The Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Engagement Fellowship Pilot AHRC Funding Scheme Report 2020 - 2022

Blackburn, Manuella; Coutinho, Kevin and Suviste, Hayley (2022). The Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Engagement Fellowship Pilot AHRC Funding Scheme Report 2020 - 2022. The Open University.



This report provides an assessment and commentary on the AHRC’s 2020—22 Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Engagement Fellowship (EDIEF) pilot observing the successes, challenges, and benefits of its existence during its first iteration. The report aims to support subsequent rounds of EDIEF funding by highlighting lessons learned from the application process and the awarded projects so that improvements can be made to future calls.

The need to diversify the researcher community in AHRC disciplines is well-evidenced, particularly on race, disability, and gender. This provides clear rationales for targeted positive action such as the EDIEF pilot scheme. The AHRC’s efforts to launch the EDIEF are commendable for their innovation and ambition, particularly in the context of the pandemic. Feedback from award holders on their experiences of the EDIEF pilot identifies specific areas for enhancement in the running of the fellowship, as well as policy and procedural suggestions to enhance EDI in AHRC funding schemes more broadly. Some of the recommendations could be easily adopted to mitigate or eliminate inequalities, whilst others reflect broader and systemic inequalities, which may take longer to change.

The research for this report sought out and engaged a variety of stakeholders including applicants, award holders, research assistants, project partners and AHRC colleagues, to comment on the processes the AHRC has for welcoming applications, reviewing proposals, awarding funding and project delivery support. These voices (many of which are from underrepresented groups and have EDI expertise either professionally or through lived experience) have contributed to the below recommendations so that the EDIEF pilot can evolve effectively and support mainstreaming of innovations in other AHRC activities.

The report recognises the EDIEF’s position as part of the strategic roadmap in meeting the aims and objectives listed within the AHRC’s EDI Statement and action plan (released 29th April 2021). It is important to consider the relationship of the EDIEF pilot call to the overarching mission of the AHRC to:
“Position itself as a leading voice for EDI in the arts and humanities.”
“Achieve greater representation of racial and ethnic minorities and persons with disabilities in arts and humanities research.”
“Offer and advocate support for arts and humanities researchers from racial and ethnic minorities and with disabilities through the various stages of their research careers.”
Understand and address “the lack of representation from Black and Minority Ethnic researchers and researchers with disabilities among our award holders.”
“Address barriers to equality and diversity in arts and humanities research and encourage the development of programme content to enhance the diversity of its component disciplines.”

This report, in part, observes the extent to which the EDIEF pilot contributes to fulfilling and achieving these goals set out by the AHRC, while the recommendations included in this report provide a means to better realising the above mission.

Pilots, by their very nature, require refining with the intention of establishing optimised versions. This pilot was no exception, and this report explores the EDI issues associated with this call to ensure future provision can mitigate against any disadvantage to individuals or groups who were unable to apply in this round. Time has been taken to observe the barriers and hesitations associated with responding to a call, specifically focusing on EDI, and the report documents the full effect of offering funding where PI costs are ineligible. The timing of this call and support issues for award holders are further headline features of this pilot that, with tweaking, can inhibit exacerbation of further EDI issues for those already marginalised or unrepresented in the landscape of funding for academic research.

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