Tackling the lack of diversity in energy research
The University of Manchester is part of a new £1.25M project working to develop a more diverse energy research community, ensuring energy research draws upon the expertise of academics from all backgrounds.
Funded by an EDI Network+ grant from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), the Innovation and Growth Needs Inclusion and engagement of all Talent in Energy (IGNITE+ Network) research project will bring together eight University partners to critically evaluate stages in the career pathways of energy researchers, identifying and challenging systemic inequities.
Dr Jessica Gagnon, Lecturer in the Manchester Institute of Education, will lead on the ‘See Yourself in Energy’ initiative, designed to inspire the next generation of researchers in STEM. Working with Education partners across Greater Manchester, Dr Gagnon will be recruiting energy researchers at a variety of career stages to share their area of energy research expertise to pupils in Key Stages 2 and 3.
Dr Gagnon will evaluate how young people’s interactions with energy researcher role models affects their aspirations of becoming future energy scientists and engineers and the impact the project has on the role models and partners involved.
The initiative will build on the successful See Yourself in STEM pilot intervention that was funded by SLiC and organised by STEM Equals, in collaboration with Glasgow Life/Glasgow public libraries, three local secondary schools and the Glasgow Science Centre.
My work will be especially focused on inspiring the next generation of researchers in energy through collaborations with local schools and libraries, encouraging pupils across Greater Manchester to see themselves as future scientists and engineers - especially those from backgrounds underrepresented in STEM.
Alongside the evaluation work, the IGNITE Network+ team will be working to support energy researchers from disadvantaged and underrepresented backgrounds through organisational interventions, mentorship, advice and advocacy.
Initiatives arising from consultation with the research community will be a key component of the network, with 40% of the funding allocated to flexible funding calls to address energy research challenges, and fund initiatives in support of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion.
Principal Investigator, Professor Rebecca Lunn from the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Strathclyde said: “There is a real lack of diversity in energy research which stems not from a lack of interest, talent or ambition in underrepresented individuals, but from systemic inequalities in UK systems and institutions.
“IGNITE Network+ will focus on transforming diversity by critically evaluating systemic inequalities at each stage in the career pathways of energy researchers. We will design and implement initiatives to remove barriers to success for underrepresented individuals and monitor the performance of these initiatives.”
The project work will be complemented by separate research carried out by Professor Simone Abram at Durham University, a Director in the Durham Energy Institute, also funded by EPSRC. The EDI+ national fellowship scheme will address key challenges and equip a cohort of researchers and their organisations to make lasting changes towards a diverse, equitable, inclusive and accessible research community.