UKRI’s latest diversity data reveals positive findings but there is still work to do

30 Mar 2021

UKRI have published data analysis with regards to funding applicants and recipients of research council grants between 2019 and 2020, which reveals a number of positive findings in terms of female and ethnic minority applicants but more needs to be done for applicants with a disability.

Last summer marked the first time that the analysis of diversity data, between 2014-2019, was coordinated across UKRI’s seven research councils.

The results, which are published in a variety of formats to facilitate access, are presented for three applicant roles:

  • principal investigators (PIs)
  • co-investigators (CIs)
  • fellowships.

‘The publication highlights the changing composition of applicants by gender and ethnicity over the past six years. Today’s publication also reveals, for the first time, results for award rate by value.

The data shows that the proportion of female and ethnic minority applicants for research grants and fellowships has increased for all three roles and has continued its upward trend in 2019 to 2020.

The proportion of female applicants has increased over the last six years by four percentage points (pp) to 30% for PIs and by 5pp for CIs to 34%. The proportion of female applicants for fellowships has fluctuated annually and at 35% in 2019 to 2020 is 2pp higher than 2014 to 2015. The proportion of CI applications from ethnic minorities has increased by 11pp to 23% over the last six years.

For fellows and PIs, the largest year-on-year increase in application occurred in 2019 to 2020. This is relative to 2018 to 2019, where the proportion of ethnic minority applicants for both roles increased by 3pp to 19% and 16% respectively.

The proportion of researchers from female and ethnic minority applicants who were successful in receiving funding awards has also increased, but at a slower pace. Applicants from ethnic minority backgrounds, for example, were less likely to be successful in receiving funds than white researchers.

White applicants had higher award rates in all three roles in 2019 to 2020 relative to ethnic minority applicants, with the difference varying by year. Median award values for male PIs is 43% higher than female. White PIs’ median award values are 11% higher than for ethnic minority PIs.

For the first time, in this period, the award rates (number of awardees as a proportion of number of applicants) for male and female PI applicants were equal at 29%’ (UKRI News, 30th March 2021).

However, the number of disabled applicants (1 to 3%) is proportionately lower than disabled employees of universities on both teaching and research contracts (4%) and of the wider UK labour market (13%).

Professor Ottoline Leyser, UKRI Chief Executive, said, “This year’s data show some positive signs, but also highlight persistent pernicious disparities for under-represented groups in applying for and winning research funding. We are using these data to support our work to understand the causes for these disparities, engaging deeply and widely with the community to find effective solutions. We greatly appreciate the time and expertise committed by the community to working with us to drive lasting systemic change.”


Image: Photo by Christina @ on Unsplash