NSERC guide on integrating equity, diversity and inclusion considerations in research

NSERC is acting on the evidence that achieving a more equitable, diverse and inclusive Canadian research enterprise is essential to creating the excellent, innovative and impactful research necessary to advance knowledge and understanding, and respond to local, national and global challenges. This principle informs the commitments described in the Tri-agency Statement on Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) and is aligned with the objectives of the Tri-agency EDI Action Plan. In order to achieve world-class research, we must address systemic barriers that limit the full participation of all talented individuals. Moreover, we must create a culture where embedding equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) considerations into all aspects of research is second nature.

This guide provides the research communities served by NSERC with information and resources to help include EDI considerations in their research (figure 1). It consists of the following two sections:

In addition to these two sections, this guide also includes a list of relevant resources, which provide additional information on how EDI can strengthen your research and enrich your research team. There is also a list of references and a glossary at the end of this guide.

EDI considerations in research
EDI considerations at each stage of the research process EDI considerations for research teams

Key questions:

  • How is the research planned and carried out?
  • Who are the research subjects?
  • Who is impacted by the research?

Themes explored:

  • Who works, collaborates and contributes to the research?
  • The research environment
  • Building and maintaining a high-performing, diverse team

Figure 1. EDI considerations in research includes two components: EDI considerations at each stage of the research process and EDI considerations for research teams.

Please note that this is an evolving document, which will be enhanced and strengthened over time, and additional examples will be made available. We welcome your comments, examples and advice in this regard via email to nseequity-equitesng@nserc-crsng.gc.ca.

Section 1

Equity, diversity and inclusion considerations at each stage of the research process

This section is designed to assist the research communities served by NSERC with embedding EDI considerations relevant to each or any stage of the research process (figure 2).

Figure 2

Figure 2. The research process: research questions, design of the study, methodology and data collection, analysis and interpretation, dissemination of results.

Considering EDI in the research process, where relevant, promotes research excellence by making it more relevant to society as a whole, ethically sound, rigorous, reproducible, and useful (Tannenbaum et al. 2019). It also fuels innovation through scientific discovery and by opening up new areas of research. In this context, EDI considerations promote research excellence by

  • expanding the applicability of research findings and new technologies across a wider segment of society (examples 1, 4 and 8)
  • helping to reveal implicit assumptions related to research that may otherwise go unnoticed and unchallenged (example 2)
  • helping to mitigate biases by conducting inclusive research and improving technologies (examples 4, 8 and 11)
  • supporting research outcomes that fairly benefit communities most impacted by the research (example 10)
  • questioning biased norms and stereotypes (example 2)
  • preventing overgeneralizations of findings that can be harmful or misleading (examples 3, 8 and 9)
  • improving reproducibility of research findings, which can be more difficult when diversity-related variables are relevant to research but are not reported (examples 7 and 9)

When EDI are not considered, where relevant, in the research process, research results may be of lower quality and can lead to harmful outcomes. For example, when products are engineered based on a particular standard or on subjects assumed to be representative of the population as a whole, it can lead to serious consequences such as decreased safety and security or other inequities for some groups; see examples 1 and 8.

Example 1: The trouble with assuming a standard body size and type in auto safety testing

Crash test dummies used in auto safety testing commonly use what is assumed to be a standard adult male model that is simply scaled for varying heights and weights to account for people of all sizes. However, female bodies are not just a smaller version of a male body. An analysis of automotive crash data from 1998 to 2008 in the United States revealed that, even after controlling for weight and body mass, the odds of being severely injured were 47% higher in belt-restrained female drivers than in belt-restrained male drivers involved in a comparable crash (Bose and Segui-Gomez, 2011). The same is true for obese individuals and the elderly, who are at a greater risk of serious injuries in car crashes, as well as pregnant individuals who have a high risk of fetal injuries even in minor crashes (Schiebinger et al. 2011–2020). Thus, inadequate critical reflection on implicit assumptions embedded in auto-safety testing—the tendency to assume a “standard” male body adequately represents all human bodies—has resulted in inequities for the majority of car users. Missing from research are crash-test dummies that accurately model a diversity of bodies, in terms of their respective geometry, muscle and ligament strength, spinal alignment, dynamic response to trauma and mass distribution.

