Ethnicity and race equality in our portfolio

Underrepresentation of researchers from Black, Asian and ethnic minority backgrounds in the engineering and physical sciences (EPS) and, in particular, in our grant and doctoral training portfolio and in our advisory and governance groups, is one of our major equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) challenges.

We recognise that creating a research and innovation system which fully fosters work environments and approaches that support equality, diversity and inclusion for all will help us attract growing numbers of people from diverse backgrounds into research careers, whilst building on the existing collaborative power of diverse skills and experiences to create new knowledge. This is vital to respond to emerging research and societal challenges to enrich lives and build prosperity.

Our aim is to ensure that the ethnic diversity in our grant portfolio and of those who engage in our peer review, advisory and governance processes is at least as representative of the EPS academic researcher population and our award rates across different ethnicities show no disparity.

Here you will find our latest detailed data, the new actions we are implementing and information on our engagement plans.

UKRI ethnicity data

In December 2020, UKRI published application and award data by disaggregated ethnic minority groupings for Principal Investigators (PI), Co-Investigators (Co-I), Fellows, and studentships.

EPSRC ethnicity data: investigating our portfolio through an ethnicity lens

Building on the UKRI ethnicity data release, we have analysed the ethnicity data we hold on our investigators, looking closely at the applications we receive and award rates for research grants and fellowships, as well as exploring participation in our peer review processes.

Our detailed ethnicity data, including information on how the dataset was produced, along with interpretative guidance and a summary of our findings is available in a report: Detailed Ethnicity Analysis report (PDF, 1.68MB).

You may also access the data as Excel files:

EPSRC detailed ethnicity data Level 1 (Excel, 23KB)

EPSRC detailed ethnicity data Level 2 (Excel, 23KB)

EPSRC detailed ethnicity data Level 3 Asian (Excel, 24KB)

EPSRC detailed ethnicity data Level 3 Black (Excel, 23KB)

EPSRC detailed ethnicity data Level 3 Mixed (Excel, 23KB)

EPSRC detailed ethnicity data Level 3 White (Excel, 23KB)

EPSRC detailed ethnicity data Share Roles (Excel, 20KB)

EPSRC Doctoral Studentship starts Level 2 (Excel, 20KB)

EPSRC Doctoral Studentship starts Level 3 (Excel, 22KB)

Please also see our recently published peer review participation diversity data report (PDF, 2.7MB).

Our ethnicity data highlights that:

  • ethnic minority researchers are underrepresented in our portfolio.
  • award rates for PI, Co-I and Fellowship applicants from White ethnic groups are consistently higher than those applicants from ethnic minority groups.
  • Researchers who identify as Chinese and Indian form the largest proportion of applicants and awardees from the Asian ethnic group for PI’s, Co-I’s and Fellows. Collectively, the two ethnicities form around 80% of all Asian investigator applicants and awardees. These two ethnicities are well represented as applicants and awardees when compared to their HESA engineering and physical sciences (EPS) academic population at 68.9% of the Asian ethnic group.
  • the proportion of PI awardees who identify themselves as Black, Bangladeshi and Pakistani are underrepresented compared to the HESA EPS academic researcher population.
  • whilst there has been an increase in the proportion of ethnic minority researchers participating in peer review, this is still not representative of the EPS academic population.

EPSRC immediate action and commitment

After our initial data investigations, we are taking the following near-term actions:

  • Diverse representation within our peer review processes and advisory bodies is important to ensure we include a range of opinions and viewpoints in our decision making. We select the majority of our reviewers and panel members from our Peer Review College. However, from our data we observe the ethnic minority representation on the College (currently at 15%) is lower than the EPS ethnic minority academic researcher population of 20% (HESA 2019). We want to take action to increase the representation of ethnic minority researchers on our Peer Review College to 20%.

    To achieve this, we want to encourage self-nominations to the Associate Peer Review College from all our researchers but particularly seek nominations from ethnic minority colleagues. Applicants will be assessed on their relevant experience and portfolio expertise in the normal way. The quick and simple process and application form can be found here: https://epsrc.ukri.org/funding/assessmentprocess/college/memberselection/
     
  • We are also committed to working towards increasing the ethnic minority representation on our Strategic Advisory Teams (SATs) and Strategic Advisory Network (SAN). We will aim to increase the membership of ethnic minority representation on these advisory bodies to 20%. To do this, we will use positive action within our recruitment exercises that are advertised on our website and through our usual communication channels.
     
  • We will continue work to safeguard decision making in peer review, challenging bias and ensuring fair and inclusive funding processes and to share ideas on minimum standards of expectation for equality, diversity and inclusion in our research and training grants.
     
  • We will evaluate the process used for our National Productivity Investment Fund (NPIF) Innovation Fellowships, which resulted in the most diverse cohort we have funded, and which included a step for universities to inform us how they were ensuring diversity in the applications submitted.
     
  • As part of our data investigations, we will continue to evolve our data capabilities and enhance our understanding by exploring the intersectionality of the ethnicity data with, for example, gender and nationality. We hope to combine our data understanding with that of universities to facilitate a broader picture.

More information on other UKRI activities to address underrepresentation and systemic disparities.

Community engagement – listen, learn, act

Alongside our data investigations and new commitments, we have recently announced an ethnicity and race equality community engagement initiative.

This engagement will enable us to build knowledge and gather insights to better understand the factors that influence the inclusion of Black, Asian and ethnic minority researchers and doctoral students in our portfolio, as well as the challenges colleagues from ethnic minority backgrounds encounter as they progress their research careers.

Our community engagement aims to explore:

  • the barriers doctoral students from ethnic minority backgrounds may face when accessing doctoral studies
  • the attractiveness of a transition to an academic career for people from an ethnic minority background
  • the challenges facing ethnic minority researchers as they progress their research careers
  • the experiences of ethnic minority researchers when accessing and securing research funding
  • the effectiveness of current interventions and support for ethnic minority researchers - particularly in relation to recruitment, career progression, enabling greater inclusion and addressing bias and prejudice.

Our engagement will be in two parts:

  • commencing in March we will undertake a strategic dialogue with senior management in our partner universities and with our business partners to understand the role of leadership and governance and increase our knowledge of current activities and interventions. With this dialogue we want to understand how we can work in partnership with organisations to improve ethnic minority representation at all research career stages.
  • in April, we will be opening up ‘Have your say’ community surveys to obtain the views of our engineering and physical sciences academic researchers, postdoctoral researchers and doctoral students to better understand the lived experiences of individuals throughout their career pathways and obtain a breadth of knowledge about the complexities of the challenges. We will communicate when these surveys are open. The surveys will be hosted on this web page.

We benefit from being part of a strong and active research community that is committed to addressing these issues. We all play a role and your insights are vital to inform our work in this area. With this engagement, we aim to explore the role of university policies and interventions to enhance our understanding of ‘what works’ and where EPSRC can further support and add value. We welcome ideas about how we can work together to achieve our vision for an outstanding research and innovation system in the UK, where everyone has the opportunity to contribute and to benefit.

In autumn, we will share our findings with the community and will work together with colleagues across UKRI to share learning, knowledge and to identify effective interventions to bring about change.