Equality, diversity and inclusion in research assessment

The funding bodies agree that a future assessment exercise should, among other crucial goals, seek to underpin an inclusive and collaborative system that supports a diversity of people, ideas, institutions, methodologies, outcomes, and activities.

The success and sustainability of a thriving research system in the UK relies on a healthy culture of research practice that is equitable, diverse and inclusive.

However, there are systemic issues in the ecosystem that have negative impacts on and adverse outcomes for researchers.

Whilst these issues have wide-reaching consequences for the whole UK research community, a growing body of evidence highlights that such systemic challenges disproportionately affect already excluded and marginalised groups. In particular, women, disabled and racially minoritised researchers in research degrees, roles and funding awards. 

Our aims

Redesigning the UK’s national research assessment offers an opportunity to reshape the incentives within the research system and rethink how to define ‘excellence’ and what should be recognised and rewarded.  

To support our aims to ensure the next exercise is underpinned by the principles of equity and inclusion, we have drawn from a broad evidence base, including:  

  • Equality impact assessments for previous assessment cycles 
  • Research Excellence Framework 2021 reports 
  • Key internally conducted analyses 
  • Findings from commissioned external reviews and analyses of Research Excellence Framework and wider research assessment processes
  • Consultation and engagement with the sector

Equality diversity advisory panel (EDAP) 

During REF 2014 and REF 2021, the equality and diversity advisory panel (EDAP) advised the UK higher education funding bodies, the REF team and the REF panels on the development of the full range of measures to promote equality and diversity in the Research Excellence Framework.

The panel initially advised on measures to increase representation of minorities on the expert panels, and on the development of the guidance and criteria that appropriately recognised equality and diversity considerations in all elements of submissions to the Research Excellence Framework. 

The equality and diversity advisory panel was chaired by Professor Dianne Berry OBE and was made up of members who had expertise in equality and diversity issues affecting research careers and experience in research leadership and management. Membership of the panel represented a range of institutions from around the UK. 

Published in 2022, the equality and diversity advisory panel's REF 2021 report summarised its work during the exercise and set out key findings from its review of submitted evidence in relation to equality, diversity and inclusion.

The report made recommendations both for consideration in future exercises and for the university research sector more widely. This report, alongside related outputs from the equality diversity advisory panel, provided vital insights and evidence to the UK HE funding bodies that has contributed to the rich evidence base used to inform the development of the future research assessment framework. 

Equality impact assessments (EIAs) 

An equality impact assessment (EIA) is an evidence-based approach designed to help organisations ensure that their policies, practices, events and decision-making processes are fair, do not present barriers to participation and do not disadvantage any protected groups from participation. 

The public sector equality duty (PSED) requires that the funding bodies must, in carrying out our public functions, demonstrate that we are giving due regard to the need to eliminate unlawful discrimination, harassment and victimisation and advance equality of opportunity. 

The development of an equality impact assessment for REF 2021 and REF 2029 have been key to ensuring equality-related impacts on specific groups are carefully considered, and that potential mitigation measures are proposed to reduce any adverse impact on groups.  

Read the equality impact assessment that has informed the initial decisions for the next research assessment framework (pdf).

The equality impact assessment process is an iterative one and the assessment will be continue to be reviewed and refined as the plans for the next assessment develop further, in the light of continued engagement and updated evidence.