Written Evidence Submitted by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI)
1. UKRI supported the APPG on Diversity and Inclusion in STEM’s inquiry via written evidence and participating in roundtables and we welcome their report. Much of the evidence provided in this response builds on that submission.
2. Whilst the scope of this inquiry focusses on STEM in academia and industry, it is important to recognise the multidisciplinary nature of research and innovation which includes the arts, humanities and social sciences. These challenges are not unique to STEM but are evident across the whole research and innovation system, and society.
3. This is acknowledged through the Government’s research and development (R&D) People and Culture Strategy, which calls for the sector to take action to create a more inclusive and diverse research and innovation system.
4. There is no single definition of the STEM workforce. STEM is a very wide domain and there is huge variation across it, including in the representation of different groups. Under-representation is real but equally difficult to define and understand, which can lead to difficulty in benchmarking.
5. To address gaps and weaknesses in the data, it is imperative that the sector works together to collect high quality, consistent and reliable data on the STEM workforce. Inconsistent terminology and definitions limit the ability to baseline, measure impact, and produce effective data-driven policy interventions.
6. High quality quantitative data are essential and can provide useful insights if they are interrogated at the right level of granularity for the issues of interest. Under or over representation of specific groups identified in the data provide the starting point for an investigation of their underlying causes, which obviously require much richer forms of evidence to inform policies and actions.
7. UKRI continues to work hard to improve, publish and analyse our EDI data. Our work illustrates all of the above points. There are gaps in our data which we are seeking to address, and while there is tremendous benefit from pooling data from across the full UKRI remit, this also carries risks in the loss of essential granularity for many of the questions of interest.
8. The data used in this response cover only UKRI funding to individuals from across the seven research councils and the research population within the higher education sector. We include information from across UKRI, covering all disciplines.
9. The majority of funding UKRI provides to businesses, through Innovate UK, is not awarded to individuals and these data are not included. However, Innovate UK does collect EDI data on lead applicants and in the future EDI data on project teams and organisations will also be captured. Innovate UK will publish its first review of EDI data in Spring 2022, after introducing an updated EDI survey and making survey completion a requirement for competition applicant leads in 2020.
Q1: The nature or extent to which women, ethnic minorities, people with disabilities and those from disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds are underrepresented in STEM in academia and industry;
10. UKRI is a major funder and employer within the research and innovation system and publishes its applicant and award data for transparency and to aid understanding of the nature or extent to which certain groups are under-represented. These data provide evidence of the stark inequalities that exist within the research and innovation system.
11. Data on ethnic minorities, women and people with a disability have been collected for some time, but we lack data on other important characteristics such as socioeconomic background.
12. The Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) publishes Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) data for the higher education sector which provides a relatively robust dataset for academia. This can be used alongside UKRI data to understand demographic representation within higher education institutions of those on research contracts and students on postgraduate research (PGR) programmes.
13. Data on funding applicants and awardees for UKRI overall can mask large variation between Research Councils. Therefore, where possible, UKRI publishes data at both the UKRI and Research Council level. Estimates of the demographic profile for the underlying higher education research population for each Research Council have also been constructed and published from HESA data￼. Results are available by gender, ethnicity, age category and disability and together with UKRI’s own data, demonstrate that demographic profiles differ by disciplines.
14. UKRI has published applicant and award data since June 2020. We previously reported on the key findings from this data (for 2014-15 and 2018-19) within our response to the APPG Inquiry into Equity in STEM Workforce in January 2021.
15. Since the APPG Inquiry, we have continued to build our data capabilities and make our data transparent and accessible. We published our first detailed ethnicity analysis in December 2020, the latest diversity data for 2019-20 in March 2021 and latest detailed ethnicity analysis in October 2021, which includes disaggregated ethnicity data. UKRI data continues to show disparities for under-represented groups in applying for and winning research funding.
16. There is not currently a formal or consistent process for capturing EDI information across the sector, which makes it harder to target interventions and understand variance between groups. As noted above and outlined in our response to the APPG inquiry, the sector should work collectively to make accessible high quality, consistent and reliable data on the research and innovation system’s workforce.
17. Many factors affect the data collection and analysis process, including how the questions are posed, the categories provided, the accessibility of the system, transparency of the work and respondent’s trust in the process or the asking organisation. These factors may play a role in underreporting for some protected characteristics.
18. As well as looking at those who apply for or are awarded funding or those who are employed in the sector, it is important to recognise the need to address wider participation across the whole system, for example those involved in decision-making such as advisory groups, panels and boards. UKRI is exploring these issues further, for example EPSRC have recently published data on peer review participation. More generally, this is a priority area for UKRI to explore further in Summer 2022.
19. Diversity among these groups, with engaged discussion, promotes high quality decision making. However, there are risks with over-burdening under-represented groups, especially in the context of a research and innovation culture that undervalues these advisory roles.
