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.

NIHR's people can be divided into five main groups. The NIHR workforce comprises staff in NIHR coordinating centres and research delivery staff. These staff are employed through contracts with various employers. Our research workforce is made up of people who apply for or are in receipt of NIHR research funding. Our advisory workforce is made up of people on committees, people on reference groups, external reviewers, and people on advisory boards or groups. Research participants, specifically study participants, comprise our fourth workforce. Our final workforce is our public contributors, whose input spans the activities of the four other workforces.

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.

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 are revising our 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.

We will continue to look at introducing other mechanisms that can promote greater equality such as our requirement that institutions nominating researchers for NIHR Research Professorship awards nominate at least one woman in every two people.

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.

Our INCLUDE Project, for example, has developed guidance and resources to help include under-served groups in research.

Working with other funders we have also funded a systematic review into understanding the factors that influence career progression in academic careers, particularly in relation to gender inequality. The results from this will provide us with evidence for the development of future initiatives.

We have also established a new Race Equality Public Action Group (REPAG) that is working to understand and tackle the barriers members of the public encounter when it comes to participation, involvement and shaping health research. The group has provided its members with race equality training and is now focusing on co-producing an action plan and recommendations to help the NIHR influence change in this area.

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

Update: A Head of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion has now been appointed and will be leading development of the strategy

by Autumn 2020

Identify, appoint and embed EDI leads and teams within the main NIHR coordinating centres

Update: EDI leads have been identified in the NIHR Coordinating Centres and they are now working to deliver the EDI plan across all parts of the NIHR

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

Update: Data collection across the NIHR is ongoing and will be analysed in Spring 2021

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

Update: The NIHR website is being updated in accordance with Government accessibility guidelines and work is ongoing to ensure the language we use is more inclusive


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