Funders are united in saying this is a problem, but what can they do?
In the Humanities and Social science team, we’ve launched two new funding calls – Research Development Awards in Humanities, Social Science and Bioethics and International Exchange Programmes in Humanities, Social Science and Bioethics. For these calls, only half of the assessment criteria focuses on the research that will be done. The rest is about providing evidence of an inclusive leadership structure, and a commitment to the career development of everyone working in the team.
This is important for the researchers hired to work on a project, but it’s also important for all the other staff that can make research projects thrive: project managers, copy-editors, facilitators and artists, to name a few examples. All too often such staff rely on occasional contracts for the minimum amount of time. This is a bad deal for the people that take these roles and a bad start for trying to deliver innovative research.
By assessing inclusive leadership in our schemes, we hope to give applicants the chance to think in detail about how they could do this creatively. Cutting and pasting a university’s career development or diversity and inclusion policy won’t be enough.
Inclusive approaches can be informed by academic concepts and methods. The Centre for Biomedicine, Self and Society at the University of Edinburgh, established in 2018, provides a good example of this. The Centre has developed a feminist approach to research leadership, where key aspects, like direction and support, are informed by feminist scholarship and practice. This has an impact on how leadership is shared.
As Professor Sarah Cunningham-Burley, the Co-Director of the Centre says: 'Sharing leadership through democratic structures promotes dialogue and challenge: it enables creativity and is always much more fun than the norm of a single director, who, let's face it, could never do everything anyway.'