20. UKRI data are benchmarked against labour workforce data and HESA data for wider academic staff on both teaching and research contracts. Data across three roles are captured: Co Investigators (CIs), Principal Investigators (PIs) and Fellows. Some key points from the data for UKRI include:
21. Whilst we do not currently collect data on socioeconomic background, we have been working with the sector to develop processes to help increase our understanding of how we might assess the impact of socioeconomic background, for example Nesta’s report on social mobility in the creative industries, supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), sets out the evidence on the causes of class imbalances in creative roles.
22. More also needs to be done to understand further what happens when protected characteristics overlap. UKRI has committed to publishing intersectionality data as part of our next data release in 2022.
23. Within the wider research and innovation system, other funders are also working to share their own data and findings. Ethnicity in STEM academic communities and Disability in STEM both show data and research commissioned by the Royal Society. Key reports, including the recent ‘Which University degrees are best for intergenerational mobility?’ report by the Institute for Fiscal Studies, also start to provide an insight into tackling inequalities in higher education.
24. UKRI’s Annual Report (see p129) outlines our workforce numbers by some protected characteristics. Representation of female and ethnic minority staff has increased since the foundation of UKRI in 2018. Female representation has increased from 42% in March 2018 (3172 out of 7571 headcount) to 45% female as of March 2021, (3708 out of 8226 headcount). Ethnic minority representation has increased from just under 6% in March 2018 (441 out of 7571) to just over 7% ethnic minority by March 2021 (583 out of 8226 headcount). UKRI’s own Gender Pay Gap (GPG) report 2020 shows overall the median GPG for UKRI is 10.7%, compared to the national average for 2020 of 15.5%. The GPG decreased in 2020 from our 2019 report which showed our average and median gender pay gaps were 11.7% and 13.7%, respectively. UKRI’s HR team continue to monitor workforce data and are working to analyse and tackle specific challenges.
25. Our workforce includes a very wide range of roles, from those working in our Institutes and National Laboratories in research and technology delivery roles to those working in administrative roles, for example delivering our research grant award systems. There is variation in the diversity profiles across these roles.
26. The APPG on Diversity and Inclusion in STEM also published a State of the Sector report which provides an overview of diversity of the STEM workforce.
Q2: The reasons why these groups are under-represented;
27. The question of why under-representation exists in the research and innovation sector is crucial. However, there is often a tendency to focus on individual biases and under-investigate or take limited action to address systemic issues. UKRI commissioned AdvanceHE to review EDI interventions and outline actions that could transform the sector. A key finding from that work was the need for a whole systems approach, embedding EDI awareness and initiatives within organisational culture across the whole system.
28. In understanding barriers to participation, a systems approach that understands the root causes of issues and how they are linked is critical and will require action across all parts of the R&D system. When considering more systemically, there are a number of key themes, including:
29. UKRI continues to work to investigate under-representation at a system level. Recognising that there are different issues in different disciplines, and that the evidence base for effective interventions is poor, we are working across the organisation through a range of Council-led programmes to understand the causes and pilot interventions.
30. For example, as part of the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council’s (EPSRC) Inclusion Matters programme, Evidence Base has been established to promote and execute a systems-based approach to problems of equality, diversity and inclusion in STEM. EPSRC has also undertaken analysis to understand better the disparity of gender and race in its funding portfolio and has been engaging with its community on the findings. The results will be published in 2022.
31. We are also exploring ways to encourage inclusivity and attract and support doctoral students from all backgrounds, including those who normally might not consider a career in research. For example, in April 2021, NERC invited training grant holders to share with us the current practice, policy and actions being taken to widen participation and access within their programmes. Using these submissions, working with the community, we developed a set of Best Practice Principles for doctoral recruitment for NERC training grant holders. Complementing this work, UKRI sent a questionnaire to all our Training Grant Holders in Autumn 2021 which will be followed up by a series of workshops in January 2022 to help us develop a Good Practice Guide and Toolkit to support widening participation in doctoral studies.
32. In addition we have a joint programme with the Office for Students (OfS) funding projects across the UK aimed at widening the participation of Black, Asian and minority ethnic students in postgraduate research.
33. Good monitoring and evaluation across the sector is also important to overcoming barriers to participation, this can help us be as effective as possible whilst being able to track any particular areas or concern.
Q3: the implications of these groups being underrepresented in STEM roles in academia and industry
34. The lack of diversity across the research and innovation community represents a significant loss of potential talent to the UK, limiting UK competitiveness and prosperity. Furthermore, there is evidence that diversity, with open and engaged discussion, supports creativity and problem solving, which are key to research and innovation success. These issues are explored in a report from the National Federation of Self Employed & Small Businesses (FSB) and the Equity in STEM report from the APPG.
35. Lack of diversity can also lead to ‘blind spots’ which can, for example, result in racial bias in medical research.
36. A truly successful research and innovation endeavour is one to which everyone can contribute and from which everyone can benefit, with no barriers between it and wider society. A lack of diversity in research and innovation is both an cause and a consequence of these barriers, which can slow acceptance and adoption of the outputs of research and innovation.
