Researchers back diversity in STEMM inquiry

STEMM academics at the University of Nottingham have been key to the launch of a parliamentary inquiry on the impact of science funding policy on equality, diversity, inclusion and accessibility.

The inquiry, which will launch in the next 12 months, is one of four to be taken forward by the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee following an open call, #MyScienceInquiry.

In the proposal, 203 signatories argued that an ever-increasing body of evidence shows that research in science, technology, engineering and mathematics has greatest impact when carried out by a diverse community, providing fresh thinking and creativity.

They called upon the Committee to open an inquiry into the extent to which funding policies, procedures and cultures marginalise and exclude individuals from a wide range of backgrounds, a problem that threatens the future productivity in UK STEMM fields.

On 29 January, the document was presented to the Committee by Rachel Oliver, Professor of Materials Science at the University of Cambridge, as part of an oral evidence session. In the latest development, it has just been announced that an inquiry on this issue will be launched in the next year.

University of Nottingham signatories among the 203 nationally, are: Dr Tanvir Hussain and Dr Ifty Ahmed from the Faculty of Engineering and Dr Ingrid Dreveny from the School of Pharmacy.

Dr Hussain, Associate Professor in Materials Engineering, said, “Government policies dictate how STEMM funding is distributed, so this was a crucial issue to raise with MPs. A fairer landscape in STEMM funding means we can support bright minds from every corner of the society to build a healthier, more productive nation. We can only solve global challenges with research groups made up of diverse individuals.”

Professor Sarah Sharples, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion at Nottingham, said: “The University is committed to championing equality and diversity in STEMM subjects for staff and students. We are proud to hold an Athena SWAN Silver Award and support the Working Forward campaign for pregnant women and new parents at work. We are also a Stonewall Diversity Champion and a Race Equality Charter Member.

“Research proves that diverse workforces perform better, and our Faculty of Engineering is currently leading an innovative national project to uncover and remove barriers to inclusivity in staff recruitment processes. The aim of the EPSRC-funded Inclusion Matters initiative is to change workplace culture and behaviors long-term to radically overhaul how we recruit, retain and reward staff in STEMM fields.”

At the end of 2018 the Commons Science and Technology Select Committee launched the ‘My Science Inquiry’ initiative, which invited the public to suggest potential inquiries for the Committee’s future work programme. It received 86 submissions, of which 10 were shortlisted to deliver a five-minute public ‘pitch’ to the Committee earlier this year.

Following the initiative, the Committee announced it will be launching new inquiries into commercial genomics and the role of science and technology in addressing challenges to food security and biodiversity, in addition to diversity in STEMM.

More details on the University of Nottingham’s commitment to Equality, Diversity and Inclusion are available here.