Work in progress

We’re exploring targeted funding for Black researchers – here’s how you can help

As part of Wellcome’s diversity, equity and inclusion strategy, we’re exploring how best to support Black researchers in the UK who are early in their careers. Diego Baptista, Head of Research Funding and Equity at Wellcome, explains how researchers can share their views to inform our approach.

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Thomas S.G. Farnetti / Wellcome

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Diego Baptista

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We’re exploring targeted funding for Black researchers – here’s how you can help
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Data from across the research funding community, including our own, paints the same picture: researchers from marginalised groups face barriers in accessing funding. But those barriers are complex, varied and change across countries and contexts.

As part of our diversity, equity and inclusion strategy, we’re exploring new approaches aimed at addressing barriers for under-represented groups or groups which may face specific challenges or disadvantages. And last year we committed to creating dedicated funding for racially marginalised researchers at the career stage where it will make the biggest difference.

To support this work, we’re exploring a targeted approach for early-career Black researchers in the UK, recognising that researchers from different backgrounds may face different and specific barriers or challenges.

Black people are underrepresented in research careers in the UK. One recent report in Nature shows that despite Black people making up 8% of UK science undergraduates, just 0.6% of UK science professors are Black.

We want to better support researchers who are taking the next step in their career. To do this we need your help.

We’re launching a new survey and establishing a series of externally facilitated, paid online focus groups to inform the development of this targeted funding.

We want to better understand the perspectives of Black researchers in the UK to: 

  • provide insights on the barriers and opportunities they experience in academia, particularly related to funding and career progression 
  • highlight considerations and recommendations to develop this new funding.  

We know that this won’t be the first time Black researchers are being asked to share their views on a system in which they have been historically underrepresented. And we understand that experiences relating to race, or any other problems researchers may have experienced in academia may be difficult or upsetting to discuss, so are only asking researchers to respond to questions if they are comfortable doing so, and in a level of detail they are happy with. We value any input that can be provided.

We will also use published insights from other organisations providing similar funding opportunities, as well as speaking to organisations and groups who already support or represent marginalised communities in research.

While the funding will be aimed at supporting early career Black researchers, we also value the perspectives of Black researchers at other career stages, including those who are already established, or have previously worked as a researcher but have since left the field.

How will the data be used? 

Anonymised responses to the survey will be combined with data gathered through the focus groups.

This insight phase is about improving our understanding of the barriers and opportunities that Black researchers in the UK face in academia, particularly in relation to career transitions. Responses can be related to applications for Wellcome funding or elsewhere.

The survey will be open for four weeks, closing on Sunday 12 March. And researchers will also join a series of externally facilitated, paid online focus groups.

We will share our findings to help inform the wider research and funding sector and explain how this insight has shaped our next steps.

This work will ensure that the funding we design includes the unique perspectives of the researchers we seek to fund, and importantly, applies Wellcome’s anti-racist principles.

Our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion 

Unequal representation in science is holding back progress. And we know that it’s difficult to obtain funding if you have other or additional marginalised characteristics in the UK, and that people’s experiences differ internationally.

It’s important that we don’t group experiences together and that the solutions we develop to address unique inequities in our funding are specific to the communities affected.

That’s why developing this dedicated funding is one part of wider work to ensure our funding worldwide is as inclusive as possible.

Becoming an inclusive funder is central to our diversity, equity and inclusion strategy. And it’s supported by a series of actions we committed to following an evaluation of our anti-racism programme that was published last year.   

Further key actions that we have committed to this year include applying positive action principles to funding decisions and recruitment for a new equity, diversity and inclusion role that will lead our work in this area at executive level.

This article was first published on 9 February 2023.

  • Diego Baptista

    Head of Research and Funding Equity


    Diego is developing and supporting a team within Wellcome's wider Culture, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (CEDI) team to build programmes and initiatives that help Wellcome become a more inclusive and supportive funder, and ensure our funded research is inclusive in it's design and practice.

    Connect with Diego: