Working to support more diverse and inclusive engagement between UK Parliament and researchers
We know that researchers from some communities are under-represented in engagement with the UK Parliament, based on both statistical and anecdotal evidence. We want that to change.
Since 2019, Parliament's Knowledge Exchange Unit (KEU) have been running activities to learn from a range of researcher communities about the barriers they face in engaging with Parliament, and their ideas for how Parliament can strengthen its work to support them. What we have learnt is continually shaping our work and activities.
What has happened so far?
- In 2017, we ran an online survey to better understand academics' perceptions of barriers to engaging with Parliament. Findings from this survey have shaped our work and the support we offer. Some respondents felt that their personal or professional background was a barrier to engagement, which is why we wanted to explore these aspects further.
- In 2019, we held an event with women researchers.
- In 2020, we held a series of online discussion groups with researchers from minority ethnic communities. (NB this was intended to be a face-to-face event but was adapted due to the COVID-19 pandemic).
- In 2021, we held a series of online discussion groups and an online survey with disabled researchers.
These events and activities bring together researchers from broad communities to start to get a sense of different experiences and barriers for some researchers. However we recognise the non-homogenous nature of these communities, and that intersectionality affects each individual's experiences. We are always considering this as we plan our next activities and our responses to what we have learnt.
What have we learnt about supporting more diverse engagement?
These are ongoing conversations. There are some key themes which have emerged around what researchers would like to have happen to support them to engage with Parliament. These include:
- Teaching, mentoring and coaching about ways and opportunities to work with Parliament.
- The continuation of opportunities to contribute virtually to Parliament, initially started during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- UK Parliament reaching out to existing researcher networks and academic representative groups, particularly those representing diverse communities.
- Fellowships and opportunities at Parliament for diverse researchers.
- UK Parliament's KEU advocating, both internally and externally, for a greater focus on equality of opportunity for researchers.
What are we doing now and next?
What we learn from the research community is continually shaping our work and activities. We can't take forward every suggestion we receive, but here are some examples of how we're responding to the suggestions we've received so far.
- We continue to deliver online training about ways and opportunities to work with Parliament, ensuring recordings and resources are available for those unable to attend. We are monitoring the diversity of those registering for our online training in order to identify and mitigate any barriers for particular communities.
- We conduct ongoing review of the Parliamentary Academic Fellowship scheme including the recruitment process, to maximise inclusivity. We will continue to make changes based on this. We are currently exploring how we can ensure our promotion of the scheme reaches a diverse range of prospective applicants. We will be using the data we have collected in diversity monitoring questionnaires in reviews going forward, to inform future decisions.
- We are building relationships with networks of researchers from different communities to reach a diverse range of researchers with opportunities to work with Parliament.
- We are working with colleagues across Parliament to encourage and support them to find a diverse range of experts from the research community and work with them in inclusive ways.
- We are focusing on diversity and inclusion with our network of knowledge mobilisers, based in universities and research institutions across the UK, to explore how we can support them to ensure a diversity of voices from their institution are working with Parliament.
- We are working with colleagues across Parliament to encourage and support more diversity monitoring of researchers contributing to Parliament, and ensuring this is transparent.
- We conduct an Inclusion Analysis on all new KEU activities and programmes to identify and mitigate barriers to engagement.
- We will continue to revisit our conversations with different communities of researchers to learn about new or changing challenges and more suggestions for support.
- We continue to share the insights we have gained around inequality in education and access to funding with key stakeholders. This includes our written evidence submission to the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee inquiry into 'Diversity and inclusion in STEM' in January 2022.
To find out more about how to be involved with these conversations, please contact the Knowledge Exchange Unit on firstname.lastname@example.org.