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Tri-agency action plan to address systemic barriers and increase equity, diversity and inclusion in the postsecondary research ecosystem

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April 14, 2021

As the presidents of the three federal research funding agencies in Canada, we recognize the importance of taking action to enhance equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) within our agencies, in academic institutions, and across the research enterprise as a whole.

Today, we are releasing the Tri-Agency Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Action Plan, developed by Canada’s granting agencies, under the leadership of the Canada Research Coordinating Committee (CRCC). This plan outlines actions needed to increase fair access to research support and to promote equitable participation in the research system. It serves as the foundation of a concerted effort to create the diverse and inclusive research environment necessary to respond to local, national and global challenges. Moreover, we firmly believe that EDI foster research excellence: research can only be excellent, innovative and impactful when it benefits us all.

The COVID-19 global pandemic and the increased recognition of systemic racism have reinforced the importance of continuing to embed EDI considerations into tri-agency programs, policies and practices. In addition to the Tri-Agency EDI Action Plan, the Indigenous strategic plan, Setting new directions to support Indigenous research and research training in Canada, launched in January 2020, will guide our efforts. As research funding agencies, we recognize that First Nations, Inuit and Métis are rights-holding as First Peoples of Canada, and initiatives to support Indigenous research and research training should be developed through distinctions-based approaches. 

Several measures to incorporate EDI in our operations are already underway. A key component in doing so is providing training on relevant topics such as Gender-based Analysis Plus (GBA+), Indigenous background context and unconscious bias awareness to demonstrate their relevance within the workplace and in the research context.

Since 2018, we have used the self-identification questionnaire to gather data from individuals who are applying for funding. A revised version will be deployed over the coming year to expand data collection regarding diversity in applications received, awards granted and among committee members. Analysis of the disaggregated data will help identify inequities and inform future operational decisions to address them.

In addition, the New Frontiers in Research Fund and Canada Research Chairs programs have put in place well-defined requirements to ensure EDI are taken into account in research and in the training of highly qualified personnel. Other tri-agency initiatives focus on supporting post-secondary institutions in achieving greater EDI in their environment such as the pilot programs Dimensions: equity, diversity and inclusion Canada and Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Institutional Capacity-Building Grant.

It will take time to realize our EDI goals and course corrections may be necessary.The Tri-Agency EDI Action Plan will be adapted to new realities and insights gained through feedback, literature and national and international promising practices. The funding agencies will continue to listen to and engage with the community and those with lived experience to support concrete change.

Of course, it will take more than our commitment to produce a deeper change and achieve a truly inclusive culture; it will take collective action across the research ecosystem. We recognize that many post-secondary institutions across Canada are already taking important steps to increase EDI in this regard.

Additionally, we encourage post-secondary institutions to collect and analyze disaggregated data as a critical tool toward dismantling persistent systemic barriers and improving equitable representation of all communities on their campuses. We also thank institutions for endorsing the Dimensions charter as a commitment to making EDI part of their institutional culture, and welcome new signatories.

Whether we are conducting research, studying at a post-secondary institution, developing policies, or administering programs, we all have an important role to play in ensuring that Canada’s research system supports and values participation by all.

Alejandro Adem
Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada
Canada Research Coordinating Committee

Ted Hewitt
Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada

Michael Strong
Canadian Institutes of Health Research

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