Example 2 illustrates how inequitable social norms have permeated into genetic research, leading to unfounded assumptions that were later proven to be inaccurate.

Example 2: An overreliance on common assumptions in developmental biology has led to gaps in knowledge in ovarian development

In the 1990s, experts working on the key mechanisms of mammalian sex determination had come to a consensus that the mechanisms controlling testis development were the key to understanding sex determination overall. The SRY gene, located on the Y chromosome and found to control testis development, was declared the “master gene” in control of sex determination. Ovarian development was considered a “passive” and “default” pathway, and consequently, the mechanisms of ovarian development received very little attention. Some members of the research community had been raising concerns about this lack of attention to ovarian development as early as the mid-1980s, arguing that this lack of attention resulted from the imposition of gendered social norms about typical male and female roles in reproduction (Richardson 2008; 2013). By the mid-1990s, pathways of ovarian development were reconceptualized as “active,” and research began to focus on the mechanisms involved in ovarian development and maintenance. By the early 2000s, the “master gene” theory controlling sex determination had largely been abandoned, replaced by a more comprehensive and complex understanding of sex determining pathways involving many factors.

You are invited to consider your work through a critical EDI lens, from the initial framing of research questions to the dissemination of findings. The goal is to encourage greater reflection on how your research could be strengthened by the integration of EDI considerations where relevant. Applying an EDI lens means systematically examining how diversity factors such as sex (biological), gender (socio cultural), race, ethnicity, age, disability, sexual orientation, geographic location, among other relevant factors, and their intersections may affect the research questions, the design of the study, the methodology, analysis, interpretation, and the dissemination of results.  

NSERC acknowledges that EDI considerations may not be applicable in the context of some proposed research, but nonetheless encourages you to fully consider their relevance, as they apply to more areas than one might think. Thoroughly reflecting on the type of data collected and who might be impacted by the research findings is critical before concluding that EDI considerations are not relevant. Generally, research that involves or impacts human subjects, organisms capable of differentiation, or their tissues or cells can benefit from such considerations.

Incorporating EDI considerations in NSERC research proposals

The goal of this guide is not to be prescriptive about the design of your study; it is intended to encourage you to reflect on how EDI considerations can strengthen your research. NSERC acknowledges that these considerations may not be relevant to every field in the natural sciences and engineering. Therefore, you are encouraged to incorporate relevant EDI considerations in the proposal section of your application, as appropriate. If EDI considerations do not apply to your research, depending on the funding opportunity you are applying for, you may be asked to explain why they are not relevant in your application. You should refer to the specific instructions and information materials of the funding opportunity to which you are applying for additional guidance on how these considerations should be reflected in your application and on how they will be evaluated.

Guiding questions for incorporating EDI considerations in your research

The intent of the following questions is to provide guidance on what it means to critically reflect on your research using an EDI lens by offering examples of considerations or best practices for each stage of research. The questions are not exhaustive, and some may not be applicable to your research. However, we invite you to reflect on how your research may be strengthened by considering the questions and EDI factors that are relevant.

1. Research questions

  • Does your literature review address relevant EDI considerations?
    • What key words could be used in your literature review to gain deeper and broader knowledge of who might, or might not, be impacted by or contribute to the research?
    • Are certain diversity factors and/or intersections known to affect the phenomenon of interest?
    • What are the relevant knowledge gaps? Have previous studies failed to adequately incorporate relevant diversity factors or omitted investigating their intersections?  
  • How will your research questions and the subsequent findings from your study apply to the needs or experiences of various groups? Who benefits from the findings and/or product developed? Have you considered which populations may experience significant unintended impacts (positive or negative) as a result of the planned research?
  • Who should be consulted about the needs and wishes of the group under study (subjects or users)?
  • What contextual factors are relevant and important, and what may be overlooked without a conscious, intersectional integration of these considerations?
  • Have you made assumptions regarding certain diversity factors? Are these based on empirical evidence?

