UKRI Provides Breakdown of Ethnicity of Funding Applicants and Awardees

UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) has released data providing a detailed breakdown of the proportion of successful applicants to its funding opportunities according to ethnicity. The figures reveal stark contrasts between different ethnic groups, with one of the most significant findings being that only ten Black researchers received funding as a principle investigator (PI) out of 2,045 such roles funded.

The data relates to UKRI’s seven research councils over the five-year period 2014-15 to 2018-19. Whereas UKRI has previously published award data for ethnic minority awardees in aggregate format, this year’s data includes information in more detailed ethnicity categories to better understand variations. This is further broken down based on three different application roles: PI, co-investigators (CI) and fellows, as well as for studentship starts. Data relating to Innovate UK and Research England is not included due to differences in the nature of funding and data collection.

Some of the key findings from the data are as follows:

The proportion of PIs from ethnic minority groups (Asian, Black and Mixed) is below their respective academic market share, while Black PIs account for less than 1% of PIs, which is below the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) estimate of academic as well as the labour market share.

Over the past five years, the proportion of ethnic minority co-investigators (CI) has increased by nine percentage points, principle investigators (PI) by one pp, and fellows by six pp.

The proportion of fellowship awardees from ethnic minorities has increased from 12% in 2014-15 to 18% in 2018-19; however, less than 1% of fellows are from the Black ethnic group.

The Asian ethnic group are the largest proportion (often two-thirds or more) of applicants and awardees from ethnic minority groups for all application roles and studentship starts, followed by applicants and awardees from Mixed and Black ethnic groups.

There is no ethnicity data for almost 30% of UKRI funded studentship starts. Ethnic minorities form 13% of studentship starts who disclosed their ethnicity. Students from Asian ethnic groups are the largest group within ethnic minorities, followed by those from the Mixed and Black ethnic groups.

Commenting on the data release, UKRI Chief Executive Professor Dame Ottoline Leyser said:

‘These data spotlight the stark reality of the persistent systemic racial inequalities experienced in the research and innovation system. They are profoundly upsetting, but perhaps the most upsetting thing about them is that they are not surprising.

‘We need a research and innovation system in which everyone can participate and from which everyone benefits. I am deeply grateful to those in our communities who are working so hard, often at considerable personal cost, to make that a reality. UKRI must redouble  our efforts, in partnership with all the communities we serve, to create the culture change that will address the underrepresentation and barriers highlighted by this report.’

UKRI has committed to increase equality diversity and inclusion in the R&I sector, with actions including working with specialist recruitment agencies to increase diversity in UKRI’s own recruitment pipelines, and introducing a standardised narrative CV format for grant applications to better account for applicants’ diverse contributions and career paths. UKRI will continue to publish detailed data on an annual basis.

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