Expectations for equality, diversity and inclusion

EPSRC’s role is to promote the formation of a diverse and inclusive research culture to support people in achieving world-class research, as outlined in the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology’s R&D People and Culture Strategy: People at the heart of R&D.

EPSRC aims to embed equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) in all that we do. Our EDI expectations guide below and accompanying blog aims to help the engineering and physical sciences community to identify and address the specific EDI barriers in their own environment by taking into account differences such as location, discipline, role, and career stage.

Download the EDI expectations guide.

How to use the guide

The expectations are grouped in six themes and accompanied by resources including toolkits, articles and webinars, and examples of grants, policies and practices already in use in our community. They have been drawn together following conversations with the engineering and physical sciences research community. You should see them as a starting point for you to develop your own strategy. Some examples may be more applicable to your own situation than others.

It is not an exhaustive list of every barrier, but a resource to help you identify and overcome local barriers and to be used alongside other toolkits provided by organisations and your local institution.

Everyone is capable of doing something, regardless of role, seniority, subject matter or research project size. We do not want people to be overwhelmed by these expectations and we encourage you to be curious. This is not a pass or fail exercise but an opportunity to embed inclusive actions into the way research is carried out.

Embedding these expectations is not about ticking a box (or every box, in other words, every expectation). It is about helping people on the journey to positive change. It’s about what is right for you and your team, your context and where you are on that journey, whether you are at the very start or further down the line.

The first stage is understanding the environment in which you conduct your own research and questioning what you can influence and impact. Small steps build and lead to cultural change. Providing this resource will also enable peer reviewers to critique EDI in EPSRC proposals when it is an assessment criterion.

Note: the resource section includes projects and research that EPSRC and UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) have directly funded as well as tools, reports and web pages from private companies that have no affiliation with UKRI or the research councils. Some of the free resources may also offer paid services.

Monitoring and reviewing our expectations

We will adapt these expectations as we work with the community and monitor the barriers and diversity across the EPSRC portfolio. We plan to review these expectations annually with our EDI Strategic Advisory Group (SAG) to ensure they are fit for purpose. We will also continue to monitor our practices and the diversity of our portfolio to ensure our own processes are fit for purpose and implement our own changes to ensure the grant funding system we manage is fair and inclusive. We will publish our forthcoming EDI action plan later this year.

We will also continue to train our employees on EDI to ensure we are knowledgeable and able to confidently identify EDI-related issues across our portfolio.

These expectations were developed in conjunction with EPSRC EDI SAG and members of our engineering and physical sciences community. The SAG was formed to advise EPSRC on issues specific to EDI as we developed our understanding and addressed disparity in our portfolio. It consists of “generous generalists” in the engineering and physical sciences community who are champions of EDI in their own fields. EPSRC has co-published a blog with the SAG about these expectations, which explores what we hope to achieve.

UKRI EDI strategy

UKRI is in the process of producing an EDI strategy that will act as a framework for research councils to produce their own EDI action plans.

Find out more about the UKRI EDI strategy.

EDI Expectations

Theme 1: Develop an approach to embedding EDI in the research lifecycle

Expectation 1.1

Everyone can contribute something regardless of seniority or experience.


Expectation 1.2

Embed EDI during the planning of all activities to remove as many barriers as possible.


Expectation 1.3

Reflect on mistakes as learning opportunities which form a key part of continual development.


Expectation 1.4

Develop an understanding of your local context (barriers, opportunities) by learning about the wider EDI environment.


Theme 2: Implement good practices in recruitment and selection processes to ensure diverse teams

Expectation 2.1

Ensure all opportunities have been openly advertised through diverse channels with thought given to language, flexibility and reasoning for essential criteria.


Expectation 2.2

People involved in the research, including advisory boards, have been fairly recruited, following a process which incorporates current good practice. Consideration is given to positive action while avoiding overburdening individuals and creating a balance of expertise from different organisations and career stages.


Expectation 2.3

Where a grant is required to undertake a selection process, for example to award funding, whether for people or projects, an appropriate process has been followed to manage bias and safeguard the quality of decision-making.

CGIAR – Diverse panel pledge.

Theme 3: Ensure diversity and inclusivity in all activities such as events, sandpits, networking

Expectation 3.1

Publish a code of conduct for organised activities.