Example 3: Important gaps in knowledge can lead to an inaccurate extrapolation of findings

Over-generalization of research findings is an issue in many disciplines. In psychology, the ease of access to subjects where the research is conducted has led to the vast majority of psychology research being done on Western populations and often on undergraduate student populations. Indeed, a survey of some of the top psychology journals from 2003 to 2007 found that 96% of subjects used in studies were from Western countries, while representing only 12% of the world’s population (Arnett, 2008). Research articles routinely assume that their results are broadly representative while no evidence supports this assumption (Henrich et al. 2010). More research on diverse and inconvenient subject pools and careful thought on how broadly specific results apply are needed to put psychological theories on a firmer empirical footing.

Example 4: Taking women into account in the design of energy-efficient buildings

The regulation of temperatures inside buildings is based on a model of thermal comfort for which the primary variable is the metabolic rate of building occupants. This variable has been based on a standard value of metabolic rate, which represents the average male. By showing the effects of not considering female metabolic rate on thermal demand, Kingma and van Marken Lichtenbelt (2015) make a case for changing the current models of thermal comfort to one that is more inclusive. This work is a step forward not only in reducing the bias that overlooks female thermal comfort in office buildings, but also in helping to better predict building energy consumption. More work is needed to create thermal comfort models that are more representative of all occupants by taking into account additional diversity factors such body weight and age.

2. Design of the study

  • Will members from the population/community of interest be invited to help shape the objectives of the study?
  • Which diversity factor(s) could be embedded to strengthen the study? Why would you consider or not consider these factors and their intersections?
  • What is your position relative to the context of the research problem or the subjects themselves? What biases related to identity, privileges and power imbalances could impact the study? How will they be mitigated?
  • Does the proposed research follow relevant protocols and/or best practices on how, why and by whom research is to be conducted with relevant or impacted communities and how knowledge is accessed and shared (such as in Indigenous communities)?
  • In cases that involve a research site, have you determined which Indigenous government or community has jurisdiction over or interests in the research site? Have you genuinely engaged with the community and considered their own research priorities and interests in the co-production of knowledge (even if you are from the community)? Are there opportunities for reciprocity in the design of the study, such that both the community and the researcher benefit (see example 5)?

Example 5: Developing and mobilizing local knowledge

The Dehcho Collaborative on Permafrost (DCoP) is an initiative that combines scientific and Indigenous knowledge on permafrost to improve monitoring, adaptation, process understanding and prediction of permafrost thaw in the Dehcho region in the Northwest Territories. Members of the DCoP research team and community members are co-developing a number of knowledge-based resources, including real-time data and interactive maps and modelling data, which demonstrate rates and patterns of permafrost thaw, land cover change and hydrograph response for different scenarios of warming. These resources are important for communities to manage and respond to the disrupted hydrological cycle and ecosystems resulting from permafrost thaw and land cover change in the region.

3. Methodology and data collection 

  • How will you obtain information for each diversity factor under consideration? How will privacy be protected?
  • How will you ensure that the research participants reflect the diversity categories included in the research design?
  • If the analysis is based on existing data sets, is there potential for bias due to the cultural and/or institutional contexts in which the data were generated?
  • For Indigenous research, how will data collection and monitoring be conducted using established guides for/by Indigenous Peoples?
  • How will bias be monitored, mitigated and recorded?
  • Do EDI considerations impact relations between those conducting the research and those participating in it in ways that affect data collection (see example 6)? How will this be identified and mitigated?
  • Does your proposal consider the different forms of support required (e.g., financial, logistical, cultural, linguistic) to ensure that the individuals or communities involved in the research are able to meaningfully participate in it?

