The man behind the membership

In 2001 a bushy-tailed Paul Tizard first stepped through the doors of The Schild Plot, 16 Angel Gate, to start work at the British Pharmacological Society. 18 years later, we caught up with our longest serving staff member, someone all Society members will have been in contact with at one time or another, to learn a little more about him.  

What was the Society like when you first joined? 

I initially worked in the BJP editorial office - which was to some extent a separate part of the organisation – so I didn’t really have a sense of how the Society operated. The meetings taking place in other parts of the office always seemed slightly mysterious to me. Email was still relatively new in the office and many authors still posted their manuscripts. We had a letter bomb detector and security tags to get into each part of the building. To get up to the top floor via the lift required a code. It was like working at MI6. 

2002 BJP Editorial Board meeting, Eynsham Hall, Oxford.

Can you tell us a bit about the different roles you’ve had at the Society? 

As Editorial Assistant I would essentially hound editors and referees to complete their reviews. However, the relationships I established during that period have proven helpful as I’ve moved into other roles. When the editorial moved to Wiley, I was lucky enough to be offered another position in the Society, with responsibility for the membership as well as office management. I started managing the Society’s prizes and awards a few years later. I’m now responsible for membership strategy and ensuring the Society is GDPR compliant. 

What are the biggest changes you’ve seen in your time here, and has anything stayed the same? 

The growth in the Society’s activities has been significant, particularly in the last few years. In 2001 the Society was comprised of 7 staff with 2700 members, fast forward to 2019 and we have grown to 26 staff with over 4000 members. We now have teams working on policy and communications for instance, and these areas are a big part of what we do. When I first joined, I don’t think anyone had formal responsibility for either of those areas. Long gone are the days when I knew everyone’s extension number. The support staff benefit from has also changed significantly in regard to personal development, flexible working and health and wellbeing. I also love the fact that we have an office dog. 

What have you enjoyed the most so far? 

For me, it’s really important that I laugh everyday and I’ve always had the pleasure of working with people who make me laugh, whether intentionally or not. And that’s not confined to the office; pharmacologists seem to have a wonderful sense of humour.  

"I was asked to model the 'I heart pharmacology’ t-shirts to add some glamour and boost sales"

What are you looking forward to? 

I’ve recently joined a staff working group who will have responsibility to implement recommendations from an equality, diversity and inclusion organisational assessment. This is a topic that I have become passionate about, particularly as we seem to be witnessing an EDI regression in the wider world. So perhaps from our small corner we can lead the way. 

What are the challenges, and rewards, of the work you do? 

A challenge for me is to reduce complexity for members with processes like renewing their membership or updating their details online. There are always more ways in which we can improve the service. Generally, our technology works fine but one small issue can have a big knock effect that really affects my day.  
I find it really rewarding seeing the Society in action at the annual meeting. One thousand members walking through the doors with expressions ranging from nervous anticipation (undergrads presenting for the first time) to excitement (members returning for another year from all over the world). There is always a buzz in the atmosphere whenever you walk into the exhibition area.  

In your experience, what’s the biggest benefit people get from becoming members of the Society? 

Members have told us overwhelmingly that their most important benefit is networking with scientists across a range of age and experience. You can see this benefit in full effect at meetings and events. The challenge for the Society is enabling members to connect beyond these traditional platforms. 

Have you had any interactions with members that particularly stand out? 

I’ve always been struck by the warmth of our members. I remember meeting Norman Bowery and Dom Spina for the first time, who are both no longer with us; they were such kind individuals.  

Going back to my days in the editorial office, Stephen Farmer used to make me laugh when considering “sending in the heavies” if referees were late submitting reviews. 

What do you enjoy doing outside of work? 

I’m a big film fan. Film noir and westerns are two of my favourite genres. I’ve also started running recently and quickly picked up the bug (we have a film club and running club in the office) I’m a supporter of Tottenham Hotspur but I’m more likely to watch rugby these days. I spend more and more time doing gardening now. And I’m a big Radiohead fan. 

Limbering up for running club.

Tell us something about yourself that we wouldn’t guess. 

I live on an island, which is a source of much intrigue and amusement amongst my colleagues. And no, I don’t have to catch a boat to work if you were wondering. 


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