Furthering Equality, Diversity and Inclusion in engineering and physical sciences research

The long-term strength of the UK research base depends on harnessing talent. As an investor in research, we are committed to attracting the best researchers from a diverse population into research and innovation careers. Unlocking this diverse talent increases our ability to achieve our ambitions in this Delivery Plan and beyond.

Within UKRI, EPSRC continues to deliver against the RCUK action plan, launched in 2016, to take bold and transparent action in partnership with others to:

  • Improve under-represented gender diversity of EPSRC advisory and peer review bodies, by clearly stating our ambitions, working towards these targets with our community and, where necessary, intervening by utilising positive action to meet our goals. Changes in our advisory structures can be seen below (view a PDF version of the below graphic):
    Bar chart - Changes in our advisory structures
  • Improve peer review to ensure a process which is fair and inclusive and seek to remove potential barriers and biases. Based on our culture of continual improvement, we have revised our processes, documentation and communicated the changes made. The process will continue to adapt to ensure it remains fair and inclusive. Some of the changes made so far include:
    • Revised guidance on processes and improved consistency across our documentation
    • Added fairness as a principle of peer review
    • Required an ED&I Strategy from applicants for some of our major investments
    • Made sure the criteria are visibly available to panel members throughout the meeting
    • Ensured scoring and ranking is based on evidence and assessment criteria
    • Changed interview guidance - e.g. introducing silent scoring
    • Introduced equality impact assessments for new funding opportunities
  • Working in partnership with key stakeholders to inform and refine our activities, ranging from strategic dialogues with our partner universities to targeted thematic activities delivered in partnership. Examples of activities which have been implemented based on external feedback include:
    • Improved the diversity of our panels by implementing a mixed gender panel policy.
    • Provision of more clarity around the flexibilities of our grants
    • Implemented a programme of unconscious bias training for all our staff, including a tailored course related to peer review and the role of the panel convenor.
    • Trialed anonymous assessments in peer review, incorporated into seven calls to support our learning and exploration of anonymous peer review.
  • Funded 11 Inclusion Matters projects to work together to accelerate the pace of culture change and challenge current thinking. Our innovative Inclusion Matter's call is supporting ambitious and inspiring projects with the aim to support the acceleration of culture change within the engineering and physical sciences community.

Current and future work:

Areas of current and future work include:

  • Developing our understanding of the participation of researchers from minority ethnic backgrounds. Key challenges to understand are the language and issues faced by ethnic groups.
  • Planning future strategic dialogue with our university, business and Learned Society partners.
  • Exploring the gender diversity of our portfolio linked to the size of awards.
  • Reviewing how flexible working request are incorporated into our grant proposals.
  • Actively engaging with the Inclusion Matters researchers to share ideas and progress on a broad range of ED&I topics, allowing EPSRC and the broader sector to capitalise on emerging findings.
  • Working closely with the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Strategic Advisory Group. Further information, including membership, can be found here.