eBase: Evidence-Base; growing the Big Grant Club

Lead Research Organisation: University of Edinburgh
Department Name: College of Science and Engineering


There are strong economic and ethical arguments to improve inclusion across engineering and the physical sciences. As it is known that scientific potential does not segregate according to socially constructed lines of identity, and that diversity improves the quality of problem-solving and decision-making, the persistent low levels of diversity at the top of EPS subjects represents a severe loss of research output quality.

The project
In the two-year grant period eBase will define and create the trajectories that enable an individual's participation in larger strategic and centre grants. eBase employs innovative, evidence-based, "system-level" methods that leverage diversity to transform our approach. It represents a wholesale move from the entrenched current culture that will both accelerate the pace of change and up-scale our capabilities, resulting in an overall improvement in the quality of our science and our working experience. eBase is a cross-institution project and will operate as a "boundary" organisation: where its own research, analysis, and interventions, co-created by internal and external partners, will be integrated with knowledge from other initiatives to generate maximum value from the project. It will disseminate the research outputs to wide-ranging stakeholders including the learned societies and industry.

The rationale for our approach is as follows: i) eye-wateringly few EPSRC large grants (>2.5M) are led by female or BME scientists, and to date, these extreme discrepancies have not been fully recognised or challenged; ii) the current system skews access to the significant financial rewards and kudos that large grants bring to recipients and their institutions; iii) focussing on this discrete problem will allow us to gain significant traction on driving institutional change within the two year grant term; iv) this emblematic high-level problem reports the effects of multiple constraints in the system, thus while being focussed, our study will reveal generic malfunctions that have wide-ranging inclusion implications for our institution and beyond.

The eBase team is strongly interdisciplinary pulling together experts in gender and BME studies, systems theory, engineering and the physical sciences, human resources, academic development and policy reform. Our project will roll out three connected strands of work: research, innovation and dissemination. The research component will comprise an unbiased systems-based ethnographic study to identify structural and cultural features that restrict the path to big grant leadership, and to develop better integrated mechanisms to translate and embed our recommendations. The concurrent innovation strand will begin the institutional reform required to improve inclusion governance across the University. We will take a strictly evidence-based approach to inform our strategy for change that aims to facilitate implementation of our research findings. Dissemination of resources will include a peer-reviewed publication, reports, on-line recommendation documentation, and on-line training. The project will be outward facing and will work directly with other HEIs, companies, government scientist networks, UKRI, learned societies, the KTN network, regional and national governments. These external connections are vital as they provide a route to discover new examples of best-practice, to broadly disseminate our findings and to obtain critical feedback. A principal goal of our project will be to engage the wider community in our ambition to move beyond current practices toward a more evidence-based analytical approach that will deepen our understanding of the barriers to inclusion and open innovative support paths to effect change.

Planned Impact

eBase is factored for impact delivery across scales, from individual researchers, to institutions and the wider community. Impact will be realised through the scientific and engineering research sector that will benefit from a fairer, more inclusive research culture.

- Create culture change through evidence-driven, scrutinised interventions which improve the career trajectories of under-represented groups towards senior leadership roles.
- Equip universities, learned societies, funders & industry to make these changes.
- Establish cross-University strategic thinking in the Inclusion Matters conference.
- Influence the inclusion debate through a variety of channels, including social media.

Future Big Grant Leaders:
A principal aim will be to equip researchers with the skills, experience & qualities required to lead large initiatives. The benefits for under-represented groups will be particularly impactful as our study will expose obstructions inherent in the current system which disproportionately disadvantage them, & take steps to remove these constraints. Our vision is that Principal Investigators who are female &/or come from minority groups will benefit from improved understanding of what a fairer chance of success looks like, & the impact of our underpinning study. Early- & mid-career researchers, in particular, stand to gain from this project, which could transform their research ambition and career development.

The University:
Through improved understanding, tools & infrastructure, scientific leaders/managers in Engineering and the Physical Sciences (e.g. Heads of School, Directors of Research) will be better equipped to support & progress people from a wider pool of skills & talents, drawing on a richer set of perspectives. This change in culture will engender more diverse, & possibly more innovative research that fully exploits the range of local expertise. The new operating system will provide senior leaders (e.g. Deans, Vice Principals) with opportunities to make genuine leaps forward & extend the impact from physical sciences to the whole discipline spectrum. The project will provide a platform to deliver inspirational leadership & the tools to effect change across the whole institution.

