysiology 2018 (London, UK) (2018) Proc Physiol Soc 41, C120

Oral Communications

Women in Physiology: Development of an educational resource to improve awareness of the contributions of historical female physiologists.

R. Mackay1, D. A. Scott1

1. School of Medicine, Medical Sciences & Nutrition, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, United Kingdom.


The aim of this study was to investigate the perceptions of students and academic staff regarding key historical female researchers in physiology. It was hoped that this study would raise the profile of women in medical science, help students learn about the history of physiology, and assess whether infographics are a useful method of communicating with a broad audience. Ten historical female physiologists were selected from a variety of physiological specialities and infographic pull-up posters developed that provided information about the life and achievements of these individuals. These posters formed the core of a public exhibition entitled 'Women in Physiology', staged at the University of Aberdeen, UK. Paper-based feedback surveys were available so visitors could provide their views in relation to the use of infographics to communicate the information, and their perceptions of key female medical scientists. The survey included a series of 5 point Likert scale questions to assess level of agreement with various statements, and a free text area for additional responses. Thirty-seven anonymous completed surveys were left at the exhibit. Students made up 73% of the respondents, with 24% being university staff, and 3% from the general public. Only 24% of respondents had any knowledge of the female physiologists in the exhibit, with the majority of this knowledge (66%) coming from lectures. All respondents disagreed that women were treated fairly in the history of medical science. Ninety-two per cent of respondents agreed they knew more about male researchers in medical sciences, and 95% agreed that infographic posters were an effective way to learn about the history of physiology. No respondents disagreed with these last two statements. In relation to infographic posters, 100% agreed they were an effective way of representing these women and their contributions, and for engaging a broad audience with scientific concepts/information. Eighty-nine per cent felt that university courses focused more on the contributions/discoveries of one gender than another (male or female), and 97% felt teachers should give equal attention to the contribution of males and females in the subject matter they teach. None disagreed with the last two statements. 97% wanted to learn more about women in physiology, and 100% wanted more of such exhibitions around university locations. This study has shown that universities may have to do more to raise the profile of the contributions of female medical scientists, but that exhibits such as this may be an effective method of engaging a broad audience of students and staff with such topics, as well as improving how we teach the history of physiology. Future exhibits will take place in more accessible areas of university campus and during public engagement events to increase the visiblity of women in physiology.

Where applicable, experiments conform with Society ethical requirements