Example 6: Bias introduced by the sex of researcher

Growing evidence in research where research team members interact with research subjects shows that the sex, gender or race of the team member can impact study outcomes with both human subjects (Davis et. al. 2010; Davis and Silver 2003) and non-human animals (Sorge et al. 2014). For example, research on pain experience demonstrated the presence of male researchers blunted pain behavior of laboratory mice and rats, a response that was not observed in the presence of female researchers (Sorge et al. 2014). This difference was found to be due to stress-induced analgesia caused by the scent of male researchers. The lack of awareness of this confounding variable may have resulted in numerous studies reporting inaccurate results, highlighting the importance of accounting for the sex of the person collecting the data in this context.

4. Analysis and interpretation

  • Where appropriate, have you:
    • presented your data, disaggregated by diversity factors?
    • evaluated whether diversity factors and/or their intersections have an impact on outcomes?
    • statistically tested your data to determine whether the magnitude of effects is different for each diversity factor and their intersections?
  • If diverse groups are involved in the research, will they have the opportunity to participate in the interpretation of the data and the review of research findings before the completion of the proposed research?
  • If the results are inconclusive, will they be reported in a disaggregated format for future studies?
  • Are you applying the findings of your research to the population as a whole when your method and design were in fact limited to certain groups?
    • Did you report the diversity factor(s) used in the study to ensure that experiments are reproducible and findings are not over-generalized (see examples 3 and 9)? Have you considered including this information in the title, abstract or key words?
    • If relevant diversity factors were not included in the study, did you acknowledge that it is a limitation of the study? Did you discuss the implications of the lack of such analyses on the interpretation of the results?

Example 7: Copepod research highlights the importance of disaggregating data by sex

In copepods, small aquatic crustaceans, disaggregating respiration rate data by sex revealed different responses to increased partial pressure of carbon dioxide (pCO2) levels between males and females. In a study to further understand how these animals respond to ocean acidification, Cripps et al. (2016) found that respiration rates of male copepods decreased when exposed to high pCO2 levels, while in females they increased under the same conditions. Failure to account for this sex difference by pooling the data would have led to the false interpretation that high pCO2 levels had no effect on the respiration rate. See figure 1 in the article by Tannenbaum et al. (2019) for a visual depiction of this example and of the hazards of pooling data from both sexes.

Example 8: Intersectional accuracy disparities of gender classification products

Concerns have been raised about the imagined neutrality of machines, data and algorithms, with research findings suggesting that cultural bias can be built into such technologies. Buolamwini and Gebru (2018) evaluated the accuracy of well-known commercially available gender classification products on women and men of different skin types. They analyzed the data not only by gender and skin type separately, but also by their intersection, resulting in 4 intersectional subgroups: darker women, darker men, lighter women and lighter men. They found that, overall, women were misclassified at a higher rate than men, and darker-skinned individuals were also classified with greater error rates than individuals with lighter skin types. However, accuracy rates were lowest when classifying darker women. Error rates were up to 34% for darker-skinned women, 12% for darker-skinned men, and only 7% and 1% for lighter skin women and men, respectively. This study highlights the importance of inclusive product development and testing to reduce bias and to achieve more equitable systems. The Gender Shades video produced by the MIT Media Lab provides a good overview of this example.

Example 9: Reporting sex in animal research

Sex is still often not reported in animal research today in many disciplines, and when it is, females are often underrepresented (Beery and Zucker, 2011). A survey of journal articles within specific biomedical subfields reported that 22 to 42% of articles did not specify the sex of animal subjects in select neuroscience, physiology and interdisciplinary biology journals. In marine species, a review of ocean acidification studies on key taxonomic groups (Echinodermata, Crustacea, Mollusca and fish) reported that 85% of studies failed to consider sex at all, even though sex-based differences in response to ocean acidification have been documented (Ellis et al. 2017). Failing to report on the sex of study animals may lead to inaccurate conclusions and decreases reproducibility. If sex determination cannot be made, this should be disclosed.

