Get talking – President’s message

Materials World magazine
10 May 2019

IOM3 President Serena Best highlights the need for collaboration and inclusivity as the Institute moves forward.

The 150th anniversary of the founding of the Iron and Steel Institute gives us the opportunity to reflect on the many new technologies and materials that have been developed in the years since. While in the latter part of the 19th Century significant advances were being made in the fields of materials, minerals and mining, we have seen even more rapid changes during the 20th and 21st centuries.

IOM3 too has undergone considerable changes, through many mergers that now shape our activity and the internationalisation of the Institute over the past 20 years. As we look to the future, we need to maintain our position as the leading institute worldwide for extraction, processing and application of materials, with a strong focus on the environment and sustainability.

Professional engineering institutions offer methods to obtain qualifications, establish lines of communication and continue professional education and development. As a membership community, we recognise the importance of these for our own careers, but it is essential that these benefits are clear to the next generation of scientists and engineers. Each year we welcome a very good number of new members and have current members keen to improve their professional grade. However, we also see those who choose not to upgrade or renew their membership. To better understand and address the professional needs of our members and improve the overall experience, an online member survey was organised in early 2019. We shall analyse the feedback and use the information to inform strategy going forward.

In my role as IOM3 President, I am aware of the need to encourage a broad demographic distribution in our membership and am especially keen to ensure IOM3 membership also reflects the equality and diversity appropriate for the 21st Century. People training or at an early stage in their career have a particularly challenging financial environment to navigate. We are extremely fortunate to have a highly active and effective Younger Members’ Committee. However, as a community, we should offer connections, support and mentoring to colleagues around us, and it is useful to consider whether there is help we can give colleagues ourselves, or encourage others to give, at a variety of different points in time. The Institute offers a large number of prizes that reflect the range of membership grades and different types of contributions, and these offer an excellent opportunity to acknowledge our colleagues and peers.

The Women in Materials, Minerals and Mining initiative was started to address the gender imbalance at Fellowship grade. However, through the energy and drive of the team behind this, many successful meetings have been held around the country, to which all members – and prospective members – are invited. There is still a considerable amount of work to be done, but IOM3 can be proud of the changes that are taking place.

As a membership community, the onus is on each of us to maintain linkages and to make new connections in order to harness the expertise and contributions of all constituencies in our community. I have sometimes heard members refer to the Institute as ‘them’ or ‘they’. Probably the most important objective during my presidency is to try to change this to ‘us’. Engagement, inclusion and a feeling of belonging needs to exist at the national and macroscopic level, but also more locally. A great deal of work is undertaken for the Institute by volunteers and the roles played by the more than 50 local societies is essential for our continued success.

The Institute holds a unique position in the UK and across the world, and we are well-placed to influence government and public policy discussions, to offer knowledge and experience across the whole materials cycle. We need to be able to respond swiftly to current debates and future issues as they arise. With the move towards the new governance structure, IOM3 has established a Technology Communities Board to catalyse multidisciplinary activity. Alongside this, eight Strategic Advisors have been appointed to cover the four aspects of the materials cycle, including lifecycle, extractives, materials and applications. We can look forward to a new level of engagement within and across communities, with an ability to input at governmental level.

Through engaging and supporting members at all grades, we can ensure our relevance and impact are clear. It is a great honour and privilege to hold the role of president, and I look forward to continuing to serve the Institute and all of its members in the UK and overseas.