Equity and inclusivity in research funding

The Equity and inclusivity in research funding project was initiated by Research Services to identify the barriers to securing research funding experienced by researchers in marginalised groups and to propose solutions. The findings and recommendations described in the report are based on examining external funding as well as internal funding and institutional practices, and are therefore intended to be relevant to funders, universities, and other organisations involved in the research ecosystem.

The full report, standalone executive summary, infographic, and accessible infographic text are available to download in the menu to the right. 

We have made every effort to ensure that these documents are accessible, however, if you require an alternative format please contact us at Research.Services@admin.ox.ac.uk.

The project was funded by the University of Oxford Diversity Fund and the Wellcome Trust Institutional Strategic Support Fund (ISSF) 204826/Z/16/Z.

When discussing diversity, choice of language is particularly important to avoid creating or contributing to negative perceptions and othering (ie treating a person as though they are different from, and do not belong to, a group). The terminology used in this report has emerged from consultation within the University of Oxford (including with the Race Equality Task Force) and with external expert reviewers. The following language is therefore used throughout this report:

  • Women researchers
  • Disabled researchers
  • Racially minoritised researchers
  • LGBTQIA+ researchers  

Conflicting views were expressed around language used to describe racially minoritised researchers, including some expressing preference for “global majority”, or “researchers of colour, racialised as BME ”, as more affirming and less othering, while others preferred “racially minoritised” to acknowledge that minoritisation occurs through social processes of power and oppression. The phrase “racially minoritised” is used throughout this report in order to (a) include all researchers who are racially minoritised, including Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities, and (b) ensure clarity to those in positions of influence over change.

Many of the barriers observed throughout this study apply to several or all the groups above. Where this is the case, the term ‘marginalised researcher’ is used to include people with any, some or all of the above characteristics. This terminology is often used in EDI  literature to reflect intersectionality  and to acknowledge the processes that actively lead to exclusion and marginalisation.

The authors appreciate that this language remains imperfect as it groups a diverse range of people and risks obscuring differences in experience between individuals with different identities. The approach taken in this report aims to identify where external factors operate in similar ways to exclude individuals with different characteristics, even though the ways in which an individual experiences those factors may be different. Where evidence arose in the analysis of clear differences in the nature of the barriers or experiences these are set out by characteristic.

The words and phrases ‘equality’, ‘equity’, ‘equality of opportunity’, and ‘equality of treatment’ are used throughout this report. ‘Equality’ is often used broadly in EDI literature to refer to all people having equal access to opportunities to fulfil their potential. However, it is sometimes interpreted as meaning to treat everybody in the same way. This interpretation does not take into account differing access needs or the differential impact of systemic and personal biases, inequalities arising from systemic and societal structures, and imbalances of power. The authors therefore use the term ‘equity’ to refer to an environment in which all people are treated fairly, accounting for their needs and positionality, to enable them to reach equal outcomes. This environment is considered to offer ‘equality of opportunity’.

University of Oxford Actions

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Response from Professor Patrick Grant, Pro-Vice Chancellor for Research, and Professor Anne Trefethen, Pro-Vice Chancellor for People & Digital

At the University of Oxford we recognise that a diverse research community is needed to deliver innovative and rigorous research, and therefore it is vital that we create environments that enable all researchers to achieve their potential.  

Equity and Inclusivity in Research Funding synthesises a detailed review of work across the research higher education sector with local experience and data to understand better the experiences of researchers, and the steps being taken by universities and research funders to improve equitable access to funding opportunities. It concludes that substantial work and change is required to address the exclusion and marginalisation of researchers in certain groups. These improvements are vital as access to research funding opportunities is important in securing research independence and facilitating career progression.  

The report sets out recommendations for change at multiple levels within universities and at funders. We will lead on applying the findings and recommendations of the report here in Oxford to redouble our efforts and focus our resources on actions that are tailored to the specific improvements needed in our systems and practices. We hope that the insights of the report might also provide inspiration and ideas for others in the sector and where possible we will participate in co-ordinated action with research funders, universities, and other organisations to find ways to reform practices that may perpetuate inequity.   

The Equity and Inclusivity in Research Funding report exposes the scale and impact of the barriers faced by researchers in marginalised groups when seeking research funding, and how they arise within universities. There is much work to do to break the cycle that perpetuates the inequities described in the report, and progress will require coordinated action from individuals, universities, and funders, including at Oxford. The following approach has been endorsed by both the University’s Research and Innovation Committee and Personnel Committee, and will be led by Research Services in consultation with other units. 

  1. Identify existing projects and areas of good practice that are addressing project recommendations; 
  2. Identify goals based on the project recommendations and relevant University strategy, and gather associated baseline data to identify where inequities are most palpable; 
  3. Identify and take central enabling actions, such as developing guidance and template tools for tailoring and use within Divisions, Departments, and Faculties (eg around running internal selection rounds); and 
  4. Develop and implement an action and resourcing plan for collective and collaborative actions, in consultation with Divisions, Departments, Faculties, and other units as appropriate. 

In November 2023, the Research and Innovation Committee (RIC) approved the Equity and Inclusivity in research Funding Action Plan. This followed extensive consultation with Oxford academics, researchers, Divisions and their Committees and professional services. Please follow this link for more details.

Please check back to this page to learn more about our progress.  

We are also committed to using the University’s voice and our convening power to broker conversations between research funders, universities, and other organisations to progress actions together wherever possible. 

More information on other University activity on EDI can be found in the links below: 

The University operates a number of internal funding schemes, with a diverse range of funding sources, management groups, and approaches to governance. These include centrally operated schemes such as the John Fell Fund and Strategic Research Fund, schemes managed by Divisions such as Impact Acceleration Accounts, and flexible funds within large, externally funded projects.  

Research Services is currently developing proposals for implementing the recommendations within the John Fell Fund and the Strategic Research Fund, which will be assessed by the respective Boards (in consultation with Divisions where appropriate). 

Research Services has now put together an internal Working Group which is responsible providing oversight on the implementation of the Action Plan as well as for delivery of some of its objectives. Members have been drawn from across all divisions, and include people with specific expertise, such as IT, Equality and Diversity, and administration of funding schemes.

Sector-Wide Work

Following the publication of the report, Research Services have been leading an engagement process involving 30+ Universities and 11 funders on how they can work together to implement the sector-wide recommendations of the report.

On 27th February, 60+ delegates discussed the outputs of this engagement process at the Equity and Inclusivity in Research Funding Forum. The outputs were: a draft public statement stating: the draft principles that will guide the sector in delivering this work, a list of potential priority areas that the sector could deliver together, and the Terms of Reference for a proposed Forum through which the work will be delivered. Over 25 Universities and funders have so far signed up to the draft statement, confirmed their interest in being part of the Forum, and in leading some of the priorities. 

Research Services are now recruiting more universities and funders to the initiative, and they are amending the public statement, with the feedback that delegates gave at the event. Delegates will have the opportunity to endorse the statement at the end of March when it will be published.


For further information about the project and ongoing work to improve equity and inclusivity in research funding at the University, or to get involved, please contact Research Services by email at Research.Services@admin.ox.ac.uk

Read the report





Cite the report

Gladstone, J., Schipper, L., Hara-Msulira, T., Casci, T. (2023). Equity and Inclusivity in Research Funding: Barriers and Delivering Change. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.5287/bodleian:KZjBY77pO


University of Oxford Action Plan

Visit the Action Plan page to access the draft action plan and provide feedback (internal only)