UKRI and the British Academy fund EDI network to boost R&I in UK

A diverse group of men and women talking around a table

The new network of researchers aims to improve equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) in the research and innovation sector, which is vital to UK economic growth.

The interdisciplinary network of researchers and practitioners, called the EDI Caucus, will identify, assess, and share existing evidence on the effectiveness of current EDI practices.

It will also undertake research where pre-existing evidence is lacking.

The information they gather will then be used to support UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and the British Academy to test and evaluate new EDI initiatives.

This will lead to a stronger, more diverse research and innovation (R&I) sector that will benefit the UK’s economy.

Robust, evidenced-based approaches

Professor Dame Ottoline Leyser, UKRI Chief Executive, said:

Research and innovation are crucial to build prosperity in the UK, creating high quality jobs and public services, and tackling the many challenges we face, from energy security to healthy aging.

Research and innovation thrive when a diversity of people, ideas and perspectives come together in an environment where they are welcome and valued.

We need robust, evidenced-based approaches to create these kinds of environments, ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to contribute to, and benefit from the UK’s research and innovation endeavour.

The EDI Caucus will work to provide the evidence base we need for success.

The £3.4 million in funding for this initiative has been provided by UKRI with additional support from the British Academy. The Economic and Social Research Council has led on commissioning the caucus.

A more diverse system to benefit all

Strengthening and diversifying the R&I community is critical to the UK’s prosperity and productivity.

This involves recruiting, retaining and providing opportunities to talent of all backgrounds, ages and career stages.

It also involves championing an inclusive research culture that ensures a wide range of people and ideas thrive in a dynamic and sustainable R&I system.

Unlocking the very best new insights

Ken Emond, Head of Research Funding at The British Academy, said:

Diversity of perspectives and experiences are crucial to unlocking the very best new insights across the humanities and social sciences.

We know that there are barriers preventing equal access to research funding in these areas, as well as in other disciplines across the research landscape.

We are delighted to be a founding partner of the EDI Caucus, which will provide sound, evidence-based research on diversity and inclusion to inform best practice across the sector and encourage the widest possible participation by all those who have something to contribute.

Thriving and diverse R&I system

As major public funders of R&I, UKRI and the British Academy have a responsibility to ensure a thriving and diverse R&I system now and in the future.

This investment news follows the publication of UKRI’s latest annual diversity data and report in December 2022.

The data shows that UKRI has more to do to broaden representation in the R&I system.

Cross-sector expertise and analysis

Professor Kate Sang of the Heriot-Watt University Business School will lead the multidisciplinary EDI Caucus leadership team.

They will recruit a diverse and inclusive network of practitioners and researchers from across the UK to participate in their programme of work.

Professor Kate Sang, EDI Caucus lead, said:

The recruitment and retention of a diverse workforce is essential to robust and impactful research and innovation.

The barriers faced by underrepresented groups pursuing careers in research and innovation are well established, but there is an urgent need for an evidence base of what enables marginalised researchers and innovators to thrive in their careers.

Central to the caucus is an intersectional perspective acknowledging the multiple disadvantages facing marginalised researchers and innovators, such as the disproportionately low number of Black women professors in UK universities.

The caucus will use a co-design approach led by those with lived experience of exclusion to undertake and evaluate interventions designed to create equitable workplaces across the research and innovation ecosystem.

Spanning STEM subjects

The EDI Caucus’s work will encompass all facets of the R&I sector, spanning humanities and science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) subjects.

The caucus will have diverse stakeholder groups and a strong focus on the lived experiences of researchers.

Further information

EDI Caucus leadership team

Along with Professor Sang, the EDI Caucus leadership team includes:

  • Dr Nima Ali, Edinburgh Business School, Heriot-Watt University
  • Professor Jason Arday, School of Education, University of Glasgow
  • Associate Professor Mata Ayoub, School of Creative and Cultural Studies, Kingston University
  • Dr Clayton Magill, The Lyell Centre for Earth and Marine Science, Heriot-Watt University
  • Professor Diane Gyi, Loughborough Design School, Loughborough University
  • Dr Marion Hersh, School of Engineering, University of Glasgow
  • Professor Robert MacIntosh, Faculty of Business and Law, Northumbria University
  • Professor Jemina Napier, School of Social Sciences, Heriot-Watt University
  • Professor Raffaella Ocone, School of Engineering and Physical Science, Heriot-Watt University
  • Dr James Richards, Edinburgh Business School, Heriot-Watt University
  • Professor Nilay Shah, Department of Chemical Engineering, Imperial College London
  • Dr Catherine Souch, Grants Administration, Royal Geographical Society with the Institute of British Geographers
  • Dr Will Stronge, Autonomy Research Limited

UKRI and the network

The parts of UKRI directly engaged in funding and working with the network are:

  • Arts and Humanities Research Council
  • Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council
  • Economic and Social Research Council
  • Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council
  • Innovate UK

All parts of UKRI are expected to benefit from this investment due to the wide-reaching nature of the work and overall benefits anticipated for the R&I ecosystem.

Launching the EDI Caucus is a key milestone that research councils committed to as part of their strategic delivery plans.

These align with the UKRI 5-year strategy and this investment therefore contributes to achieving UKRI’s ‘world-class people and careers’ cross council strategic objective.

Top image:  Credit: Charday Penn, E+ via Getty Images

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