The Wider Community:
eBase is deliberately outward facing and will generate a range of resources for broad audiences, including a peer-reviewed publication, on-line protocols, and an Inclusive Leadership MOOC. Our proposed Inclusion Matters Grant Holder's symposium will provide a forum for data exchange, to disseminate our findings, and to begin to evolve UK-wide strategies to improve inclusion. Across the sector there is a growing demand to share knowledge & resources to avoid unnecessary duplication of efforts. Our aim is to move toward more efficient & effective ways of operating through a coordinated network.
Through working with HEI's, KTN, UKRI, government agencies & learned societies, we will substantially expand our reach & influence. Inclusion is central to the values of wide-ranging institutions yet their ambitions are often thwarted by existing systems & established hierarchies. This project is our institution's chance to rethink our approaches & bring about genuine & meaningful change. We will share our insights, successes & challenges enthusiastically through our partners & wider networks. This eBase initiative also presents an unprecedented opportunity to work with two of our learned society partners to realign the Juno award process so it can continue to motivate effective and enduring inclusion change in the future.

The Public:
Data, tools & resources will be accessible via the University website. Project team members will work with a regional public engagement centre to disseminate project developments and raise awareness of our training resources. Breakthroughs will be advertised through the press office and a range of social media channels.


10 25 50
Description Most significant achievements:
Case study investigation of programs designed to support the development of research leaders:
• Semi-structured interviews with participants on Aurora, Chancellor's Fellows and Innovation fellows as well as managers involved in designing these programs
• Manuscript for publication currently under review
Devising evidence-based interventions based on this research:
• Unconscious bias observers: trialed in a variety of forms during the internal recruitment of 2020 cohort of University of Edinburgh Chancellor's Fellows
• Mid-career support for marginalised academics: disseminated through IAD in the form of Women of Colour Leadership programme, funding available for research impacted by COVID
• Embedding equality, diversity & inclusion in the Edinburgh Research Office competency framework: https://www.ed.ac.uk/research-office/research-talent-and-culture/researcher-development/competency-framework-research-funding
• Review 'talent register' (the mechanism of redeployment at the University of Edinburgh): conducted as part of IAD secondment project in 2020/21 with recommendations made to HR, the 'talent register' has since been rebranded the 'redeployment register' and improvements made to the mechanism of use.
• Promotions criteria review: this aspect has not been addressed yet due to the promotions freeze during COVID and a lack of resource both within the project and in HR. We have since hired a Diversity & Inclusion officer with match funds mentioned in our grant application to support the project embedding phase and this role will take this review under their remit.
Everyday discrimination survey of BAME staff at University of Edinburgh. The Survey was online and open from December 13, 2021 to January 31st, 2022. There were 155 responses across 6 of the 7 divisions of the University of Edinburgh. The responses are currently being analyzed.
Evaluation of internal recruitment of 2020 cohort of University of Edinburgh Chancellor's Fellows recruitment
• Semi-structured interviews with successful fellows and members of the central organising committee completed and review of experience of unsuccessful fellows is ongoing
• Interviews with recruitment organisers (n=8) and successful fellows (n=8)
• Review of recruitment materials and language used to promote opportunity
• Investigation of the impact of setting targets of hiring 50% women and 20% BAME fellows and the use of unconscious bias observers

Research Cultures Working Group, University of Edinburgh (taken forward by Deputy VP Research and Head of Researcher Development)
• Initiative designed to explore and consolidate research culture activities at the University of Edinburgh with a view to designing a research culture strategy for the university
• Outcomes from evidence base have contributed to the formation of the working group
• Activities include:
o Awareness raising about dignity & respect and how to approach issues of bullying & harassment
o Understanding research metrics
o Exploring different career pathways
Exploitation Route Our recommendations around hiring and recruitment practices may have relevance in other sectors beyond academia, particularly those responsible for issuing funding to businesses
Sectors Education,Government, Democracy and Justice

Description Submission to APPG on Diversity & Inclusion in STEM: https://www.britishscienceassociation.org/inquiry-equity-in-the-stem-workforce
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Gave evidence to a government review
Description Impact of COVID on research staff in HEIs 
Organisation University of Glasgow
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Collaboration with the VisNET research group at the University of Glasgow to develop Nature Index article on 'Inclusion in the time of COVID: 14 ways to seize the moment for change'
Collaborator Contribution Collaboratively wrote paper and analysed data on grant applications to the UKRI COVID fund.
Impact https://www.natureindex.com/news-blog/inclusion-time-covid-pandemic-how-to-seize-the-moment-for-change Multi-disciplinary: physics, education, chemistry, biological sciences
Start Year 2020
Description Evidence Base website and twitter 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact Website with blogs on a variety of topics relating to inclusion, details of research undertaken, team member profiles and links to our twitter feed.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019,2020,2021,2022
URL https://evidencebase.org.uk/
Description Pop-Up Inclusion Matters 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Inspired by the Institute of Academic Development's pop-up training, Evidence Base is proud to bring you Pop-Up Inclusion Matters!