5. Dissemination of resultsFootnote 1

  • What means of dissemination will be most effective in reaching those who will use and/or could benefit from the findings?
  • How will inclusivity be integrated during dissemination? Will accessible formats be used? Will anyone who took part in the research receive a summary of the research findings and/or be invited to a presentation about the work?
  • Does the dissemination plan consider the language of use (i.e., English, French or other appropriate languages) depending on the groups identified (see example 10)?
  • Does the dissemination material take into account gender sensitive and inclusive communication (e.g., gender-neutral language or unbiased content)?
  • Are the dissemination strategies the product of collaborative efforts with diverse inputs or have they been envisioned in a narrower focus?

Example 10: Effective dissemination strategies in an Arctic ecology research program

The Centre for northern studies (Centre d’études nordiques) has led to the production of films, articles and material for and with Indigenous northern communities on water and environmental resources. The research program involves youth in Nunavik by mixing traditional and local knowledge with Western science to stimulate and nurture Inuit youth’s interest in science-related careers, to promote environmental stewardship and to build better relationships between community members and research teams. Elders, local guides and coordinators, youth, and members of research teams all worked together to train lnuit youth in environmental data collection. Materials are available in English and Inuktitut.

Example 11: Maximizing the impact of research through targeted dissemination of findings

As part of the Gender Shades project, a short video was developed explaining the research results of Buolamwini and Gebru (2018), and datasets were made available to companies that developed and commercialized the gender-classification products tested in the study, all in the interest of improving the accuracy of gender classification products for women and men of different skin types (see example 8 above).

Section 2

Equity, diversity and inclusion considerations for research teams

This section is designed to assist natural sciences and engineering (NSE) researchers in understanding how EDI considerations are relevant to the building of teams, to recruitment and retention, and to the roles of team members in research design, research execution, analysis and interpretation of findings, and the dissemination of results (figure 3). The approach and questions described herein reflect considerations on the specific environment or culture of the team or lab, the broader institutional environment or culture, and the systemic barriers that members of underrepresented groupsFootnote 2 may experience.

Figure 3

Figure 3. Building the research team and roles: building the research team: recruitment and retention; roles in research design; roles in research execution; roles in the analysis and interpretation of findings; and roles in the dissemination of results.

Definition of a research team

In the context of this guide, the research team is a group of researchers (including, but not limited to applicantsFootnote 3, co-applicantsFootnote 4, collaboratorsFootnote 5, partnersFootnote 6, and trainees and/or students) involved in a research program or project, who share collective competence, expertise and/or goals. Members within the research team have defined roles, leadership and other contributions related to the research.

Note: Although trainees can be part of your research team, NSERC programs often consider highly qualified personnel (HQP) and their training and mentorship separately in their program literature. Special considerations may need to be given to these specific members of your team.

Considering EDI in the context of research teams promotes research excellence by

  • increasing research teams’ effectiveness through improved collaborative processes, collective intelligence and the ability of the team to perform a variety of tasks (box 1)
  • increasing performance and collaboration within diverse groups (boxes 2 and 4)
  • driving radical innovation within diverse research teams (box 3)
  • promoting equity and inclusion through effective mentorship, thus enhancing recruitment and retention in teams (box 5)
  • allowing collective input from different points of view during problem solving, leading to improved performance (box 6)
  • creating an inclusive climate through leadership that helps to realize the potential benefits of diversity (box 7)

You are invited to consider your research team’s composition through an EDI lens, from the initial building of the team to their roles throughout the stages of the research process. The goal is to encourage greater reflection on how your research and team could be strengthened by taking steps to create an equitable and inclusive environment with diverse team members, including equitable and inclusive participation and decision-making.

Box 1: Diversity in research teams can enhance the effectiveness of team science

Excerpt adapted from a report published by the National Research Council in 2015 (United States of America).

Studies suggest that gender diversity can be beneficial for team science, showing that women tend to collaborate more than men do in academic science (Bozeman and Gaughan 2011; Rijnsoever and Hessles 2011). The proportion of women in a group is directly related to the group's collective intelligence or ability to perform a variety of tasks, and the presence of women on teams is associated with improved collaborative processes (Woolley et al. 2010; Bear and Woolley 2011). These processes have been shown to increase team effectiveness. This is based on the assumption that the inclusion of individuals with diverse knowledge, perspectives and research methods will lead to scientific or translational breakthroughs that might not be achieved by a more homogeneous group of individuals. Research on work groups and teams supports the idea that including individuals with diverse knowledge, expertise and experience can increase group creativity and effectiveness, but only if group members draw on each other’s diverse expertise through deep knowledge integration and exchange.

