A new network of researchers aiming to improve equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) in the workplace is to be led by Heriot-Watt University in a pioneering £4.2 million study.
In what is believed to be a UK first, the new three-year project focuses on underrepresented groups employed within the research and innovation sector.
Named, the EDI Caucus, the study will be overseen by a multidisciplinary team of researchers and practitioners from across the UK who will deliver on a series of projects underpinned by high-quality research.
They will identify, assess, and share existing evidence on the effectiveness of current practices within the research and innovation sector, while also establishing where pre-existing evidence is lacking.
This involves mapping all current programmes aimed at encouraging equity in the workplace, evaluating the effectiveness of current EDI training, and creating an enabling workplace by using virtual reality to form interactive laboratories and offices where users can trial inclusive workplaces.
The findings will be used to support the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and the British Academy to test and evaluate new EDI initiatives, leading to a stronger, more diverse research and innovation sector.
Kate Sang, Professor of Gender and Employment Studies at Heriot-Watt’s Edinburgh Business School, is the Caucus lead. She said: “The recruitment and retention of a diverse workforce is essential to robust and impactful research and innovation. The barriers faced by underrepresented groups pursuing careers in research and innovation are well established, but there is an urgent need for an evidence base of what enables marginalised researchers and innovators to thrive in their careers.
“Central to the Caucus is an intersectional perspective acknowledging the multiple disadvantages facing marginalised researchers and innovators, such as the disproportionately low number of Black women professors in UK universities.
“The Caucus will use a co-design approach led by those with lived experience of exclusion to undertake and evaluate interventions designed to create equitable workplaces across the research and innovation ecosystem.”
The EDI Caucus encompasses all facets of the research and innovation sector, spanning humanities and STEM subjects, with diverse stakeholder groups. A key component of this work is the need to hear directly from frontline workers with lived experience of exclusion to help identify and remove barriers from the workplace.
The Caucus has received funding for £4.2 million, the majority of which, £3.4 million, has been provided by UKRI with additional support from the British Academy while the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) has led on commissioning the Caucus.
Professor Dame Ottoline Leyser, UKRI Chief Executive, said: “Research and innovation are crucial to build prosperity in the UK, creating high quality jobs and public services, and tackling the many challenges we face, from energy security to healthy aging. Research and innovation thrive when a diversity of people, ideas and perspectives come together in an environment where they are welcome and valued.
“We need robust, evidenced-based approaches to create these kinds of environments, ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to contribute to, and benefit from the UK’s research and innovation endeavour. The EDI Caucus will work to provide the evidence base we need for success.”
14 UK-based academics are included in the EDI Caucus representing Heriot-Watt University, the University of Glasgow, Kingston University London, Loughborough University, Northumbria University Imperial College London, The Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) and Autonomy Research Limited.
The Caucus is expected to present its initial findings in summer 2023 and will be recruiting stakeholders to participate in co-design activities and to act as research sites.