3.3.3 Accessing talent through equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI)

Creating a research and innovation environment which fully supports equality, diversity and inclusion for all is critical to the ability to respond to current and emerging research challenges. A truly inclusive environment will help us attract growing numbers of people into research and innovation careers and increase the diversity of researchers, leading to greater creativity of ideas and increased achievement of excellence.

We will work in partnership and take an ambitious, holistic approach to EDI that builds on existing activity within the engineering and physical sciences community and shared expertise across UKRI. We will address challenges specific to our community, ensuring fairness and inclusivity for all in everything we do, and develop and implement new interventions to bring about change and evaluate their effectiveness. We will share our knowledge, experiences and ideas  while listening to and learning from others.

Long-term ambitions

We aim to make EPSRC recognised as a funding agency which is fully aware of the EDI agenda and which is putting in place training and processes to achieve zero differentiation in participation or success rates within our researcher community.

Our long-term aspiration is to ensure that:

  • there is improved understanding of EDI issues by EPSRC through robust evidence-gathering and engaging with representative voices
  • creative and effective interventions have been delivered in engineering and physical sciences, providing leadership in the research and innovation community and bringing about a more diverse community and a more inclusive research ulture. Success will be measured through a systematic evaluation of the effects of our interventions
  • strong partnerships have been established with other stakeholders to share ideas and approaches and to implement effective actions across UKRI and the wider UK and international community.

Near-term actions

In 2019-20 we will:

  • aligning with UKRI's EDI agenda, use and continue to evolve our diversity data capabilities to monitor our advisory structures, grants portfolio and peer review process, such as through thematic deep dives, and identify areas for further exploration and action. Explore appropriate approaches and methodologies to measure our interventions' impact
  • explore and evaluate new ideas related to peer review, drawing on emerging research and good practice across UKRI, other funding agencies and the wider community to control bias and safeguard the quality of decision-making
  • work within UKRI to identify and deliver shared goals and related activities, and in particular better understanding of issues in race, ethnicity, bullying and harassment. We will hold workshops with BBSRC and AHRC
  • implement new ideas and mechanisms to improve participation of under-represented groups, particularly at the established-career stage. Work with the Royal Society of Chemistry and Institute of Physics to introduce a new fellowship opportunity in physical sciences to tackle lack of diversity in research leadership
  • work with Inclusion Matters teams (see Case Study above) to share and use emerging findings, creating a network to bring together teams and key stakeholders (including the Learned Societies) through a series of workshops. Learning from successes, prepare for further investments in 2021-22.

Case study

Promoting EDI through leadership and flexibility

We have already made significant progress in promoting EDI. For instance, we have increased female membership of peer review panels from 17% to 34% in the last five years, while we have also delivered training on unconscious bias for all our staff, Council members and advisory boards. We continue to lead and support change in the research community, encouraging flexible approaches such as awarding a 'job share' fellowship to two academics who have been jointly running the Cambridge Centre for Medical Materials on part-time contracts that fit in with their family commitments. As part of UKRI's collective approach to promote EDI, we launched the Inclusion Matters initiative, the first of its kind to improve EDI within engineering and physical sciences; this has funded 11 projects totalling £5.5 million at UK universities which, through innovative approaches, will inform and shape significant cultural change across institutions and share their learning with the whole sector. By furthering and embedding EDI values, we will help researchers from all backgrounds and groups to fulfil their talent and ambitions.