Racial justice in STEMM funding

Recommendations for achieving racial justice in STEMM funding

Science in Parliament Journal publishes article collection on racial inequality in UK science

[This post was written by Lia Li, Hope Bretscher, Erinma Ochu, & Rachel Oliver]

TIGERS are excited to highlight three articles published recently in Science in Parliament Journal. These articles accompany an online discussion meeting held in October 2020 by the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee, focussed on ‘Racial Inequality in the UK Science Community’. TIGERSTEMM lead, Professor Rachel Oliver (Cambridge) had the honour of presenting and taking questions alongside Professor Ijeoma Uchegbu (UCL) and Professor Dawn Edge (The University of Manchester).

This panel provided evidence-based insights highlighting the systemic issues and barriers arising from racism in STEMM, implications for the quality and relevance of UK science to society and recommendations for progressing racial equity and inclusion.

You can still catch a video of that meeting on YouTube. The articles were published in the journal in December, and open access versions are now made available by the authors. We list them here.

Professor Ijeoma Uchegbu writes about “Ethnic Diversity in Science” and highlights that in spite of growing evidence that ethnic diversity within decision making leads to better quality outcomes, structural inequalities in the UK greatly reduce the chances of “ethnic minorities” securing top scientific careers. This also prevents them from being involved in key decision making panels awarding grant funding.

Dr Lia Li, Dr Hope Bretscher, Prof Rachel Oliver and Dr Erinma Ochu write about “Racism, equity and inclusion in research funding”, illustrating the cycles of inequality to which racism in academia condemns Black and ethnic minority researchers, resulting in lower grant success, lower grant funding and increased teaching workloads, impacting time and resource spent on undertaking their research.

Professor Dawn Edge, Jamal Alston, and Dr Erinma Ochu write about “‘Scientific Racism’ and structural inequalities: Implications for researching Black mental health” providing a powerful case study tracing the links between White researchers mainstreaming false claims about racial differences and intelligence and modern views on contemporary mental health services that impact the treatment of black people in education and healthcare.

Based on the articles, three key recommendations can be proposed:


  • To acknowledge systemic inequity and racism within funding systems and to introduce anti-racist policies, including financial incentives that redress the balance, remove barriers and invest in alternative career paths and platforms that can support an inclusive economy.


  • To increase transparency and equity in funding, peer review, recruitment and appointment processes, including institutional sifts, grant prioritisation panel chairs, membership of funders’ governing bodies and within editorial peer review


  • To recognise the value of qualitative research and lived experience within evidence about racial injustices to amplify the voices, leadership and expertise of racialised communities in bringing about transformational societal change.

This figure, taken from “Racism, equity and inclusion in research funding” by Li, Bretscher, Oliver and Ochu illustrates the imbalances our research funding systems impose on “ethnic minority” researchers, and the cycles of inequality that arise from those systematic issues. Anti-racist policies and increased accountability can balance the scales, leading to both greater equity and more impactful science.

What can we do now?

Join the Ladders4Action ‘Knowledge Equity 2’ event on 19th April which will discuss the latest updates on their inquiry for greater transparency, accountability and inclusion for UKRI funding calls. Started by 10 Black women in August 2020, their open letter has gained nearly 3,000 signatures. Please register here and you can email questions in advance to admin@ladders4action.org with subject heading ‘question’.

Read and consider Wellcome’s new strategy around diversity, equity and inclusion, they are seeking feedback. And also think about how you could start a conversation with EDI leads and senior leaders within your institution, what part can institutions play to address the issues internally?

We encourage and support minoritised researchers to apply for funding from the new Research England and the Office for Students funding competition to improve access and participation for Black, Asian and minority ethnic students in postgraduate research. Deadline 27th May.

We also encourage applications for panel membership of the expert panel who will oversee this new fund, chaired by Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon MBE. They are seeking 2 postgraduate research students and four general panel members; application deadline is April 12th, please apply here.

We’ll be sharing additional insights and recommendations from these articles to support institutional change on the @tigerinstemm feed. These articles build on a critical body of knowledge informed by intersectional perspectives, to encourage a wider role for universities, researchers, funders and practitioners to address the urgent issue of racism and in particular, anti-Blackness in UK higher education.

We acknowledge our work is part of the wider and ongoing drive for racial equity and social justice undertaken by Black community organisers, activists and platforms for achieving racial justice, including the work of Ladders4Action, Leading Routes, Black Academics UK, BBSTEM, BLASTFEST, Resourcing Racial Justice, Racial Justice Network, Building the Ant-Racist Classroom, Sara Ahmed, The Stuart Hall Foundation, The Lawrence Review, Operation BlackVote, Black Lives Matter, UK, The Black Curriculum and The Free Black University. We welcome the opportunity to learn and forge coalitions around a common purpose of achieving racial equity and inclusion in UK society. We are grateful for discussions with Dr Hamied Haroon, Chair of National Association of Disabled Staff Networks (NASDN).

Thanks to TIGERS Madina Wane, Caroline Ward and Izzy Jayasinghe, for providing input and review of the articles in “Science in Parliament” prior to submission.

These articles can be cited as follows:

Li, Y. L., Oliver, R., Bretscher, H. and Ochu, E. (2020). Racism, Equity and inclusion in Research Funding. Science in Parliament, 76(4), pp17-19.

Edge, D., Alston, J. and Ochu, E. (2020). ‘Scientific Racism’ and structural inequalities: implications for researching black mental health. Science in Parliament, 76(4), pp19-22.

Uchegbu, I.F. (2020). Ethnic Diversity in Science: why we need ethnic diversity in science. Science in Parliament, 76(4), pp23-26.

If you are a writer on Medium and you are a member of the Tigers, just let us know and we can add you as a writer for the Medium version of this blog*.

*blog posts submitted by members for this channel must adhere to our code of conduct.

You can find us most easily via @tigerinstemm, or our website, or via email.