EPSRC to study diversity and inclusion barriers in ICT research

Supplementary content information

Why do many women not continue a career in ICT research? What are the barriers faced by some minority groups, such as black and ethnic minorities, in pursuing an Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) research career? These are among the questions being considered in a study commissioned by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

The review is investigating what the barriers are, how they manifest themselves and what can be done to support underrepresented groups in ICT.

Working with partners the British Computer Society, NMI and the UK Computing Research Committee, EPSRC has commissioned the Employment Research Institute at Edinburgh Napier University to complete the study which is commencing with an online survey. The purpose of the survey is to receive data from a wide range of researchers within the ICT community, not just people within underrepresented groups.

The aim of the Underrepresented Groups in ICT Research study is to investigate why certain groups, such as women, are underrepresented within the ICT research community, and understand the challenges and barriers faced by these groups. Currently institutions collect information independently for accreditation schemes such as Athena SWAN, however these schemes are focused at single institutions or departments. This study will present a national picture, making it easier to identify the challenges and the potential appropriate interventions. Academic staff and postgraduates are asked to complete the survey.

Dr Alison Wall, Associate Director at EPSRC, said: We are committed to attracting the best researchers into research and innovation careers. Women are underrepresented and we suspect other minority groups are underrepresented too. We know that women represent about 18% of academic research staff. The study will, we hope, uncover the extent to which other groups (in addition to women) might be underrepresented.

We'd like to attract more people from these groups to pursue a career in the discipline. First, we need to understand what the barriers are and then we hope to work with our partners towards removing them.

Currently, approximately 25 per cent of the ICT student population, and 18 per cent of the research staff in computer sciences and electronic and electrical engineering, are women. Statistics for ethnicity and age within these research areas are less clear with very little data available. HESA data, EPSRC portfolio data and discussions with the ICT community indicate there are barriers within ICT research for underrepresented groups to pursue careers in this field.

To ensure the ICT academic community and business sector are aware of what EPSRC are seeking to achieve, key stakeholders will be contacted directly to advise why this study is important, the process of how it will be achieved, and where they will have a role in the process.

To contribute, please visit the online survey. The closing date is 28 February 2017.

Notes for Editors:

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)

As the main funding agency for engineering and physical sciences research, our vision is for the UK to be the best place in the world to Research, Discover and Innovate.

By investing £800 million a year in research and postgraduate training, we are building the knowledge and skills base needed to address the scientific and technological challenges facing the nation. Our portfolio covers a vast range of fields from healthcare technologies to structural engineering, manufacturing to mathematics, advanced materials to chemistry. The research we fund has impact across all sectors. It provides a platform for future economic development in the UK and improvements for everyone's health, lifestyle and culture.

We work collectively with our partners and other Research Councils on issues of common concern via Research Councils UK.

Reference: PN 07-17