Promoting equality, diversity and inclusion in research

Best research for best health … by everyone for everyone

The NIHR is committed to actively and openly supporting and promoting equality, diversity and inclusion.

We always aim to be a diverse and inclusive funder, both in terms of the people who lead and run the NIHR and the people who lead, deliver and are involved in our research. To achieve this we will endeavour to:

  • Understand the causes of any inequities and barriers to diversity in NIHR training, research and delivery, and understand the interventions that work to address these
  • Extend our reach to include communities where our research will make the biggest difference, and involve a broad range of patients, public and carers at every step
  • Embed equality, diversity and inclusion in our culture and the way we work, so that we can attract the best people and take forward the best ideas and the best research.

NIHR people

The NIHR relies on an impressive range of people to help us achieve our work. We strive to create the right environment so that our people are valued and supported to thrive and grow and that they are treated with respect. We also endeavour to be open and fair in providing opportunities that are responsive to our people’s needs.

The staff, researchers, advisors, participants and public contributors who constitute NIHR’s people

Our approach

The NIHR is working with its staff, award holders and partners to develop its ambitions in equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI), and to foster an inclusive environment. This initiative is being taken forward by the EDI Programme Board and a range of advisors, and is underpinned by a plan of action, aspects of which are set out below.

We are currently prioritising areas that we believe will have the greatest impact. We are also evaluating some of the interventions already in progress, so that we can build on what works.

For example, since 2011, the NIHR has championed implementation of the Athena SWAN Charter for women in science. Securing the silver level of this award has been a condition of funding for organisations applying for some NIHR infrastructure awards and those that host researchers on the NIHR Integrated Academic Training Programme.

This intervention has been very influential in changing the landscape in respect to gender equality. After nine years, the positive impact of Athena SWAN is clear, and we believe that use of the Charter has led to the greater embedding of equality practice.

Simpler interventions have also been transformative, such as the requirement for women to make up at least one in every two people nominated by organisations for an NIHR Research Professorship. Half of NIHR Research Professorships awarded since the introduction of this requirement are to women.

As a research funder that is committed to actively and openly supporting and promoting EDI, we are continuously looking to strengthen our approach to EDI across the protected characteristics. We have announced that we shall be dropping requirements with respect to Athena SWAN, but will be putting greater emphasis on how those that apply for any NIHR funding demonstrate their commitment to EDI and a healthy research culture more generally.

Applicants will be expected to demonstrate how their proposal is inclusive and the protected characteristics have been considered and addressed, including steps taken to ensure the work programme does not perpetuate or exacerbate inequalities.


Transparency and accountability

We have committed to publishing annual data, to provide transparency and accountability on NIHR’s levels of equality, diversity and inclusion.

We will publish diversity data on applications and awards for each of our research and training programmes each year. We will also publish data on the constitution of the committees, boards and groups that advise our work and the diversity of our own workforce. We will monitor changes over time as we strive to be more inclusive.


Action Plan for the next 12-18 months 


Develop and implement a five year strategy

Recruit a specialist Head of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion by Autumn 2020
  Identify, appoint and embed EDI leads and teams within the main NIHR coordinating centres by Autumn 2020

Data collection and tracking

Review and analyse data collected by the NIHR relating to protected characteristics across the NIHR workforce, research workforce and advisory groups by Spring 2021
  Routinely publish 20/21 EDI data on the NIHR website  by Summer 2021

Develop and embed an evidence-based approach

Publish the report and recommendations from inequalities in clinical academic careers systematic review, and work with other funders to implement recommendations by Spring 2021
  Develop tools and resources to support learning around EDI for the NIHR workforce and core advisory community by Spring 2021
  Develop and implement plan to develop an NIHR community which values and champions EDI, for example through the leadership programme and mentoring by Spring 2021

Develop and amend NIHR processes

Explore how NIHR/DHSC funding contracts can be used to encourage a more inclusive environment across NIHR contracted organisations and host institutions  
   Implement mechanisms for reporting poor practice across all parts of the NIHR  by Spring 2021
  Monitor implementation of EDI practices through review, audit, impact assessments and reporting  

Engagement and communication

Ensure NIHR website and other core content is appropriate, inclusive and accessible  
  Identify and work with NIHR RDI ambassadors and role models for EDI throughout the business  
  Engage and work with a broad range of external stakeholder organisations to support delivery of NIHR's EDI activities  

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