The lack of diversity and inclusion in STEM is a well-recognised and long standing problem. The British Science Association (BSA) wants a future where science is more relevant, representative and connected to society. That future cannot be achieved without action to address underrepresentation in STEM.  

We welcome the Government’s support for STEM inspiration initiatives, in particular British Science Week and the CREST Awards, which have been delivered by the BSA for a number of years, reaching thousands of young people annually and delivering meaningful impacts for people and communities that have been historically underrepresented in STEM. For example:  

  • British Science Week Community Grants provide funding directly to community-led organisations to run their own activities during British Science Week. In 2022:
    • 69% were aged 24 or under
    • 56% identified as women
    • 38% were from a non-White ethnicity
    • 30% stated that they had a disability 
  • Alongside the community grants, we run an ongoing programme of work to support the communities who receive them, including Community Leaders (which trains individuals who run grassroots community organisations to become science ambassadors in their communities) and Community Buddies (which pairs Community Leaders with a researcher in their locality to develop community-led engagement ideas).  
  • Our Smashing Stereotypes campaign is a collection of over 40 stories from individuals and teams that challenge long-standing stereotypes, with the aim of encouraging more young people, from all backgrounds, to see themselves as scientists. 
  • The CREST Awards is a nationally recognized award scheme for student-led science project work in STEM. Over 50,000 young people take part each year, of which over 50% are girls. We give grants to schools in challenging circumstances, and our evaluation shows that CREST is particularly impactful in these settings, leading to more interest and confidence in STEM.  

However, further work is required, alongside these existing initiatives, to further improve diversity and inclusion in STEM. As stated in the BSA’s evidence submission to the Select Committee’s inquiry, and our response to the publication of the Committee’s report, we believe that Government needs to put a bold vision for a diverse and equitable STEM sector at the heart of its ambitions for the UK to become a global science superpower. Britain cannot be a superpower if parts of society are not welcomed and able to contribute to science research and innovation. 

EDI priorities for Government

We highlight three EDI priorities for the rollout of the Department for Science, Innovation, and Technology Framework. 

Leadership on EDI 

We believe the Framework should go further to emphasise the importance of EDI initiatives. For example:   

  • Ministerial responsibility for furthering EDI in STEM; 
  • Inclusion as the primary aim for the ‘Talent and skills’ objective; and  
  • More focus on community involvement and challenging stereotypes of science and scientists in the ambition for a ‘shared sense of science’. 

EDI data 

EDI data is important for two reasons: knowing the extent of the issues; and knowing whether interventions are having an impact. We are lacking detailed data on the composition of the STEM workforce and on STEM educational inequities that covers all four UK Home Nations. Better UK-wide data collection and longitudinal research would complement the Government Research and Innovation Workforce Survey in 2022.  

Science education  

We believe there is a need for better coordination of initiatives that aim to engage young people, both in the classroom and in informal settings, to ensure they are inclusive, accessible to all, and that they have a positive impact.  

Finally, pending a long-term strategy and recommendation (whether that is a single route, or a new structure for GCSE science), all schools should be supported to offer Triple Science and schools’ annual public reporting should include uptake of Triple Science and Double Award against overall pupil characteristics. 

Forthcoming events and activities on EDI in STEM 

The British Science Association is keen to work with Government and organisations from across the STEM sector to improve EDI in STEM. We hold the Secretariat for the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Diversity & Inclusion in STEM and would welcome discussions with organisations who are interested in supporting the Group. The APPG’s forthcoming report, published next month, will explore the topic of Regional STEM Skills Inequity. 

Find out more about the APPG for D&I in STEM 

On 28 June 2023, the BSA are taking part in a panel discussion on EDI in STEM, co-organised with the Science Council and the Foundation for Science and Technology.  

Register for the livestream of the event