Barriers to accessing funding

Barriers LGBTQI+ People Face in the Research Funding Processes

We present a range of structural issues and biases which affect access to research funding for those who identify as members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, intersex and related communities (LGBTQI+), and we particularly focus in on science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine (STEMM) disciplines.

We explore the impact of these barriers for members of these communities, and find:

  1. Within the LGBTQI+ community there is a varied spectrum of experience.
  2. There are specific cultural and structural issues that affect LGBTQI+ people, especially those who identify with a non-binary gender and/or as trans.
  3. There is limited data collected by the research councils in the UK on the experiences, funding applications, and awarded money for LGBTQI+ individuals in STEMM.

In the document, we provide a range of recommendations which include raising visibility of LGBTQI+ individuals, having an equality, diversity, inclusion and accessibility (EDI&A) champion at a senior level, as well as embedding EDI & A as central facet of the senior management team.

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Barriers Women Face in Research Funding Processes

We are all aware that women are underrepresented in STEMM in academia, especially at higher levels, but how does the funding landscape contribute to this underrepresentation, and what are the barriers differentially affecting women? In this piece we argue that systemic biases exist at almost every stage of the funding process. Some barriers and biases are obvious but others are much more subtle; here we highlight those of which we are aware.

Broadly, the funding figures show that women apply less often, for lower amounts, and are less successful than male colleagues. The way the figures are presented by funders, however, often conceals issues around the amount and prestige of a given award (e.g. fewer large grants being awarded to women). The often proposed solution of “getting more women to apply” will simply not address all these issues. Biases in funding in turn limit career progression and longevity. Institutional barriers also play a part - women often carry a higher burden in terms of teaching and citizenship load, but may also be discouraged from applying for prestigious funding by internal demand management and review. A lack of support, mentoring and visible female role models can further impact on women in STEMM.

Systemic barriers exist at many levels, particularly for parents and carers. These range from the impact of taking maternity leave, to grant deadlines falling during or shortly after school holidays and the requirement to travel for interviews. The focus on track record in grant review (failing to take into account lulls in productivity due to caring responsibilities), biased language used in evaluation materials and unconscious biases on the part of reviewers further impact differentially on women. Lack of freedom to travel, and thus to network at conferences, can result in exclusion from multi-national networks and the ability of women to demonstrate an international profile. In addition, it is crucial that we recognise the substantial additional challenges of intersectionality faced by black, LGBTQ+ and/or disabled women.

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Accessibility in STEM: Barriers facing disabled individuals in research funding processes

Disabled researchers are a key underrepresented group within the STEM community. While they make up 4% of the national UK academic community, no data is currently openly available to assess the representation of disabled researchers and their success rate in STEM disciplines. Recently, UKRI data has been released that shows only 25% of disabled researchers apply for research grant funding across all disciplines, with the average success rate and award amount consistently lower for disabled researchers compared to non-disabled researchers. To understand this clear imbalance and disparity between disabled and non - disabled researchers, representatives from this underrepresented have been consulted to determine barriers that prevent them from obtaining research funding. This report summarises the direct barriers at each stage within the research funding process, as well as indirect barriers that have an adverse effect on their ability to obtain research funding. It aims to raise awareness of issues facing disable d researchers and provides suggested actions for improving accessibility within the research funding process.

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