Grant panels ‘should have equality training’, says report

All members of research council grant awarding boards and panels should have training to avoid unconscious bias.

May 7, 2014

This is a “quick win” that will help tackle inequality in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, according to a report from the Campaign for Science and Engineering.

Other proposals include stopping changes to the disabled student’s allowance and an urgent review of the National Careers Service website so that it includes input from science and engineering careers specialists.

The Improving Diversity in STEM report looks at how to improve the balance of STEM subjects in terms of disability, gender, social disadvantage and ethnicity from education to the workforce.

Published on 7 May, it draws on five years of data and research about the current state of diversity in STEM, and finds that progress is too slow.

It suggests a number of ways that political will on these matters can be converted into “meaningful action”. Longer term “big wins” include making diversity a “central consideration” of all STEM government policy and getting universities to engage with the Equity Challenge Unit’s race equality charter mark.

Director of CaSE, Sarah Main, said: “[I]t is very clear from this report that we are a long way from achieving diversity in STEM. It is also very clear that significant improvement in diversity will only come with concerted and coordinated effort.”

Evelyn Welch, vice-principal in arts and sciences at King’s College London, which partnered with CaSE to produce the report, said: “I strongly endorse one of the central arguments CaSE has – rightly – sought to make in this report, which is that improving diversity in STEM isn’t an optional extra.”

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Reader's comments (1)

Why not try this for one year. Anyone who is research active can put their name forward for a grant. That is all they have to do, no proposal or anything. Like the lottery, there is one 'big prize' and more smaller prizes. Applicants must specify whether they want a big prize or a small prize, the incentive being you are more likely to win if you apply for a small prize. Prize winners are selected by lottery. They must conduct their research according to specified ethical standards, and meet quantitative output requirements (eg number of articles etc) and also dissemination minima, inc OA requirements That is evaluated, and if not met, then their universities have to give the money back. A small RCUK team is able to provide advice while projects are running to check they are up to scratch. Can it be any worse ? What is the actual cost of bidding, successful and otherwise, research council infrastructure, panels and so on. Rightly, if the exist, panels should be trained. Or, applicants should be selected at random having demonstrated basic competence, and gender would not come into it. Is what we have so much better than my proposal ? Is it that much better that it justifies the money that would otherwise be spent on research per se ? This also would force universities to revert to research for the sake of research (to get into the pool in the first place) rather than bidding because research income is an end in itself, and not a research input.