Expectation 3.2

Activities are explicitly inclusive, accessible and diverse for speakers and attendees.


Expectation 3.3

EPSRC grants are committed to removing barriers to participation in all activities they deliver.


Theme 4: Create an inclusive and accessible environment

Expectation 4.1

Establish an inclusive environment where all can thrive and all voices in the team are valued, regardless of personal circumstances.


Expectation 4.2

Provide regular communications (for example newsletters, emails, team meetings) with colleagues to underpin the approach to EDI.


Expectation 4.3

Ensure effective and robust processes for managing bullying and harassment are in place. This is supported by active allyship.


Theme 5: Ensure career progression and training for all members of the team

Expectation 5.1

People are supported in setting achievable career goals and provided continuing professional development opportunities.


Expectation 5.2

Encourage mentoring and coaching opportunities, whether informal or formal.


Theme 6: Inclusive research

Expectation 6.1

Diversity is included in research design, for example the user voice is included in the research and consideration is given to ensuring diversity in study participants.


Expectation 6.2

Research outputs are accessible and inclusive.


Frequently asked questions

Why have you put together these expectations?

EPSRC aims to embed EDI in everything that we do, including the grants we fund and research we support. Our conversations with the community and the EDI SAG have highlighted the need for clarity on what we (EPSRC) expect from our grant holders with regards to EDI. In collaboration with our stakeholders we have put together these expectations to aid the community in embedding EDI in their own environments.

Are these expectations an assessment criterion? Will I be given extra space in my proposal?

These expectations are not about assessing EDI per grant proposal but rather about empowering you to embed EDI in your local work environment, no matter how many grants you have. Some EPSRC schemes and funding opportunities do ask specifically for an EDI strategy and this will be clearly described. We envisage that this guide will support your EDI endeavours and the development of your ‘local’ EDI strategy.

Is this a change in EPSRC or UKRI grant terms and conditions?

UKRI terms and conditions have not changed and already draw on EDI as a core component on the grants we fund:

RGC 3.4: You are expected to ensure that equality, diversity and inclusion is considered and supported at all stages throughout the performance of the Project, in alignment with Our policies and principles. Your approach to supporting equality, diversity and inclusion is expected to exceed all relevant legal obligations, including but not limited to those of the Equality Act 2010.

As outlined in the People and Culture Strategy, UKRI will undertake a detailed review of our expert peer review process.

How will the impact of these expectations be monitored? How will you know people are keeping to them?

EPSRC actively investigates the diversity of all applicants and grant holders in its portfolio, as well as the effectiveness and impact of our actions via communication and engagement with our community and advisory bodies. Where applicable we also monitor and evaluate EDI considerations through grant advisory groups and midterm grant reviews. This information is used to understand, aid and guide actions in our funding streams to promote diverse and inclusive good practices. We will continue to use data and conversations with the community to track the impact of our actions and change and adapt in response to this analysis.

I have a programme grant/fellowship/new investigator award/network/standard mode grant, which expectations should I focus on?

Each of the expectations are applicable to any grant holder at any career stage and grant type. Some grants may have more of a focus on some of the expectations, but this should not detract away from the others listed.

I have an example of best practice that I think would be useful to share more widely. How can I make EPSRC/UKRI aware of this?

If you have examples of well evidenced good practices then we would be delighted to hear from you. Please get in contact with EPSRC EDI team using the inclusion matters inbox (inclusionmatters@epsrc.ukri.org).

It is important that practices are evaluated and stand up to scientific rigour. EPSRC has several options to capture these good practices for example via schemes similar to the Digital Economies Telling Tales funding opportunity.

Over time EPSRC plans to house evidence based good practices on the UKRI resources hub alongside outputs from other EDI schemes such as the EPSRC inclusion matters portfolio.

Contact Details

Ask a question about EDI expectations:

Email: inclusionmatters@epsrc.ukri.org


Debra Fearnshaw and Emma Hadfield-Hudson were seconded from the University of Nottingham to help lead the development of this work alongside the EPSRC EDI Team and EPSRC EDI SAG. We are grateful to them and the members of the EPSRC community who provided a significant contribution to this content. Their commitment and expertise are greatly appreciated.

Last updated: 19 June 2024

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