Equality, diversity and inclusion – 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

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 minority ethnic representation was set in October 2021
  • a staff head office EDI forum was set up in 2020, with an EDI sponsor from the MRC Executive 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.

Equality Impact Assessment

Equality Impact Assessment (EIA) is a systematic and evidence-based approach designed to help organisations consider the potential impact of our policies, practices, decision making and activities on different groups of people. It also enables us to identify ways to eliminate discrimination, advance equality of opportunity, and foster good relations between people who share a protected characteristic and those who do not. This is a crucial part of meeting our Public Sector Equality Duty under the Equality Act 2010.

MRC will require EIAs for events, funding opportunities and other new activities from 2023. We are currently developing internal quality assurance processes and collaborating as part of wider UKRI work in this area.

Black in Biomedical Research project

The Black in Biomedical Research project came about in response to the sustained under representation of researchers from Black heritage backgrounds across MRC and the biomedical sciences.

The project will be guided by an advisory group who will help shape, influence, and guide the delivery of the project budget and future race equity work.

£3.7 million has been committed between 2023 to 2025 to support activities such as:

  • a conference aimed at reaching out to Black students at both secondary school and university level, inspiring them to pursue academic careers in Biomedical Science
  • paid summer internships for Black biomedical students to gain practical experience alongside researchers in the lab
  • early-career researcher support for Black biomedical postdoctoral scientists or researchers who want to make the transition to becoming an academic or a principal investigator
  • partnering with the Sanger Excellence Fellowship scheme

Importantly, this project will help inform how similar initiatives could be expanded to support other marginalised groups as we develop our external-facing work.

See MRC ‘Black in Biomedical Research’ Advisory Group for more information.

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: 19 May 2023

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