Our work on race

Research into race and ethnicity is something our community has been working on for decades.

Read about some of the work across UKRI.

The ongoing conversation

We released our Black Lives Matter statement in 2020. In September, we provided a response and update to an open letter from:

  • Dr Addy Adelaine
  • Dr Chisomo Kalinga
  • Dr Furaha Asani
  • Dr Ruth Ngozika Agbakoba
  • Natasha Smith
  • Dr Olumide Adisa
  • Janine Francois
  • Dr Michelle King-Okoye
  • Paulette Williams
  • Dr Ruby Zelzer
  • further signatories.

The letter raised issues and potential actions in tackling under representation and active participation.

Read our response to open letter on under representation and active participation.

In February,  we provided an update on our work in response to an open letter sent to the sector by:

  • Dr Keston Perry
  • Dr Richard Itaman
  • Dr Nicola Rollock
  • Angelique Golding
  • a further list of 304 signatories and allies.


Past and present

The Inequality, Social Science and History Research Network encourages both understanding and assessment of contemporary issues surrounding global social inequality.

Through historical thinking and debate, it studies how contemporary inequalities are shaped by the past and brings a more long-term view to explaining how and why societies distribute resources, opportunities and capabilities. The network has its origins in a grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).

Another AHRC-funded project is Black Lives Matter: usable pasts and international futures. The research sought to understand the origins, dynamics and possible future of Black Lives Matter as a global and human rights and social justice movement by linking it to protests across the African diaspora.

The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Centre on Dynamics of Ethnicity brings together an interdisciplinary team using quantitative and qualitative approaches to understand how ideas of and responses to ethnicity have changed. It then considers what impact this has on contemporary ethnic identities and inequalities.

The Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) public engagement programme’s Wonder initiative aims to engage with communities from the 40% most deprived areas of the country, based on the indices of multiple deprivation.

Racism online

HateLab is an ESRC-funded Policy Demonstrator Project that began in 2017. It has produced numerous studies aimed at measuring and countering the problem of hate, both online and offline, including both individual and group cyber crime.

The work ranges from analysing data linked to the rise of hate crime and online hate speech following the EU Exit vote (results that underpinned the BBC One Panorama documentary ‘Hate on the streets’ in 2018) to using artificial intelligence and social science statistical modelling techniques to create an online dashboard that automatically classifies hateful content in real-time.

Impact of ethnic and racial harassment on mental health

The ESRC Research Centre on Micro-Social Change (MiSoC) has a strand on changing populations: ethnicity and migration, including causes and consequences of ethnic and racial harassment and identity, behaviour and wellbeing.

The centre’s work on the impact of ethnic and racial harassment on mental health informed investigators’ practice at the Independent Office for Police Conduct and provided evidence for policy makers and the third sector.

Researchers have used data from ESRC’s Understanding Society study, a survey of around 40,000 households, including a 10% ethnic minority sample, to examine the cumulative effect of racial discrimination on the mental health of ethnic minorities in the UK.

Children and adolescents from migrant backgrounds may be at increased risk of poor mental health after exposure to stressful or traumatic events before, during and following migration.

Research funded by the Medical Research Council aims to use participatory research and art-based approaches to strengthen evidence on their mental health needs, along with effective strategies to strengthen engagement and mental health promotion.

Improving access and participation in postgraduate research study

Research England and the Office for Students (OfS) are giving urgent attention to the experiences of Black, Asian and minority ethnic students’ involvement in postgraduate research (PGR).

A recent Advance HE statistical report on equality in education indicated that representation of Black, Asian and minority ethnic students is markedly lower in PGR study than in undergraduate and taught postgraduate study.

OfS and Research England are to launching a joint funding opportunity to improve access to and participation of Black, Asian and minority ethnic research students.

Education and employment

Two studies led by the ESRC-funded Centre for Longitudinal Studies, following children born around 1990 and 2000, have been used to investigate racial inequality in the workplace (PDF, 1.9MB) and differences in teenagers’ occupational aspirations by ethnic group (PDF, 1.4MB).

Disabled and Black, Asian and minority ethnic people are under-represented in business innovation. Innovate UK commissioned a project led by the Innovation Caucus in 2019 to identify the barriers and opportunities for increasing the participation of a diverse range of people in innovation.

Northern Power: Making engineering and the physical science a domain for all aims to shape an actively inclusive culture in the engineering and physical sciences community (academic and beyond) in the north of England.

Ethnicity and the creative economy

The creative industries are often celebrated for their contribution to the national economy but research has revealed significant exclusions. The creative workforce shows marked inequalities in terms of social class origin, gender and ethnicity. An AHRC project at the University of Edinburgh will research this lack of representation.

AHRC leadership fellow Dr Doris Eikhof is leading the Everyday Diversity project in its partnership with the British Film Institute and the Creative Diversity Network, researching new ways for the UK Screen Sector to achieve greater diversity in its workforce. Dr Eikhof has also been asked to carry out an independent review into the diversity of the BAFTAs following the all-white nominations for the main acting categories in 2020.

Black Artists and Modernism (BAM) is a three-year AHRC research programme that will investigate the often-understated connections as well as points of conflict between Black-British artists’ practice and the art-works’ relationship to modernism.

Pilot scheme for arts and humanities EDI fellowships

In May 2020, AHRC launched a pilot scheme to fund fellowships aimed at arts and humanities researchers working in the area of equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI).

Up to £100,000 is available for each fellowship, which will support researchers’ work with relevant communities to generate more substantial and longer-term engagement in the areas of history, languages, culture, heritage, creativity and many other fields.

Engaging in the environment

Green and Black Ambassadors is a project set up to connect Black and minority ethnic groups with environmental researchers.

That project, funded by the Natural Environment Research Council, involves ambassadors working to understand barriers between Bristol’s environmental science and Black and minority ethnic communities. They organised a trip for local young people to Slimbridge Wetlands Centre and ran a workshop with community organisers to find out about the barriers to people visiting such places.

Last updated: 23 October 2023

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