Chair of the UK's House of Commons Science and Technology Committee asks UK Research and Innovation for Data on Equality, Diversity, Inclusion and Accessability as a Direct Action from the #MyScienceInquiry led by the TIGERS
The Chair of the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee, Sir Norman Lamb MP, has written to the Chair of UK Research and Innovation, Professor Sir Mark Walport, to request data regarding research funding and equality, diversity, inclusion and accessibility (read the full letter here). This is a direct action from the successful #MyScienceInquiry request led by Professor Rachel Oliver and the TIGERinSTEMM* team.
These data are essential in providing us with evidence to understand the structure of the UK funding landscape. Research funding is a core aspect of enabling individuals to succeed and lead in research and development. Effective access and use of research funding results in transformation of society, the economy, and people’s well being. At present we have an incomplete picture of the way in which funding is distributed in the UK and how this could be contributing to inequalities in academia and beyond.
The available data on how research funding is allocated is limited and is often released in aggregated form, making trends difficult to explore. When numbers are very low, these data are often excluded. Collectively, this limits our understanding of where to spend time and effort to design and implement schemes to rectify these imbalances.
Most initiatives aimed at addressing inequality have focussed on gender, and these are positive first steps. As a group, we recognise that equality, diversity, inclusion and accessibility will impact many members of society, and we are particularly excited that the Select Committee Chair has asked for data with respect to all of the protected characteristics under UK law (age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, and sexual orientation).
While we recognise that not all the data requested by the Select Committee Chair may currently exist, we are hopeful that identifying these gaps will encourage funders to begin collecting a broader range of information from which to identify areas of good practice and areas for improvement. This will be a valuable step towards allowing the UK research community to assess underrepresentation and the lack of access to research funding by people with one or more of the protected characteristics.
In taking this step, the TIGERinSTEMM* team are excited that the UK is taking a leading role in assessing and understanding the effect of funding policy on the diversity of our research funding community. We hope that this will enable us to provide a sustainable and robust research funding landscape, which will enable us to maximise the UK’s contribution to global research excellence.
Last update - 12/09/2019
On the letter, researchers comment:
Professor Rachel Oliver, University of Cambridge: “Understanding the current status of the UK funding landscape in terms of diversity is a vital first step towards achieving equity. I am delighted that the Commons Science and Technology Committee have requested UKRI analyse the available data in genuine detail. This will provide a foundation for a sound, evidence-based approach towards making our funding processes fair for everyone.”
Dr Ben Britton, Imperial College London: “This data will underpin new understanding of equality, diversity, inclusion and accessibility within the UK funding landscape & how this impacts current and future researchers.”
Dr Sam Giles, University of Birmingham and University of Oxford: “Gathering this data is a vital first step to tackling the biases and barriers that contribute to the lack of diversity in STEMM.”
Dr Candice Majewski, The University of Sheffield: "Obtaining a benchmark of our current situation will be crucial in identifying the most important areas for action moving forward. This information-gathering is a great step towards ultimately achieving a fair and diverse research funding landscape"
Dr Tanvir Hussain, University of Nottingham: “I am delighted to see the granularity requested in the CSTC letter to UKRI. Analysing the data thoroughly will enable us to understand the nature and extent of the funding gap for underrepresented minorities in STEMM—it is definitely the first step in fixing the “leaky pipeline” problem. Grand research challenges require diversity in ideas and we can only have diverse ideas from teams made up of diverse individuals.”
Julie Jebsen, University of Wolverhampton: “I am very excited to see the numbers from UKRI! This data will be a unique opportunity to implement evidence based, positive change for equality, diversity and inclusion in research on such a large scale. Good things will come from this.”
Prof Anson Mackay, UCL, “Understanding the quality of the data collected with respect to diversity of scientists funded by UKRI is essential to understand biases at the very foundation of our science. The detail of data being requested will allow us to start to appreciate the barriers faced by scientists with intersectional protected characteristics.”
Dr Natasha Stephen, University of Plymouth: "Having access to this data, or officially recognising that it does not yet exist, is the first step towards a more inclusive and positive landscape for everyone within the UKRI remit. It's a small step, but it is a step in the right direction, and one that we all stand to benefit from.”
Dr Caroline Gauchotte-Lindsay, University of Glasgow: “We are often told that our evidence in the EDI space is ‘anecdotal’. The request from the Select Committee is very exciting news because with this data we will be able to separate perceived barriers from real barriers. It is the first step towards the design of evidence-based positive actions and the transformation for the better of our academic communities.”
Dr Anna Cupani, Imperial College London: “This is a first but very important step to ensure that the research landscape of the future is fair and diverse. This is going to be beneficial not only to the research community but to society as a whole.”
Professor Inés Pineda-Torra, UCL: "We need a better, more transparent, inclusive and diverse research environment and this is the very first step towards truly achieving that."
*The Inclusion Group for Equity in Research in STEMM (TIGERS) are a group of UK-based individuals involved in understanding and developing a more equitable UK research funding landscape. We can be found on twitter as @TigerinSTEMM and on the web (https://www.tigerinstemm.org/). You can also contact us via email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Professor Rachel Oliver and 203 others successfully launched a #MyScienceInquiry on “Impact of science funding policy on equality, diversity, inclusion and accessibility”. The written evidence can be found here and the oral evidence can be found here.