The Covid-19 pandemic has laid bare the discrimination perpetuated by health systems, housing systems, employers and individuals. There are pronounced racial inequalities in health outcomes, people living with chronic health conditions have said their needs are being ignored, and caring responsibilities have disproportionately fallen to women.
Wellcome cannot achieve its vision to support science to solve urgent health challenges facing everyone unless these structural inequalities are corrected. We know that we have played our part in perpetuating and reinforcing these inequalities. This needs to change – urgently.
That is why today we are sharing Wellcome's diversity, equity and inclusion strategy. We have set ourselves three bold and ambitious targets to reach by 2031 at the latest. The result will be better experiences for Wellcome staff, better science, and more equitable solutions to the challenges we all face.
The changes start here within Wellcome. Our goal is that by 2031, Wellcome staff are representative of the places we work, able to be themselves, and supported to be their best.
Last year, we set up an Anti-racism Expert Group, who will share their knowledge and expertise as we strive to become an anti-racist organisation. This complements our internal staff forum on anti-racism to help educate us at all levels and develop new interventions, drawing on the expertise and experience of Wellcome staff.
And we're conducting an audit of our communications to see how much more work we need to do to make them truly inclusive. We’ll be publishing the results of that audit, and the progress we make.
By the end of 2023, Wellcome will have clear, transparent and equitable criteria for hiring and developing people's careers, and they will be used consistently across the organisation.
By 2026, 30% of Wellcome staff will be from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities and 15% disabled, reflected across all levels of seniority.
Why we're using the term Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME)
We are using the term BAME as this reflects how we collect and aggregate our data, which is based on UK census categories – but we acknowledge the limitations of this term and expect our approach will continue to evolve.
By 2031, people funded by Wellcome will be more representative of the global population, able to be themselves, and supported to be their best.
Achieving this will not be easy. Our latest grants funding data reveals some uncomfortable truths.
In 2019/20 none of the 299 competitively assessed awards to researchers based at UK organisations were to researchers reporting their ethnicity as Black or Black British.
Looking across four years, success rates for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic applicants remain persistently lower than for White applicants.
Over the past four years, the success rate for disabled applicants (10.7%) is lower than for non-disabled applicants (13.4%).
In 2019 we set a target that 15% of the people on our funding committees would be from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities. This has now been achieved and we're looking to surpass it. We've also supported Wellcome grantholders to identify and tackle barriers to diversity and inclusion in their work through our Research Enrichment funding.
We are working hard to address inequalities and as we design our new funding schemes, which open this summer, we're looking at how to avoid practices that disadvantage underrepresented groups.
We will determine how to apply positive action to support potential applicants from minoritised groups, and we're now exploring how we can encourage and support more people to apply for Wellcome funding. We'll share details of our approach when the schemes open in the summer.
We're also expanding the financial support for researchers to deliver projects – including purchase of assistive technology – to better support disabled grantholders and those with long-term health conditions.
By 2026, application and success rates will show that no one is being unfairly advantaged or disadvantaged in accessing Wellcome's funding.
We also want to work with the wider sector on change. We’ve trialled action with organisations we fund to give a more diverse group of undergraduates research experience. We're also piloting a programme to increase gender, ethnicity and disability representation on UK higher education boards.
Equal health outcomes
By 2031, all Wellcome funded research will be inclusive in both design and practice, to help drive better science and more equitable health solutions.
As a member of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion in Science and Health (EDIS) we’ve helped collaboration grow across the research sector. EDIS now includes commercial partners, charities, representative bodies and societies, research institutes and other academic establishments. The collaboration is already leading to more inclusive research design and inclusive scientific conferences as a step towards greater equity and better health outcomes in the longer-term.
Tackling the inequalities that lie within Wellcome and in the sectors we work in will be a long-term journey. We will prioritise the most minoritised groups in each area of our work and take targeted action where needed to achieve better outcomes for all. We will try out new and creative approaches to promote equitability.
We want to ensure that in everything Wellcome does, the broadest possible range of people contribute to, and benefit from, science’s potential to change the world.