Incorporating EDI considerations for research teams in NSERC applications

The aim of this section is not to be prescriptive about the composition of your research team; it is intended to encourage NSE researchers to think about and identify challenges and barriers specific to their research team and environment. We acknowledge that these considerations may vary in different contexts; the questions below are not exhaustive, and some may not be applicable to your research team. You should refer to the specific instructions and selection criteria of the funding opportunity to which you are applying for additional guidance on what EDI considerations should be described in your application and how they will be evaluated.

Guiding questions for incorporating EDI considerations for your research team

1. Building a research team: recruitment and retention

Building a research team

  • What steps can you take to learn about the current state of diversity in your discipline(s), department(s) or institution?
  • What role can you play to help identify and mitigate potential barriers and biases within your research environment?
  • Does your institution have EDI mentorship resources to support you in the building of a diverse team of co-applicants, collaborators, research personnel and partner organizations?
  • When composing a team, consider the topic and people potentially most impacted by the research. Could individuals and partner organizations from such groups or communities be included to co-develop the research?
  • What abilities, competencies, experience and/or EDI considerations do you think about when identifying team leadership?
    • Have you considered identifying an “EDI champion” within the team?
  • For larger research networks and institutes, what EDI considerations are taken into account in the composition of governance bodies?

Box 2: How diversity can drive innovation

Excerpt adapted from Hewlett, Marshall, and Sherbin 2014.

This research examined a nationally representative survey of 1,800 professionals, 40 case studies, and numerous focus groups and interviews, and it revealed two kinds of diversity: inherent and acquired. Inherent diversity involves traits you are born with, such as gender, ethnicity, and sexual orientation. Acquired diversity involves traits you gain from experience: Working in another country can help you appreciate cultural differences, for example, while selling to female consumers can give you gender smarts. Hewlett et al. refer to companies whose leaders exhibit at least three inherent and three acquired diversity traits as having two-dimensional (2-D) diversity. By correlating diversity in leadership with market outcomes as reported by respondents, Hewlett et al. learned that companies with 2-D diversity out-innovate and out-perform others. Employees at these companies are 45% more likely to report that their firm’s market share grew over the previous year and 70% more likely to report that the firm captured a new market. 2-D diversity unlocks innovation by creating an environment where “outside the box” ideas are heard. When minorities form a critical mass and leaders value differences, all employees can find senior people to go to bat for compelling ideas and can persuade those in charge of budgets to deploy resources to develop those ideas.

Recruitment processes

  • Does your institution have existing EDI guidelines or policies related to the recruitment of a diverse pool of candidates?
  • How can you create a process that mitigates potential bias in the recruitment of trainees and new team members? For example:
    • Ask all members of the selection committee to complete EDI and bias training and to declare all potential conflicts of interest with the applicants.
    • Promote decision-making by more than one person to ensure an open and transparent process where potential unconscious bias and conflicts of interest are managed.
  • Do your interview questions and assessment processes used to select candidates and collaborators consider a broad range of contributions, achievements and experiences as markers of excellence?
  • Are there established policies or procedures in place to ensure that career leaves and varied career paths are fairly considered in recruitment and selection processes?

Box 3: Gender diversity within teams, and its impact on radicalness of innovation

Excerpt adapted from Díaz-García, González-Moreno, and Jose Sáez-Martínez 2013.

This study uses data drawn from the Technological Innovation Panel (PITEC), which is a statistical instrument for studying the innovation activities of Spanish firms over time. In a sample consisting of 4,277 companies, Díaz-García, González-Moreno, and Jose Sáez-Martínez 2013, found a significant positive relationship between gender diversity in research and development (R&D) researchers and radical innovation. According to their sample, the probability of developing radical innovation significantly increases when the R&D team is more gender diverse (0.659; p < 0.01). It can also be interpreted that the greater the firm’s gender diversity, the greater the chances are to develop radical innovations, provided other conditions exist.

