Our commitment to Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

Professor Christopher Smith, Executive Chair, Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)

For research to be at its best we need diverse experiences and diverse voices. Equality, diversity and inclusion are vital to create the collaborative and creative research environment we strive for, one that improves our understanding of ourselves and society, and supports positive action.

As the new Executive Chair of AHRC, I feel strongly that the arts and humanities have an important contribution to make to this effort. Arts and humanities offer some of the most exciting, rigorous and imaginative methods for engaging in dialogue and creating space to listen. Whether through the exploration of untapped archives, the curation of untold stories within our collections, facilitating new conversations, or the fostering of new talent, arts and humanities must be inclusive, not by exception but by necessity. Uncovering human stories and experiences that have not been given the attention that they deserve is vital, to ensure arts and humanities research is not only the best it can be, but that it benefits society as a whole. To achieve this, it is essential that we create a diverse and inclusive research community and landscape.

Across all areas of equality, diversity and inclusion, UKRI and its constituent councils have been working hard to identify issues and the ways that we may be perpetuating them – in terms of who we represent, who we invite to the table, who we partner with and fund. Evidence and engagement with communities and partners will help us to shape a dynamic, diverse and inclusive system of research and innovation in the UK that is an integral part of society, giving everyone the opportunity to participate and to benefit. Between June and September last summer, UKRI held four BLM Townhalls to engage in open and frank discussions about race within the organisation and to support further interventions that may be required for staff throughout the organisation. This model is something we want to rollout as a form of discursive engagement relating to a breadth of protected characteristics in the future, to have open and challenging conversations about all forms of discrimination and inequality.

Making our data on applications and awards publicly available is an important step towards understanding where and how inequalities arise and help us to monitor the effects of interventions introduced to address them. UKRI and its councils have published diversity data and detailed ethnicity data which highlight persistent inequalities for under-represented groups in applying for and winning research funding. We are fully committed to addressing these.

Building on the work done being done across our sector, UKRI and by former AHRC Executive Chair, Professor Andrew Thompson, I am determined to work with colleagues across the organisation and our wider community, to ensure EDI is embedded at all levels of AHRC and is actively promoted throughout the research that we fund and support.

That’s why, today, the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) has published its action plan as part of our commitment to equality of opportunity, diversity, and inclusivity. In the context of our long-term commitment for EDI, our action plan outlines several pressing issues that need to be addressed as a matter of priority. These are:

  • Further diversifying AHRC’s peer-review college and decision-making structures to more accurately reflect the diversity of UK society.
  • Understanding and addressing the lack of representation of Black and Minority Ethnic researchers and researchers with disabilities in our award holders and across our doctoral funding schemes.
  • Acknowledging that many EDI issues are systemic and not specific to arts and humanities research, we commit to working more closely with Central UKRI EDI teams and other Research Councils on the wider structural EDI challenges faced by researchers, students and institutions.
  • Diversifying the AHRC itself as an employer at all levels. 

This is not intended to be a definitive plan or one-off moment, but instead a process of continuous analysis and transformation. Today is one step along a long journey that we, like all organisations, need to travel. We hope you will take the time to read our action plan and feedback your thoughts as we evolve and shape a future where equality, diversity and inclusion is embedded in all that we do.  We have not done enough; and there is no point at which we can say we will have done enough. We need to lead the transformation demanded to create a global and diverse Britain, and be transformed ourselves.

For more information on AHRC’s Statement and Action Plan please visit our website: Equality, diversity and inclusion – Arts and Humanities Research Council (ukri.org)

To share your thoughts on the statement and action plan please contact enquiries@ahrc.ukri.org  

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