University researchers part of call for diversity in STEMM inquiry

Two STEMM academics from the University were part of a group of scientists behind a successful proposal calling for a parliamentary inquiry on the impact of science funding policy on equality, diversity, inclusion and accessibility in STEMM.

Dr Riaz Akhtar, from the School of Engineering, and Dr Tom McDonald, from the Department of Chemistry, were both signatories of a proposal that argued that an ever-increasing body of evidence shows that research in science, technology, engineering and mathematics has greatest impact when carried out by a diverse community, providing fresh thinking and creativity.

The diversity in STEMM proposal was led by Professor Rachel Oliver, Professor of Materials Science at the University of Cambridge, and over 200 researchers supported it.

Dr Akhtar said “This proposal gave us an opportunity to work with academics from numerous institutions and scientific disciplines, all from a wide range of backgrounds. The success of the proposal can be attributed to the power of social media and the efforts of the diverse team led by Professor Oliver. It is pleasing that the UK Government has recognised the importance of diversity, inclusivity and accessibility in STEMM and have taken this forward.”

Professor Rachel Oliver said: “I’m delighted that this #MyScienceInquiry proposal was chosen by the select committee. The pitch I made to the committee was developed by a team of scientists from across the UK, working together to improve equality, diversity, inclusion and accessibility across STEMM in the UK.  The success of our pitch just shows how powerful diverse teams can be.”

The proposal is one of  four chosen from a shortlist of ten to be taken forward as an inquiry by the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee following an open call, #MyScienceInquiry, and will launch in the next 12 months.

The Committee will be launching new inquiries into commercial genomics, the role of science and technology in addressing challenges to food security and biodiversity, in addition to diversity in STEMM.

Rt Hon Norman Lamb MP, Chair of the Science and Technology Committee, said: “We were really impressed by the high quality of all submissions received during this inquiry and the broad range of subjects covered. The Committee is very grateful to all members of the science and technology community, as well as the general public, who contributed ideas.

“It is vital that Parliament does not lose sight of the issues that matter most to the public. It is the role of Committees to ensure these areas are given the parliamentary scrutiny they deserve, and it was a real joy to listen to and read the various submissions we received.

“Shortlisting the submissions was no easy task, but the Committee looks forward to exploring the four we eventually selected in further detail.”


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