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What does it take to make research inclusive?

Fiona McPhail, EBI Equality, Diversity & Inclusion Champion

24 September 2019

Biomedical, medical and health research needs to represent the diversity of the population to be beneficial to everyone, and principles of equality, diversity and inclusion should be built into research from the start says Fiona McPhail, Elizabeth Blackwell Institute’s Diversity and Inclusion Champion. Here she shares some eye-opening insights from the recent EDIS Symposium on inclusive research; explains how Wellcome is improving the training culture of new scientists; and offers support to help you make your research inclusion from the off.

“Research funding and priorities are often mismatched with the community’s desires and needs.” 1

I reflected on this statement and other thought-provoking statistics at the recent EDIS Symposium: Inclusive Research and Experimental Design at the Francis Crick Institute, London. EDIS (Equality, Diversity and Inclusion in Science and Health) draws together organisations across the science and health field, including Elizabeth Blackwell Institute, for a coalition with power to influence and drive evidence-based change. Recognising that biomedical, medical and health research needs to represent the diversity of the population to be truly beneficial to everyone, the day saw attendance and input from researchers, funders, policy makes and publishers.

Inclusion from the start

The speaker line up helped to inform and identify what needs to change and how. A key theme which emerged was that the principles of equality, diversity and inclusion should be built into the research from the start.

Issues which stood out were around differential funding, engagement and involvement of research communities. One highlighted how ‘People from ethnic minority and lower socioeconomic groups feel far less confident about being treated with dignity and respect in research compared to their White counterparts (35% of ethnic minority respondents feel confident compared to 50% of White respondents).2 Other statistics related to the lack of geographical equality in funding with 35% of research and development funding going to London and the South East.

The Symposium was both videoed and audio captured. We will share a full conference report  once this becomes available.

Embedding EDI in training – a Wellcome approach

As was clear from Bristol’s Gender Conference earlier this year, Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) is in focus across the funding bodies. Wellcome, as part of its broader work, is looking at the culture in research, and how EDI considerations are embedded in the training of new scientists and delivered in the work environment. Find out more about how Wellcome are improving their training culture or complete a consultation questionnaire to give your feedback.

Helping you to make your research more inclusive

I have been working with the Central Equality, Diversity and Inclusion team to develop new training and facilitation sessions in EDI. Earlier this month, we piloted an initial session on EDI for Managers with further sessions to be run over the coming months. And soon we will be running a programme on Unconscious Bias. Separately, I am facilitating a bespoke session on Unconscious Bias with Bristol Health Partners, this will include the impact of Unconscious Bias on research and engagement. If a bespoke training session on EDI in Health or Life Sciences would be of interest to you, please contact me so that we can arrange a convenient time to speak:

Celebrating diversity and inclusion

Something for all of our diaries is the forthcoming Black History Month. The University is marking this with a range of events. We would love to hear your stories of BAME clinicians and researchers who may have inspired you in your career. Let us know, who made a difference to you?


  1. Liz Pellicano, Adam Dinsmore and Tony Charman  A Future Made Together Shaping Autism Research in the UK (2013).
  2. Amanda Hunn, Survey of the general public attitudes towards Health Research, Health Research Authority (2013).




Further information

Find out more about the work that Elizabeth Blackwell Institute is doing to champion and challenge equality, diversity and inclusion within health and biomedical research communities at the University of Bristol.

If you would like discuss equality, diversity and inclusion in your research please contact our Diversity and Inclusion Champion, Fiona McPhail.

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