Embedding equity, diversity and inclusion in our research culture

“Research fieldwork can be full of negative experiences and impacts – our new guidelines aim to establish ways to make this a much more positive and productive process for all.”

Embedding equity, diversity and inclusion in our research culture. November 2023

In the first of a new feature series highlighting the outstanding work already underway to improve the research culture at Leeds, Dr Sam Wimpenny, a Research Fellow in the School of Earth and Environment (SEE), reveals how a project he’s leading is helping embed equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) principles across the University’s research practices.

The overarching aim of our Research Culture Strategy is to enable more of our colleagues to produce leading research inclusively, equitably, openly and supportively.

The strategy states everyone in our research community must feel valued and empowered. Only by creating an environment more conducive to supporting mutual growth, encouragement and understanding can we best address the unique global challenges facing the world today and into the future. 

Our Research Culture Strategy identifies four key objectives we aim to deliver during the next five years. One of these focuses on EDI. By extending the University’s current commitments to EDI across our institutional research leadership and embedding it throughout our research lifecycle – from design to recruitment and delivery – we will enable a more equitable, diverse, inclusive and highly-skilled workforce to produce more representative and robust research.

One of the projects I’m principal investigator for is helping empower and educate researchers to practice safe, inclusive and equitable research fieldwork.

Research fieldwork can be full of negative experiences and impacts – our new guidelines aim to establish ways to make this a much more positive and productive process for all. 

For example, Geography, Earth and Environmental Science (GEES) is the least diverse STEM subject, and negative experiences during fieldwork are recognised as one of many barriers to diversification. Studies have revealed most researchers experience problematic fieldwork practice that goes unreported due to the nature of the small groups and power structures that currently exist in this area. 

Working with my colleagues Helena Brown, Dr Martin Zebracki and Dr Scott Watson, we used the Research England Enhancing Research Culture funding we received from last year’s open call to create two new, open access resources to try to resolve these issues. The first is a Code of Conduct and an Ethics and Inclusivity Assessment that teams can complete prior to fieldwork. The second features five informational videos providing guidance on what safe, inclusive and equitable fieldwork is and why it’s so important.

We published our fieldwork guidelines – the Code of Conduct, Ethics and Inclusivity Assessment and the five informational videos – last month. These resources have been advertised through Twitter and will be provided by the SEE Fieldwork Safety Officer to anyone planning future fieldwork. The videos are also available through YouTube.

The resources are due to be shared by the Equity and Diversity in Geoscience (EDIG) group through its broad social media following. We’re also collecting usage information through YouTube views and website downloads to monitor uptake and impact. 

But the project doesn’t end there.

We’ve received further funding to develop a more specific set of guidelines aimed at addressing barriers to safety, inclusivity and equity that LGBTQ+ fieldworkers face. This project has just started, and will build on the learning outcomes from our previous work. 

Through these and other initiatives underway at Leeds, we hope to improve access to, and participation in, vital research, improving leadership across career stages and encouraging a more inclusive culture at every level of the University.

Posted in: