Plant scientists recognised for their dedication to driving cultural change

Two co-founders of a growing support network for UK Black plant scientists have been recognised for their commitment to building a positive research culture.

Dr. Yoselin Benitez-Alfonso, Professor in Interdisciplinary Plant Sciences in the School of Biology and Dr John Baison, Cereal Genomics and Research Manager at RAGT UK, were awarded the Advancing Culture Impact Award by UKRI on Thursday 8 February at the Future Leader Fellow’s annual conference in Manchester.

The awards recognise Fellows who have demonstrated significant wide-reaching, positive impact through their leadership, research, innovation and engagement and aim to shine a spotlight on the next wave of world-class leaders in academia and business.

Each winner was awarded up to £10,000 to spend on further advancement or wider dissemination of their impact, learning or development opportunities for themselves or their teams.

Improving culture is a complex and challenging process which is built on collaboration and a concerted community effort. I’m delighted that the Black in Plant Science network has been recognised for its contribution in developing and promoting a positive and inclusive research culture. By working together, we can create a community that empowers everyone.

Professor Yoselin Benitez-Alfonso, School of Biology, Faculty of Biological Sciences

UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) FLF Director, Dr Stephen Meader added:

“It was fantastic to see so many real-world impacts from the work that our Fellows are doing, and I know the judging panel found it very hard to pick winners from so many outstanding entries.

“These awards also provide us with a way to reward those FLFs making strides in important areas such as positive leadership and the advancement of cultural change, which don’t always receive the attention and accolades they deserve.”

Dr John Baison and Prof Yoselin Benitez Alfonso


Connecting, celebrating and cultivating aspiring Black scientists

The Black in Plant Science network was founded in March 2023 in response to the underrepresentation of UK based Black scientists in STEM.

Evidence suggests that UK-based Black plant scientists are often the sole Black employee in their department or organisation and the sole Black delegate at meetings and conferences.

This lack of community can be isolating and discouraging, leading to a loss of talent.

The network has since established a vibrant programme of activity to provide skills, opportunities, mentorship and role models for UK-based Black plant scientists.

It includes a mentoring programme, face-to-face networking opportunities and career workshops, as well as a dynamic and inclusive online community, with the aim of promoting the voices and achievements of past and current Black scientists. 

Last year, the network also launched their very own ‘Research Excellence Awards’ and awardees will be announced on the 18th March 2024 in a virtual lunch event.

The awards are aimed at helping early career researchers to access opportunities and grow their career. Winners of the awards will visit the 34th International Conference on Arabidopsis Research in California, which will be a fantastic way to build their network and increase their research impact.

Dr. John Baison

Funded by the Gatsby Foundation, with contributions from North American Arabidopsis Steering Committee (NAASC), the award ceremony will also be an opportunity for attendees to meet the committee members, learn about upcoming initiatives and shape the network priorities.

Register for the event on Eventbrite.

You can also join the network by completing this form. For enquiries regarding partnerships and collaborations, email

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