EPSRC publishes detailed ethnicity data

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Data published today outline the underrepresentation of ethnic minority researchers in the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)’s portfolio.

Addressing this underrepresentation is a key priority for EPSRC and UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and the data will inform ongoing work that supports this goal.

Community engagement

EPSRC will also engage with its community to understand the perspectives of ethnic minority members of the engineering and physical sciences (EPS) community and the factors that contribute to underrepresentation.

The data published today align with the detailed ethnicity data published by UKRI in December 2020.

The data highlights:

  • ethnic minority researchers are underrepresented in the EPSRC portfolio
  • award rates for principal investigator (PI), co-investigator (Co-I) and fellowship applicants from white ethnic groups are consistently higher than those applicants from ethnic minority groups
  • researchers who identify as Chinese or Indian form around 80% of the Asian ethnic group for PIs, Co-Is and fellows. These two ethnicities are well represented as applicants and awardees when compared to their Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) EPS academic population at 68.9% of the Asian ethnic group
  • the proportion of PI awardees who identify themselves as Black, Bangladeshi and Pakistani are underrepresented compared to the HESA EPS academic researcher population
  • whilst there has been an increase in the proportion of ethnic minority researchers participating in peer review, this is still not representative of the EPS academic population.

Understanding issues

Understanding the issues impacting on the participation of ethnic minority researchers is a shared priority across UKRI, and EPSRC is undertaking actions to address issues raised in the data, including:

  • aiming to increase the representation of ethnic minority researchers on its Peer Review College to 20% (from 15%)
  • encouraging self-nominations to the Associate Peer Review College from all researchers
  • aiming to increase the membership of ethnic minority representation on advisory bodies to 20% (from 7%)
  • continuing work to challenge bias and ensure fair and inclusive funding processes and to share ideas on minimum standards of expectation for equality, diversity and inclusion in our research and training grants.

EPSRC is also launching two community engagement initiatives. They will build knowledge and gather insights to better understand the factors that influence the inclusion of Black, Asian and ethnic minority researchers and doctoral students in EPSRC’s portfolio.

They will also help to identify the challenges colleagues from ethnic minority backgrounds encounter as they progress their research careers.

Strategic dialogue and community surveys

The engagement will take two forms, which will run concurrently:

Strategic dialogue with senior management in universities and business partners

This will help to understand the role of leadership and governance and increase knowledge of current activities and interventions.

It will also help EPSRC to understand how it can work in partnership with organisations to improve ethnic minority representation at all research career stages

‘Have your say’ community surveys

The aim of these is to obtain the views of engineering and physical sciences academic researchers, postdoctoral researchers and doctoral students.

The surveys will help EPSRC to better understand the lived experiences of individuals throughout their career pathways and obtain a breadth of knowledge about the complexities of the challenges.

Further information about both activities will be published shortly, with the strategic dialogue set to start in March and the community surveys in April.

We need a diversity of people and skills

EPSRC Executive Chair, Professor Dame Lynn Gladden, said:

In engineering and the physical sciences we need a diversity of people and skills at all levels to face the challenges of the 21st century.

The data published today illustrate the scale of the challenge we face in addressing the underrepresentation of some ethnic minority groups in EPSRC’s portfolio.

By publishing these data, we hope to inform not only our own ongoing work in this area, but also to raise awareness across the engineering and physical sciences community.

We recognise the work of many people and groups across the community and are keen to engage with them to work collaboratively and learn from their diverse experiences and viewpoints.

Both these data and our forthcoming community engagement will help to shape our approach to ensuring that EPSRC’s portfolio is truly inclusive.

Further information

UKRI is committed to regularly releasing and analysing data. This is one of the ways we can identify what we need to do to increase equality, diversity and inclusion in research and innovation.

Each of our councils is collecting and analysing data to better understand and address its community’s specific challenges.

Councils will make independent decisions on whether they are able to release council-level data as further disaggregation may mean results need to be suppressed if it risks identifying individuals.

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