UKRI inclusion strategy ‘incomplete and lacking detail’

Bodies representing more than 18,000 members working in mathematics, statistics and data science have signed a letter expressing concerns over UKRI’s draft equality, diversity and inclusion strategy

UK Research and Innovation’s (UKRI’s) draft equality, diversity and inclusion strategy is “incomplete and lacking detail”, according to a group of bodies working in mathematics, statistics and data science.

The Royal Statistical Society, along with the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications, the London Mathematics Society, and the Edinburgh Mathematical Society, have written to UKRI chief executive, Dame Ottoline Leyser, to outline their concerns.

The letter is a doubling down on views the group have already laid out via the funding body’s public consultation on its strategy, which closed on 28 March.

“Regardless of UKRI’s intentions, the way that grant submissions are often assessed by reviewers focuses on the perceived quality of the PI [principal investigator], rather than the quality of research,” they write. “There is evidence in the literature that this particularly disadvantages women and minorities.”

Diverse panels of people assessing applications in the peer review process are not enough to address the issue, argue the letter’s signatories.


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“UKRI first needs to place greater emphasis in its instructions to reviewers on assessing the quality of research proposals independently of the background of the researcher making the proposal, and to ensure that the language used in reviewer instructions is not gendered.”

The group says that it has developed 10 recommendations for UKRI to aid inclusion and better support a more diverse community in the research sector, including the adoption of PI-blind initial screening.

This, they argue, would “ensure that when reviewers are asked to comment on the quality of the proposal, and to assign a numerical rating to it, they are thinking first about research quality, and not about the researcher’s background or experience.

“Grant submissions are often assessed by focusing on the status of the PI rather than the quality of the research itself. This has been found to put women and minorities at a disadvantage.”

UKRI should also ensure that it does not use gendered language in its instructions to reviewers, and consider “sharing its data in a way that would allow the research community to examine the current funding system and interrogate any observed inequalities”.

The letter concludes with a claim that their recommendations “ensure that actions are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timebound”, together with an offer to meet and discuss the proposals.

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