Diversity is one of AMRC's six principles of expert review, which form the foundations of rigour that guide our member’s expert review and funding processes.

Diversity: charities must seek recommendations from a range of experts with relevant knowledge or experience, who appropriately reflect the views of a range of stakeholders. Charities must also consider the diversity of experts involved in review in terms of location, career stage, gender and ethnicity or other factors as appropriate. 

The use of expert reviewers of diverse backgrounds/experiences ensures that funding decisions are informed by a varied set of ideas, beliefs, skills, and knowledge. Research shows that teams that have a range of skills, experiences, and cognitive frameworks are more creative, impactful and productive. Hearing from diverse perspectives is not only fair and just, but it can also balance different biases and protect against blind spots. If the composition of panels and reviewer groups is not diverse, there is a danger of only accepting mirror image applications or applicants

Achieving diversity

The following describes steps that charities can take to meet the principle of diversity.

  • Aim for diversity among experts involved in review, including members of a research review committee and experts providing in-depth (written or verbal) review. This could include diversity in expertise, experience, location, career stage, gender, and ethnicity. For example, consider early career researchers and experts from overseas. 

  • Have a quorum for research review committee meetings of at least five, or, ensure more than 50% of the committee are present (whichever figure is higher).

  • When sourcing experts, consider the charity’s remit and the range of disciplines and methodologies relevant to the applications reviewed.  

  • Consider including statistical expertise on the committee, particularly if applications are likely to contain information on sample sizes and statistically significant end points. 

  • Collect data annually on the diversity of those involved in your expert review process. 

  • Consider setting targets for research review committees to institute a minimum number of reviewers from underrepresented backgrounds.   

  • Have an induction process for new committee members.

  • Provide guidance and training to those involved in expert review, so that all are comfortable with the role required of them. In considering diversity in applications, bias mitigation training may be used. 

  • Consider using experts from neighbouring fields. Evidence shows that multi-disciplinary review panels help to increase the funding of inter-disciplinary research, which is disadvantaged by panels lacking in diversity, and reduces rating consistency which can skew funding outcomes. Additionally, multi-disciplinary panels can reduce conflicts where the pool of experts available is small or subject niche. This approach can help to fulfil your responsibilities under the principle of impartiality as well as diversity. 

  • Establish accountability mechanisms such as designating particular groups or people to champion the inclusion of considering equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) related matters in committee proceedings. 

  • Consider including at least two patient representatives on your research review committee or having a lay/patient and public involvement (PPI) representative committee. Lay reviewers bring a valuable and unique perspective on what research should be funded. They can also help provide a strategic or practical challenge to applications and for clinical projects, by assessing the feasibility of a study for a particular patient group.

  • Support your lay/PPI reviewers by allocating sufficient resources, including additional time that may be required from admin staff, and time to complete their review, understand the charity’s mission and aims and complete an induction process where they meet the rest of the research review committee.    

As part of their EDI action plan, MS Society are committed to improving the diversity of their research boards, committees, and grant panels. They are making an active effort to recruit people from ethnic minority backgrounds to their panels to ensure that diverse voices are represented. They are also aiming to recruit early career researchers (ECRs) and recruit or appoint an EDI officer to each of their groups to ensure EDI concerns are raised in all relevant discussions. They have set a target to have 50% women and at least 10% from ethnic minority backgrounds across all their research governance boards and committees collectively. They plan to collect and review data on other characteristics like disability status, geography, career status and sexual orientation to consider if additional targets are necessary.

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