Evidence Base is one of 11 projects funded by the EPSRC Inclusion Matters programme, all designed to improve different aspects of equality, diversity and inclusion in the Engineering and Physical Sciences.

Pop-Up Inclusion Matters is a programme of presentations, seminars and workshops which showcased the work of the EPSRC Inclusion Matters programme as well as other related work at the University of Edinburgh.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://evidencebase.org.uk/pop-up-inclusion-matters/
Description Roadblocks to innovation: Creating inclusive research communities 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact About the series: The UK Government Research and Development Roadmap was published in 2020, setting out the UK's vision for science, research and innovation. Improving the culture of research, addressing long standing equity issues, and attracting, training, and retaining diverse people are key to this strategy.

We have designed the series as dialogues between experts to address the roadblocks on the published Roadmap. If institutions want diverse researchers to create world leading research and tackle global challenges, those institutions must first be able to answer the six questions tackled in these sessions.

These thought-provoking conversations across fields will be chaired by early career researchers to facilitate discussion intended to provide research-informed recommended actions for institutions to create more inclusive research communities in order to enable world leading research and innovation.

Please note: We are working to confirm additional speakers, with the understanding that we are all working in the middle of a pandemic. More names to be announced as they are confirmed.


1. Am I valued here? (Wednesday 6th October 3:30pm)

Metrics of success are often promoted as a way of 'objectively' measuring the value of research outputs and are important factors in who we employ and promote. This session will examine the nature of these metrics and challenge what is meant by success and excellence in academia.


Khadija Mohammed, Senior Lecturer (University of the West of Scotland).
Hilary Noone, Research & Innovation Culture Lead (UKRI)
Prof Tessa Parkes, Director, Salvation Army Centre for Addiction Services and Research (University of Stirling)
Dr Lilian Hunt, Equality, Diversity and Inclusion in Science and Health (EDIS) Lead (Wellcome Trust)
2. Am I seen here? (Wednesday 13th October 3pm)

Visibility, or lack thereof, come with significant implications for researchers from underrepresented and marginalised identities. In this session we will discuss benefits, downfalls, and ambiguities of visibility with a focus on intersectionality and privilege.


Hazel Booth, PhD researcher (University of Stirling)
Maya Carlyle, National Physical Laboratory (NPL)
Dr Yuwei Xu, Assistant Professor in Education and Teacher Development (University of Nottingham)
3. Am I safe here? (Wednesday 20th October 3pm)

Bullying, harassment, and gender based violence must be eradicated from our universities and organisations. How can we demand that our institutions take accountability for ensuring that our places of work, study, and research are safe so that we may innovate without fear of abuse?


Dr Melanie McCarry, Lecturer (University of Strathclyde)
Dr Erin Shannon, Research Associate (University of York)
Prof Vanita Sundaram (University of York)
4. Am I represented here? (Wednesday 27th October 3pm)

You cannot be what you cannot see...or hear. Representation matters and it isn't simply about visibility. How can we move beyond tokenism towards meaningful, substantive representation?


Jarita Holbrook, Associate Professor University of the Western Cape & Marie Sklodowska-Curie Fellow (University of Edinburgh)
Shomari Lewis-Wilson, Senior Manager, Research Culture & Communities, Wellcome Trust
Dr Jost Migenda, Research Associate (King's College London) and member of the Name Change Policy Working Group
5. Am I welcome here? (Thursday 4th November 1pm)

Accessibility is much more than compliance to requirements. What do accessibility and inclusivity for all look like? This session will explore the notion of accessibility as key to more equitable and innovative research practice.


Olugbenga [Abraham] Babajide, PhD researcher (Heriot-Watt University)
Dr Nicole Brown, Lecturer (UCL)
Dr Jane Essex, Senior Lecturer (University of Strathclyde)
Emrys Travis, Disability and Accessibility Specialist (Royal Society of Chemistry)
6. Am I going to thrive here? (Wednesday10th November 2pm)

One measure of inclusion is how our institutions handle complaints. Our universities and organisations must be responsible for ensuring that policies, procedures, and practices enable researchers to thrive. Who is more likely to thrive in our current research cultures?


Dr Anna Bull, Founder, 1752 Group, Lecturer in Education and Social Justice, Department of Education (University of York)
Dr Addy Adelaine, Cofounder & CEO, Ladders4Action
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021