Q4: what has been done to address underrepresentation of particular groups in STEM roles;
37. Whilst significant progress still needs to be made to address underrepresentation, UKRI and other funders have taken a number of steps which are outlined in UKRI’s response to the APPG on Diversity and Inclusion in STEM. An updated set of actions to address under-representation and inequalities can be found on our website. To illustrate the breadth of work taking place to address underrepresentation, some further examples are listed below, which seek to tackle the barriers outlined in Q2.
Demystifying STEM and STEM careers. Inspiring young people into a career in STEM through Public Engagement programmes, such as the STEM Ambassador programme and the CREST Awards. UKRI has also launched a campaign to highlight the diverse
roles within the R&I sector. The 101 jobs that change the world campaign highlights some of the many roles that contribute to the success of the research and innovation system. We are sharing profiles of the people who work, often behind the scenes, in a wide variety of roles. Together they represent the many fulfilling career paths in research and innovation beyond the traditional image of a researcher or innovator. These jobs are essential to the creative, dynamic research and innovation system we need.
Increasing participation and diversity in innovation. Innovate UK’s Women in Innovation programme aims to get more women with excellent ideas innovating within UK businesses, and the Young Innovators programme supports 18–30-year-olds to develop their innovative ideas. The Women in Innovation programme has seen the number of women leading applications for grants to Innovate UK increase by 70%. In the 2020 Young Innovators competition, 49% of the 64 award winners were women, and 17% declared a disability.
38. Increasing public engagement: The Wonder initiative is looking to widen the range of people and community groups that are engaged with the Science and Technology Facilities Council’s (STFC) science and technology and has a particular focus on young people, their families and carers facing socioeconomic challenges. The initiative is about giving under-served communities an equal voice by listening, understanding, and responding to what people want to know about science and technology.
Q5: What could and should be done by the UK Government, UK Research and Innovation, other funding bodies, industry and academia to address the issues identified.
Launched in April 2018, UKRI is a non-departmental public body sponsored by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). Operating across the whole of the UK with a combined budget of more than £7.9 billion (2021-22), UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) brings together the seven disciplinary research councils, Innovate UK and Research England. Our vision is for an outstanding research and innovation system in the UK that gives everyone the opportunity to contribute and to benefit, enriching lives locally, nationally and internationally. Our mission is to convene, catalyse and invest in close collaboration with others to build a thriving inclusive research and innovation system that connects discovery to prosperity and public good.
 Research England funds research in the higher education sector in England. Higher Education sector data covers the whole of the UK - https://www.hesa.ac.uk/data-and-analysis.
 Demographic representation of those on research contracts (see table 4 ) - https://www.hesa.ac.uk/data-and-analysis/staff/working-in-he/characteristic
 Students in postgraduate research (PGR) courses (see figure 4) - https://www.hesa.ac.uk/data-and-analysis/students/whos-in-he
 Estimate of staff populations for Research Councils based on HESA, 2017/18
 Diversity results analysis for UKRI funding data, financial years 2014-15 to 2018-19 – UKRI
 Shared Drive - UKRI.pdf - All Documents (sharepoint.com)
 Detailed analysis of UKRI funding applicants and awardees ethnicity, financial years 2014-15 to 2018-19 – UKRI
 Diversity results analysis for UKRI funding data, financial years 2014-15 to 2019-20 – UKRI
 Detailed analysis of UKRI funding applicants and awardees ethnicity, financial years 2015-16 to 2019-20 – UKRI
 FOI2021/00376: Committee Members - Research Councils - UK Research and Innovation Disclosure Log
 Figure 2 - Academic staff (excluding atypical) by employment conditions 2015/16 to 2019/20 | HESA
 HESA benchmarks are provided to aid interpretation, but caution is needed when making comparisons with UKRI’s applicants and awardees. Differences in geographic coverage, reference periods and inclusion criteria mean the HESA population should not be considered the same as the population eligible to apply for UKRI funding.
 Table 5 - HE academic staff by disability and academic employment function 2014/15 to 2019/20 | HESA
 A08: Labour market status of disabled people - Office for National Statistics (ons.gov.uk)
 Data and analysis | HESA
 Postgraduate (research) includes doctorates (incorporating New Route PhDs), masters degrees and postgraduate diplomas or certificates studied primarily through research. As a result, the diversity data for PGR population is not fully comparable to studentship starts.
 Ethnicity in STEM academic communities | Royal Society
 Disability in STEM – research commissioned by the Royal Society | Royal Society
 Which university degrees are best for intergenerational mobility? (ifs.org.uk)
 Download.ashx (britishscienceassociation.org)
 BAME students' access to postgraduate research - TASO
 Wakeling, P. (2017) Measuring doctoral student diversity: Socio-economic background. Swindon: Research Councils UK
 PsyArXiv Preprints | A Review of Barriers Women Face in Research Funding Processes in the UK
 wtd003209_0.pdf (wellcome.org)
 Gender issues in peer review - BBSRC (ukri.org)
 OSF Preprints | Barriers LGBTQI+ People Face in the Research Funding Processes
 Improving minority ethnic groups’ access to postgraduate research – UKRI
 The Wonder initiative - Science and Technology Facilities Council (ukri.org)