Written evidence submitted by the Knowledge Exchange Unit (DIV0018)
Background to the information presented
Barriers to inclusion in STEM in academia
a) Inequality in allocation of research funding. Participants stated that it is harder for researchers from minority ethnic communities to access funding than White counterparts, and that funding is often unsuitable for disabled researchers (for example, grants can specify what money should be spent on, but a disabled person might need something different to enable them to undertake the research).
b) Lack of transparency on how funding decisions are made. Participants noted that there is sometimes little transparency about how funding is allocated, with no visible call. They find that often researchers who get funding for one project are more likely to receive funding again.
c) Inadequate data collection on diversity in funding allocations. Participants have observed poor data collection practices around disability in funding applications, claiming that the numbers are not sufficient enough to aggregate anything meaningful around disability.
d) Difficulties with career progression. Participants explained that the competitive environment of academia is difficult for people whose working time is limited. Many disabled people are unable to manage early career job insecurities in research.
e) Underrepresentation in the research sector, particularly in leadership roles. Participants noted a particular underrepresentation of Black women, women of colour and disabled people at Professor level and higher in Higher Education. They have found that the lack of representative leadership makes it harder to find like-minded individuals in key decision-making roles to lead progress, and this manifests itself in a lack of support for the next generation of researchers from underrepresented communities.
f) Lack of recognition for policy engagement from Higher Education employers. Participants said that time spent on policy engagement is not always recognised by their institution, making it harder to dedicate time to this activity especially for those starting their career or on fixed-term contracts.
g) Lack of incentivisation for Higher Education Providers to focus on diversity. Participants found that there is no money attached to activities associated with diversity, which made them feel that diversity is seen as a bolt-on topic and not essential.
h) Inequality in the school and college education system, leading to a lack of diversity in the pipeline of potential academics. Participants identified structural systemic inequalities in the education system, meaning fewer people from underrepresented communities joining Higher Education and progressing to research careers.
a) a lack of awareness or understanding from some individuals in the policy sector about diversity and inclusion, appropriate terminology and language.
b) a narrow perception of ‘expertise’ by the policy sector.
c) a lack of knowledge and transparency on how to engage with policy, how researchers are selected and how to keep engagement sustained.
d) the physical inaccessibility of the policy sector, particularly Parliament itself, in terms of the building and the location.
e) a lack of inclusivity in opportunities for researchers to engage with the policy sector.
f) a lack of senior level opportunities in the policy sector available for researchers and experts from diverse backgrounds.
g) a low visibility of experts from diverse backgrounds to those in the policy sector.
h) a perceived insufficient interaction with disabled people.
i) a perceived lack of co-ordination across Government and with the devolved administrations about disability.
Implications of these groups being underrepresented in STEM roles in academia
What could be done by UK Government, UK Research and Innovation, other funding bodies and academia
a) Funding a target number of researchers from underrepresented communities.
b) Introducing a policy that UK research councils will not support universities unless they can show how they are inclusive of diverse communities, for example in how they ensure that promotions are transparent and inclusive.
c) Commissioning research into educational and leadership inequalities for researchers from diverse backgrounds.
d) Explicitly stating support for disability and differently-abled status of researchers in funding bids, and giving sufficient data for meaningful analysis and incentivising disability disclosure.
e) Allowing reasonable adjustment costs as separate costs, rather than being included as part of the overall funding ceiling. Allowing additional time for research to be undertaken by disabled academics who may need to take longer to complete research.
a) Having a renewed focus on broadening access and participation.
b) Increasing the visibility of diverse academics.
c) Examining undergraduate and postgraduate students and the attainment gap in terms of diversity, and putting actions in place to mitigate issues.
d) Taking action to increase the diversity of those in management and senior roles.
e) Reviewing academic promotions to ensure inclusion in promotion processes.
f) Diversifying the material included in university teaching and curriculums.
g) Supporting Equality, Diversity and Inclusion networks at the institutional level.
h) Incentivising disclosure by recognising disability and differently-abled status as a formal barrier in Higher Education student admissions and staff recruitment, and being clearer on what access support can be provided for applications and interviews.
a) Offering accessible and inclusive teaching, mentoring and coaching focusing on ways and opportunities for researchers to work with policy.
b) Continuing opportunities to contribute virtually to policy activities, initially started during the COVID-19 pandemic, which can help to mitigate barriers around physical access, time commitment, travel costs and social anxiety.
c) Reaching out to and engaging with existing researcher networks and academic representative groups, particularly those made up of and/or representing diverse communities.
d) Providing fellowships and opportunities in the policy sector specifically for researchers from diverse backgrounds.
e) Ensuring all opportunities for researchers to engage with policy are accessible as standard.
f) Reflecting on perceptions of expertise and inclusive practices within teams and organisations.
g) Advocating for equity and inclusion for researchers and experts across all sectors.