Building EDI capacity and knowledge

  • Consider the following actions to develop knowledge and understanding of EDI issues in the research context:
    • Training on EDI-related issues such as anti-racism and implicit bias, among others
    • Reading published research on EDI topics, particularly work that includes consideration of the lived experience of members of underrepresented groups in the NSE research ecosystem
    • Speaking with researchers and leaders at your institution about their commitment to EDI and what they are doing to understand and address systemic barriers in research
    • Learning about your institution’s EDI action plan, whether it has signed on to the Dimensions Charter and actions taken to live up to the charter’s principles
  • Consider implementing training and processes to enhance skills related to teamwork, such as interpersonal skills (effective and respectful communication, conflict and time management), which have been shown to be an important factor in high-performing, diverse and inclusive teams (box 4).

Box 4: Creating and maintaining high-performing collaborative research teams

Excerpt from Cheruvelil et al. 2014.

High-performing collaborative research teams are created and maintained when team diversity (broadly defined) is effectively fostered and interpersonal skills are taught and practiced. Characteristics of high-performing collaborative research teams are: positive interdependence of team members, effective communication, and individual and group accountability. Such teams are highly productive and produce positive experiences for all participants, maximizing benefits for both individuals and the team as a whole. High-performing collaborative research teams consist of diverse members who are committed to common outcomes. Diversity is a multidimensional factor that includes not only gender, ethnicity, religious beliefs, career stage, personality, socioeconomic class, life experiences, viewpoints and skills, but also how people represent and solve problems.

Retention and team environment

  • How will you ensure equitable research training opportunities for all team members, including students, to be successful throughout the research process (specific techniques or instruments, seminars, etc.)?
  • What mentoring strategies will be developed to promote diversity and student success (e.g., group and/or individual meetings, peer mentoring, inclusive lab culture, diverse roles models, help with graduate requirements and professional milestones, soft skills development, etc.)?
  • How will complaints be managed and conflicts resolved within the team? How will you ensure that all team members are aware of such processes as well as broader institutional policies related to ethics, harassment, etc.?
  • Have you considered the different forms of support and accommodation required by team members to ensure equitable, inclusive and accessible participation in the research environment, team meetings and events (e.g., financial, logistical, cultural, linguistic, accessibility, caring responsibilities)?

Box 5: The science of effective mentorship in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine (STEMM)

Summary on the consensus study report of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine 2019.

Effective mentoring relationships have an overall positive effect on academic achievement, retention and degree attainment, as well as on career success and satisfaction, the report says. Mentored students pursue graduate study more frequently than students without mentoring support and are more likely to stay in STEMM. Mentorship can also increase access, equity and inclusion in STEMM. Studies have shown, for example, that effective mentorship for students from underrepresented groups enhances their recruitment into and retention in research-related career paths.

Many STEMM faculty mentors may downplay or de-emphasize cultural and social diversity in mentoring relationships and believe that “colour-blindness” is desirable, neglecting the fact that important cultural and social identities shape their mentees’ academic experiences. Culturally responsive mentoring in which mentors, regardless of their race or gender, show interest in and value students’ cultural backgrounds and social identities may help students navigate invalidating experiences in academia, affirm their belonging in STEMM contexts and reinforce their belief in their own ability to be successful in STEMM (National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine 2019).

Furthermore, promoting equity and inclusion at this organizational level will propagate entry and retention of Black, Indigenous and People of Colour (BIPOC) people of all or no genders and White women at the base of the leadership pipeline. Equity does not mean treating everyone equally. It means providing resources and flexibility based on individual needs and defining expectations based on individual goals and experience (Nocco et al. 2021).

