Equality, diversity and inclusion at MRC

Equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) is central to UK Research and Innovation’s (UKRI) vision, where the aim is to create a research and innovation system that is ‘for everyone, by everyone’. Several key principles guide this work, and an EDI strategy is currently being developed. Within the Medical Research Council (MRC), EDI has been identified as a key priority, and in 2021 diversity was established as one of the MRC values.

Concerted effort is being made to ensure that EDI is embedded across all MRC’s work. We recognise that an organisation’s success and competitiveness depend on its ability to embrace EDI, drawing on the diverse skills, understanding and experience of its people.

Everyone working for MRC has a personal responsibility for implementing and promoting our EDI principles in their day-to-day dealings with each other and with partners and collaborators outside the council.

We are also working as part of UKRI to better understand and address the EDI challenges that we face. Find out more about UKRI’s commitment to EDI.

MRC EDI audit

MRC has conducted an EDI audit exploring four key areas:

  • data
  • policies
  • processes
  • culture.

The audit brings together both qualitative and quantitative data analysis with staff consultation. It enables us to establish a baseline to identify areas around which to implement targeted actions and track progress and impact. This is detailed in a comprehensive action plan which will be published later this year.

There is much to be done to ensure that our policies and practice recognise and support the differing needs, roles, opportunities and responsibilities of our staff and communities, and support the wider UKRI EDI objectives. We will monitor and report progress against the action plan, identifying where more can be done to achieve our ambitions and become an exemplar organisation.

Progress so far

Our equality and diversity vision and action plan were first published in 2014. Here are some examples of good practice implemented so far:

  • Diversity within board and panel membership has been a major area of focus. A target was set for gender balance on boards and panels in 2016, and this has been consistently met or surpassed year on year. A target for ethnic minority representation was set in October 2021.
  • Positive action statements have been utilised as part of board and panel member recruitment.
  • A staff head office EDI forum was set up in 2020, with an EDI sponsor from the MRC Management Board.
  • Interns have been sponsored as part of the Civil Service Summer Diversity Internship Programme and 10,000 Black Interns.
  • Funding has been provided for the Black British Professionals in STEM (BBSTEM) Bridge Mentoring Programme.

New initiatives

MRC is currently developing initiatives as part of its wider EDI programme of work.

Active Bystander Scheme

MRC strives to ensure that its funding application assessment processes are conducted professionally, consistently and equitably.

As part of this, the Active Bystander Scheme has been developed to ensure that we are modelling best practice, raising awareness of and controlling bias, and providing clearer routes for reporting and addressing any inappropriate behaviours within board and panel meetings.

It aims to help foster a culture of inclusion and active bystander intervention through a programme of awareness raising and training, supporting MRC head office staff and board and panel members to challenge biases and safeguard decision-making.

EDI Advocates Programme

The purpose of the EDI Advocates Programme is to implement the ‘five Es’:

  1. educate
  2. enable
  3. equip
  4. empower
  5. evaluate

This enables staff to influence the EDI space within their roles and teams, and to assess the impact.

EDI advocates play a key role in improving the ways of working within MRC’s head office, institutes and across UKRI, by acting as champions for an inclusive, equitable and open culture that encourages diversity of opinion and background. They also contribute towards driving positive culture change by challenging behaviours, attitudes and how we talk about diversity and inclusion.

Board and Panel Member Diversity Scheme

A positive action scheme is being developed to offer individuals from under-represented groups the opportunity to gain experience of full participation on an MRC funding board for one year at an earlier stage in their research career than usual, and in turn shape the UK’s medical research portfolio.

Diversity data and reporting

UKRI publishes harmonised diversity data for all research councils annually, as well as gender pay gap reports which details information by council.

UKRI is already taking several actions to address the gender pay gap, and further information can be found in the report. In MRC, it is acknowledged that the lack of women in higher-paid roles contributes to this trend and is commonly seen across academia and the wider UK workforce. The data will continue to be closely monitored, and actions developed as required.

Workforce inclusion

EDI is an important part of MRC’s approach to recruitment.

See Workplace inclusion for more information.


Email: equalitymrc@ukri.org

Last updated: 2 November 2022

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