University of Sheffield researchers help launch Parliamentary inquiry into diversity in STEMM funding

6th March 2019

New Parliamentary inquiry into how funding policies affect diversity in STEMM subjects to be launched thanks to University of Sheffield researchers #MyScienceInquiry called on science community and public to propose topics for investigation related to science and technology Diverse group of over 200 signatories, including University of Sheffield scientists and engineers, propose investigation into diversity within UK funding streams A new parliamentary inquiry into how funding policies affect equality and diversity in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine (STEMM), is set to be launched, thanks in part to researchers at the University of Sheffield.

The inquiry, which will get underway throughout 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 using the hashtag #MyScienceInquiry. The #MyScienceInquiry call, launched in November 2018, called on the science community and the wider public to propose topics for investigation, related to science and technology. A diverse group of over 200 signatories working in STEMM disciplines, including nine from the University of Sheffield, came together to propose an investigation into diversity within UK research funding streams. Dr Amy Gandy, a lecturer in the University's Department of Materials Science and Engineering, supported the proposal because she believes the procedures involved in current funding schemes do not enable inclusivity. Dr Gandy said: -In terms of the funding schemes available to researchers working in STEMM subjects, the deadlines set are not flexible to support different working patterns. Also, I think there is an unconscious bias of reviewers, which has never been addressed. Carrying out this inquiry to reveal the true extent of the problem will hopefully force an essential cultural change, to ensure we all have equal opportunities, which will greatly enhance research within the UK. The initial submission led to a pitch to the Committee by Rachel Oliver, Professor of Material Science at Cambridge University, who instigated and led the proposal. Professor Oliver said:-The lack of diversity in STEMM shrinks the available pool of talent and ideas and hence limits the excellence of our research. I suggested the #MyScienceInquiry looks at equality, diversity, inclusion and accessibility in the research funding ecosystem because funding is hugely influential in controlling the research career pipeline, and so has a big influence on diversity in STEMM. I'm delighted that this proposal was chosen by the select committee. The pitch I made was developed by a team of scientists from across the UK, working together to get our point across. The success of our pitch just shows how powerful diverse teams can be. The Committee has pledged to launch the inquiry within the next 12 months. Dr Candice Majewski, Senior Lecturer in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Sheffield, added: -This inquiry will give us a real opportunity to understand what works, or doesn't work, within our research funding systems, and how we can change things for the better as we move forward. Even during this stage of the process I've been really inspired by the number of people actively engaged in working towards a fairer, more diverse STEMM research landscape, and can't wait to see what great things we can achieve together in the future. For more details on the #MyScienceInquiry, visit: https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201719/cmselect/cmsctech/1716/1716.pdf

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