Cookies on this website
We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Continue' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. Click on 'Find out more' to see our Cookie statement.

Do science funding policies and cultures prevent UK science from attracting a diverse community of people? This important proposal was put to the Science and Technology Select Committee by over 200 UK scientists, including 15 from Oxford, and will be taken forward by the Government in 2019-20.

The Houses of Parliament

‘We call upon the Science and Technology Select Committee to open an inquiry into the extent to which funding policies, procedures and cultures are marginalising and excluding individuals from a wide range of backgrounds, a problem that threatens the creativity and productivity of UK STEM. Evidence-based approaches to overcoming this problem must be implemented, creating a level playing field and safeguarding the future of UK STEM.’

This statement concludes the proposal put forward in late 2018 by a group of UK scientists to the Science and Technology Committee’s #MyScienceInquiry process. #MyScienceInquiry provides a regular opportunity for the public to suggest potential inquiries for the Committee’s future work programme.

Submitters were allowed only 200 words to convince the Committee that their idea was worthy of attention. Led by Professor Rachel Oliver at the University of Cambridge, the UK scientists’ proposal was that implicit biases in science funding processes are stifling equality, diversity, inclusion and accessibility in science. Lack of diversity in STEMM shrinks the available pool of talent and ideas and hence limits the excellence of UK research. Funding is hugely influential in controlling the research career pipeline, and so has a big influence on diversity in STEMM.

Out of 86 applications, ten were shortlisted to deliver a five-minute pitch to the Committee. The Oxford-supported proposal was one of only four to be successful at this stage. A film of the pitch from Professor Rachel Oliver can be viewed here. The majority of the Oxford scientists who signed the proposal to the Committee were from MPLS Division. The full statement can be read here and the list of Oxford signatories is below.

The Science and Technology Committee released their report on #MyScienceEnquiry on 27 February. They plan to launch an inquiry based on the proposal within the next 12 months. The initial stage will gather data on how funding is currently allocated to identify any biases in funding processes. A Committee inquiry could then explore the extent to which funding, policies, procedures and cultures were affecting diversity in science, and establish why certain funding streams tended to improve or limit diversity.

Professor Rachel Oliver, who led the proposal, said: “I'm delighted that this #MyScienceInquiry proposal was chosen by the select committee. The pitch I made to the committee was developed by a team of scientists from across the UK, working together to improve equality, diversity, inclusion and accessibility across STEMM in the UK.  The success of our pitch just shows how powerful diverse teams can be.”

Professor Angus Wilkinson from the Department of Materials, one of the signatories, said: “This issue is hugely important, is pervasive across STEM, and has been present for too long.  We must seek change.  We’re really excited to see that Government believe this is important and are taking it seriously. This is a great opportunity to improve diversity of the STEMM community for the benefit of us all.”  

Oxford signatories

Dr David Armstrong, Associate Professor of Materials, Department of Materials, University of Oxford

Dr Paul Bagot, Atom Probe Scientist and St. Catherine’s College Lecturer, Department of Materials, University of Oxford

Dr Clara Barker, Manager of CfAS at Oxford Materials (and VC of the LGBT+ Advisory Group to) Oxford University

Dr Kathryn Boast, Quantum Materials Outreach Officer, Department of Physics, University of Oxford; STEM Outreach Officer, Hertford College, University of Oxford.

Dr Ewen D. D. Calder, Postdoctoral Research Associate in Chemistry, University of Oxford

Dr Priyanka Dhopade, Senior Research Associate, Department of Engineering Science, University of Oxford

Prof Pete Nellist, Professor of Materials, University of Oxford

Dr Andrew Princep, Research Fellow, Wadham College Oxford and the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory

Prof David Pyle, Professor of Earth Sciences, University of Oxford

Dr Suzie Sheehy, Royal Society University Research Fellow, Physics, University of Oxford

Prof Jason Smith, Professor of Photonic Materials and Devices, University of Oxford and Mansfield College

Dr Deborah Sneddon, Postdoctoral Researcher, Department of Oncology, University of Oxford

Dr Elizabeth Tunbridge, Associate Professor, Department of Psychiatry, University of Oxford

Prof Angus J Wilkinson, Head of Department, Department of Materials, University of Oxford

Dr Hamish Yeung, Glasstone Research Fellow in Inorganic Chemistry, Inorganic Chemistry Laboratory, University of Oxford

Similar stories

Professor Kylie Vincent appointed first Academic Champion for Women in Entrepreneurship

Chemistry Innovation and Enterprise Women in science

This is a new post, which will work in support of the priorities in the University Strategic Plan 2018-2023 and the Knowledge Exchange Strategy, around innovation and entrepreneurship.

Major academic-industry collaboration to tackle global challenges in sustainability

Chemistry Climate change Research

The University of Oxford joins a major new collaboration with academia and industry to use sustainable chemical technologies to accelerate the UK’s transition to net zero carbon emissions.

Science Blog: Heatstroke: why the hotter the clock, the more accurate its timekeeping

Materials science Research

Dr Natalia Ares from the Department of Materials writes about a new study published in Physical Review X, in which for the first time she and colleagues have measured the entropy generated by a minimal clock.

Science Blog: Geoscientists Call for Action on Tackling Racial Inequity

Earth sciences Equality and Diversity

A recent article published in the journal Nature Geoscience has highlighted the shocking under-representation of students from ethnic minority backgrounds in the Geosciences. Ben Fernando writes about a new paper that lays out steps to address this diversity crisis and make the discipline more equitable.

Science Blog: New water-based approach to manufacturing semiconductors

Materials science Research

With the increasing demand for high-tech devices such as smart phones, wearable watches and portable health monitoring devices, the semiconductor manufacturing industry faces a big challenge of fabricating these devices in a sustainable and cost-effective way.

Similar stories

Professor Kylie Vincent appointed first Academic Champion for Women in Entrepreneurship

Chemistry Innovation and Enterprise Women in science

This is a new post, which will work in support of the priorities in the University Strategic Plan 2018-2023 and the Knowledge Exchange Strategy, around innovation and entrepreneurship.

Major academic-industry collaboration to tackle global challenges in sustainability

Chemistry Climate change Research

The University of Oxford joins a major new collaboration with academia and industry to use sustainable chemical technologies to accelerate the UK’s transition to net zero carbon emissions.

Science Blog: Heatstroke: why the hotter the clock, the more accurate its timekeeping

Materials science Research

Dr Natalia Ares from the Department of Materials writes about a new study published in Physical Review X, in which for the first time she and colleagues have measured the entropy generated by a minimal clock.

Science Blog: Geoscientists Call for Action on Tackling Racial Inequity

Earth sciences Equality and Diversity

A recent article published in the journal Nature Geoscience has highlighted the shocking under-representation of students from ethnic minority backgrounds in the Geosciences. Ben Fernando writes about a new paper that lays out steps to address this diversity crisis and make the discipline more equitable.

Science Blog: New water-based approach to manufacturing semiconductors

Materials science Research

With the increasing demand for high-tech devices such as smart phones, wearable watches and portable health monitoring devices, the semiconductor manufacturing industry faces a big challenge of fabricating these devices in a sustainable and cost-effective way.