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Public Policy|Southampton

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion report

Gareth Giles Head of Public Policy Soutahmpton
Gareth Giles

Tackling groupthink with a diversity of evidence;

Announcing the Public Policy| Southampton Equality Diversity and Inclusion Report and Action Plan

Public Policy | Southampton (PPS) is the University’s dedicated public policy knowledge brokerage unit. Our mission is to enhance the local, sub-national, national and international public policy impact of research conducted at the University of Southampton. We do this through a number of activities including creating and maintaining networks with policymakers, facilitating fellowship programmes, delivering capacity building sessions for students and academics, and knowledge exchange activities such as PhD placements and academic secondments to better support evidence-informed policymaking.  

A unique opportunity to lead

In recognising the unit’s unique role in connecting academics with policymakers PPS is well positioned to ensure underrepresented groups are especially platformed and supported. We believe that diversifying the sources of evidence used to make decision helps policymakers to avoid groupthink and make better policy.  This plan, which spans 2 years from April 2021 to April 2023, identifies key ways in which we can increase the diversity of our academic membership network and those who partake in our activities, adapt and make accessible our activities, and define the role of the unit within the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) and Public Policy space.

As the University of Southampton’s Vice President Research and Enterprise and Chair of the Universities EDI Committee Mark Spearing, notes

“It is vital that we ensure that our research has the greatest possible impact, particularly in the public policy domain. Policy impact will be enhanced by being inclusive and featuring the full diversity of our research community.  This report and plan play an important role in identifying barriers to this inclusive ambition and we will work hard to ensure that they are removed. Our research and its impact will be better as a result.”

The EDI Report and Action Plan project began in October 2020, with a survey to our membership to gather thoughts on what they felt was needed from PPS to support public policy engagement through an EDI lens. PPS have worked alongside the University’s EDI team to ensure that our Action Plan supports the delivery of the institution’s 2020-2025 EDI Strategy.   PPS has also worked closely with academic subject specialists and an external consultant to develop actions based on the survey data collected and using evidence informed best practice. These draft actions have been circulated amongst our membership for comment before being finalised into the Action Plan. This Action Plan should be read as an ambitious document that seeks to maximise ways in which we can actively participate in this space, but also encourage and work with other colleagues to follow a similar direction. 


Leading the change nationally

The need for EDI consideration has gained significant momentum in the past few years, with the Government setting out their Research and Development Roadmap (2020), which recognised the importance of EDI to research culture and the quality of research. Additionally, the NIHR (National Institute for Health Research) have been actively contributing to this space through outreach, research culture and ensuring that their researchers have an EDI lens through which to conduct research. They have also added EDI consideration as part of their funding decision making process. Other funders, such as Wellcome, recognise the value of EDI in ‘helping more ideas thrive’, by advocating for science to be more inclusive, engaging a wider range of people within science and health, and leading by example. In 2019, UKRI (UK Research and Innovation) published two evidence reviews on EDI, which were conducted by Advance HE. All key recommendations from this review was further research into EDI challenges in this space, signalling the priority of EDI by a major funder in this space, too.  

The University of Southampton is a founding member of UPEN (University's Policy Engagement Network) which brings together more than 70 knowledge brokers from HEIs  across the UK. This network acts as a ‘one stop shop’ for policy professionals to share academic policy engagement opportunities with the research community and acts as forum to improve knowledge exchange mechanisms between HEIs, government and Parliament. UPEN’s EDI subcommittee recently surveyed its membership about their understanding and approach to EDI which highlighted a number of barriers and challenges for knowledge brokers. The findings of this survey will be published in April 2021.   PPS has worked closely with the UPEN Secretariat and the EDI subcommittee to understand and address the issues and lead sector wide change in the EDI space.

We will constantly strive to be reflective and so this plan is open to change if appropriate over these 2 years. If you have any feedback, or you would like to be involved in any of these actions, please do get in touch with us.


Gareth Giles, Head of Public Policy Southampton

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Survey ReportAction Plan

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