What has KEU/POST done to help address underrepresentation of researchers from particular groups in engagement with Parliament?
a) A weekly round-up email of opportunities for researchers and experts to engage with UK Parliament, such as select committee calls for evidence, academic fellowships, training and events. This aims to provide an accessible, straightforward way for any researcher or expert to keep up to date with opportunities to contribute to UK Parliament.
b) Online training on ways and opportunities to work with Parliament, ensuring recordings and resources are available for those unable to attend. We monitor the diversity of those registering for our online training to identify and remove or mitigate any barriers for particular communities.
c) Parliamentary Academic Fellowship scheme and POST Fellowships, which create opportunities for academics to engage with Parliament in a supportive and exciting way.
d) Continued work to build relationships with networks of researchers from different communities to reach a diverse range of researchers with opportunities to work with Parliament.
e) Support to other policy teams in Parliament to help them work with a diverse range of experts from the research community, including advocating for virtual participation where possible and transparent diversity monitoring of researchers contributing to Parliament.
f) Providing Parliament with a central team able to coordinate conversations on these issues and to help facilitate the responses needed.
g) Seeking to share our work on these issues on our website.
Naomi Saint, Knowledge Exchange Manager, POST
Dr Sarah Foxen, Knowledge Exchange Lead, POST
Dr Laura Webb, Knowledge Exchange Manager, POST
Oliver Bennett MBE, Head of POST
We would like to thank the researchers and experts who contributed to the KEU’s consultations, particularly those who reviewed the written outputs, as named below.
Dr Ellen Adams, King’s College London; Dr Larissa Allwork, The University of Derby; Dr David Atkinson, York St John University; Martell Baines, Leeds Arts University; Dr Julie Bayley, University of Lincoln; Dr Amy Benstead, University of Manchester; Dr Gayle Brewer, University of Liverpool; Dr Helen Carasso, University of Oxford; Kingsley Chukwu, King’s College London; Dr Katherine Deane, University of East Anglia; Dr Mercy Denedo, Durham University; Dr Kamala Dawar, University of Sussex; Professor Mandeep Dhami, Middlesex University; Dr Yota Dimitriadi, University of Reading; Dr Charles Ebikeme, London School of Economics and Political Sciences; Dr Carla Finesilver, King’s College London; Mirika Flegg, University of Brighton; Dr Riya George, Queen Mary University of London; Dr Anita Z Goldschmied, University of Wolverhampton; Lorna Hollowood, University of Birmingham; Dr Karen Latricia Hough, Sheffield Hallam University; Dr Kristy Howells, Canterbury Christ Church University; Dr Zeynep Kaya, University of Sheffield; Professor Clare Kelliher, Cranfield University; Dr Wei Liu, King’s College London; Dr Katharine Low, Royal Central School of Speech and Drama; Dr Julia Makinde, Imperial College London; Professor Louise Manning, Royal Agricultural University; Professor Uvanney Maylor, University of Bedfordshire; Dr Nazia Mehrban, University of Bath; Dr Lata Narayanaswamy, University of Leeds; Dr Miriam Nweze, University College London; Dr Bridget Ogharanduku, Sheffield Hallam University; Dr John Oyekan, University of Sheffield; Dr Rachel Payne, Oxford Brookes University; Dr April-Louise Pennant, Cardiff University; Dr Lindsey Pike, University of Bristol; Craig Potter, University of Kent; Maria Prince, Ulster University; Nesrine Ramadan, University of Oxford; Dr Michelle Sahai, University of Roehampton; Dr Zahida Shah, Solent University; Dr Javeria Shah, Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, and Social Performance Network; Avnish Verma, University of Liverpool; Dr Meesha Warmington, University of Sheffield; Dr Becca Wilson, University of Liverpool; Dr Anica Zeyen, Royal Holloway, University of London
 Select committee witness diversity statistics, House of Commons Sessional Returns
 Geddes, M, Taking Evidence, 2016