Equality, Diversity and Inclusion considerations in grant applications to EPSRC

The long term strength of the UK research base depends on harnessing all the available talent. EPSRC expects that equality, diversity and inclusion is embedded at all levels and in all aspects of research practice and funding policy. We are committed to supporting the research community, offering a range of flexible options which allow applicants to design a package that fits their research goals, career and personal circumstances. This includes career breaks, support for people with caring responsibilities, flexible working and alternative working patterns. With this in mind, we welcome applications from academics who job share, have a part-time contract, or need flexible working arrangements.

Peer review is central to EPSRC funding decisions, we require expert advice and robust decision making processes for all EPSRC funding initiatives. We are committed to ensuring that fairness is fully reflected in all our funding processes by advancing policy which supports equality, diversity and inclusion. Please see our Equality, diversity and inclusion webpages for further information.

Including information on flexible working in your research grant application

It is important that researchers and their research teams are able to work flexibly and in a way that meets their personal circumstances. EPSRC therefore allows applicants to tailor the support that they request in order to facilitate this. When requesting support for flexible working applicants do not have to describe the personal circumstances that result in the need for this support, rather they should describe the support required.

Where relevant, as part of the Case for Support applicants can provide information on where flexible working and/or a career break has had an impact on the track record of a member of the research team. Applicants do not need to explain the personal circumstances that resulted in the flexible working or career break, rather they should state the impacts of this on the research outputs and/or the career development of the individual affected.

Further information can be found in our guidance on how to prepare a proposal.

Including information on the impacts of COVID-19 in your research grant application

We recognise that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused major interruptions and disruptions across our communities and are committed to ensuring that individual applicants and their wider team, including partners and networks, are not penalised for any disruption to their career(s) such as breaks and delays, disruptive working patterns and conditions, the loss of on-going work, and role changes that may have been caused by the pandemic.

Reviewers and panel members will be advised to consider the unequal impacts of the impact that COVID-19 related disruption might have had on the track record and career development of those individuals included in the proposal and will be asked to consider the capability of the applicant and their wider team to deliver the research they are proposing. Where disruptions have occurred applicants can highlight this within their application, if they wish, but there is no requirement to detail the specific circumstances that caused the disruption.

We acknowledge that it is a challenge for applicants to determine the future impacts of COVID-19 while the pandemic continues to evolve. Applications should be based on the information available at the point of submission and, if applicable, the known application specific impacts of COVID-19 should be accounted for. Where known impacts have occurred, these should be highlighted in the application, including the assumptions/information at the point of submission.  There is no need to include contingency plans for the potential impacts of COVID-19. Requests for travel both domestically and internationally can be included in accordance to the relevant scheme guidelines, noting the above advice.

Reviewers will receive instructions to assume that changes that arise from the COVID-19 pandemic, post-submission, will be resolved and complications related to COVID-19 should not affect their scores.

Where an application is successful, any changes in circumstances that affect the proposal will be managed as a post-award issue.

Grant maintenance for flexible working

We are aware that personal circumstances of the PI or the wider research team may change during the lifetime of a research grant or fellowship. We want to highlight the flexibility within these awards that allows for the repurposing of directly incurred costs*. This flexibility can be used to cover costs associated with flexible working of either the PI or their team. Below are some examples of the type of flexible support that can be accessed either by requesting it as part of a research grant proposal or through using the flexibility within an existing award:

  • Support for costs over and above standard care arrangements (where this cannot be covered by the employer) to enable investigators or members of their team to participate in specific activities related to the grant e.g. visits, meetings, conferences, overseas travel.
  • Support for different working patterns e.g. changes of working pattern during a research grant can be supported using the flexibilities within the award, including part time working and any additional recruitment of staff needed to enable this change. Reduction in PI time spent on a grant can be accommodated by the other investigators contributing more time or by extending the grant itself.
  • Fellowships can be applied for on a part-time basis (at a minimum of 50% FTE) or as a job-share, and fellows can request for an existing fellowship to be amended to accommodate part-time working.
  • Support for unexpected changes in circumstances e.g. where a team member becomes unable to physically carry out their experiments due to a change in health circumstances, funds can be repurposed to hire another team member to carry out these experiments for them

*Directly Incurred costs can be repurposed provided that this is limited to the transfer of funds between fund headings within and between Directly Incurred costs and Exceptions (transfer of funds in to or out of equipment headings is not permitted).