Supplementary written evidence submitted by The Royal Society (DIV0104)
The Society has commissioned Jisc to carry out further statistical analysis to identify factors driving disparities in attainment and progression, with a focus on the role of factors related to socio-economic background, including type of school attended, level of parental education and POLAR4 quintiles. This report will provide insights on the impact of socio-economic background on degree outcomes and progression that will inform the Society’s future work in this area. The Society is aiming to publish this report later in 2022.
For information, the Royal Society does not currently capture socio-economic background data on its Fellowship or across its other activities. A key challenge when it comes to capturing socio-economic data is that there are several different ways of measuring social background and/or social mobility, and any measures used to define it will necessarily need to be adjusted over time as wider social circumstances change. For example, some organisations use eligibility for free school meals as a measure of social mobility, but eligibility for free school meals has changed several times over the years in line with adjustments to government policy on who can claim them. A further challenge is that an empirical model of categorising social mobility will not necessarily chime with an individual’s own view of their social background, which may in turn affect whether and how they choose to answer questions relating to socio-economic background for the purposes of data monitoring. However, the Diversity Committee will continue to consider how the Society can incorporate greater consideration of socio-economic background into its diversity programme.
Following the evidence session, I contacted colleagues to ask for examples of adaptations in place in STEM environments, and put out a call for examples on twitter. I am pleased to say that I received several responses that highlighted a wide variety of adaptations being used in different STEM environments to support scientists with disabilities. These responses are collated in the attached spreadsheet.
Two themes emerged strongly from the responses. These are the importance of ensuring that support is directly tailored to the needs and wishes of each individual scientist, and that accessibility should be considered as a key principle in lab and environment design. The examples provided highlight the positive results that arise from treating inclusivity as a starting point in STEM workplaces, both for the individual and their institution. The involvement of wheelchair-using students in developing lab designs as described by Southampton in the attached spreadsheet was helpful and exemplary. These examples strongly suggest that the emphasis in STEM workplaces should be on ‘inclusive design’, not only ‘reasonable adjustments’. Making inclusive design a starting principle for STEM workplaces would help to ensure that accessibility and inclusion are considered from the outset, not as an afterthought. It would be encouraging and helpful for the Committee to make a recommendation along these lines.
Colleagues who responded to my request kindly shared links to reports and other sources of information on this topic. The Committee may find UKRI’s Framework Document on UKRI and Disabled Students Allowance (‘DSA’) helpful. That document provides information to university and UKRI Research Council’s staff about the support available to disabled students funded by the UKRI Research Councils and on seeking DSA funds from UKRI Research Councils. This article from Science magazine contains several stories from individual scientists with disabilities, and references to support provided by a range of institutions around the world. Finally, the Committee may find the Royal Society’s case studies of scientists with disabilities useful. The case studies profile current and historical scientists’ lives and careers, including how they manage their disabilities.
For more general information relating to adjustments in place across UK workplaces more generally, the Committee may find it helpful to review the Business Disability Forum’s ‘Great Big Workplace Adjustments Survey’, which is based on feedback from 1,200 respondents about their experience of workplace adjustments in their organisations.
Work is ongoing on the next stage of the draft, which we plan to publish later in the year.