2. Roles and responsibilities within a research team

Research design

  • Consider how biases rooted in discrimination, privileges and power imbalances could impact the participation of research team members. How will these biases be mitigated?
  • How will you ensure that all members are invited to help shape the objectives of the study and contribute to the research team? Consider this point especially for co-applicants, who are often junior faculty and/or HQP.

Box 6: Groups of diverse problem solvers can outperform groups of high-ability problem solvers

Excerpt adapted from Hong, Page, and Baumol 2004 and Page 2008.

Experiments indicate that teams comprised of diverse problem solvers can outperform teams comprised of the best-performing individuals. A computational experiment supported by a mathematical theorem explores the logic behind the simulation results (Hong, Page, and Baumol 2004) and provides conditions under which collections of diverse individuals outperform collections of more individually capable individuals. In a pool of agents that have a similar range of abilities, a group of randomly selected problem solvers that is inherently more functionally diverse will outperform a group of the highest achieving problem solvers. This is based on the claim that functionally diverse groups outperform homogenous groups. The best problem solvers tend to be similar; but their individual problem-solving abilities will be offset significantly by the lack of problem-solving diversity that a randomly selected group will have in contrast (Page 2008).

Research execution

  • What role will collaborators have in the execution of the research? How will different points of view be included?
  • How will your team ensure that EDI is considered regarding access to equipment used in the research? How will more junior co-applicants and/or HQP be considered?
  • Do you have clear, equitable and transparent procedures established to ensure that opportunities for networking, leadership training, conference attendance, etc. and associated financial support are available to all team members?

Box 7: The role of inclusive leadership in supporting an inclusive climate in diverse teams

Excerpt adapted from Ashikali, Groeneveld, and Kuipers 2020.

In this study, models conducted on a sample of central government, provincial and municipalities in Dutch public sector organizations indicate that inclusive leadership positively moderates the relationship between team diversity and inclusive climate. The second model of this study identified a negative association between team ethnic-cultural diversity and inclusive climate (B = −0.19, p < .01). This indicates that greater team diversity does not necessarily result in greater inclusiveness, but rather results in lower team inclusiveness. In a final model, the analysis found a statistically significant interaction effect between inclusive leadership and team diversity on inclusive climate (B = 0.11, p < .10). That is, that highly ethnic-culturally diverse teams experience a more inclusive climate when inclusive leadership is high than when it is low. These findings emphasize the importance of leadership that aims to support positive and attenuate negative team diversity outcomes to foster inclusiveness. Therefore, the push for diversity needs explicit supervisory attention to create an inclusive climate in which the potential benefits of diversity actually can be realized.

Analysis and interpretation of findings

  • How will you ensure that all members have a voice and contribute to the research, analysis and interpretation of data and review of research findings before the completion of the proposed research?

Dissemination of resultsFootnote 7

  • What considerations could be taken into account with regards to
    •  the roles of team members when submitting publications and research outputs?
    •  attributing authorship/credit to team members?
  • How will opportunities for presenting research findings at conferences, workshops and other venues be distributed among the team members?
  • How will you ensure that the dissemination strategies and materials are the product of collaborative efforts with a diversity of input from all team members?

Relevant resources

General resources on EDI considerations for research in the NSE

  • Ressources en ÉDI - Université du Québec en Abitibi-Témiscamingue 
    (Available in French only).
    This site includes training resources and practical guides on integrating principles of EDI and intersectionality into various aspects of research, including funding applications and research teams composition. It also includes a guide for inclusive writing, principles for research within an Indigenous context, and a guide for incorporating intersectionality within research projects.
  • Towards Reconciliation: 10 Calls to Action to natural scientists working in Canada (Wong et al. 2020)
    (Available in English only).
    The authors “challenge the scientific community to recognize that reconciliation requires a new way of conducting natural science, one that includes and respects Indigenous communities, rights and knowledge, leading to better scientific and community outcomes.” Among these calls to action are the following items in that relate particularly to research design:
    • Understanding the socio-political landscapes around research sites;
    • Recognizing that generating knowledge about the land is a goal shared with Indigenous Peoples and to seek meaningful relationships and possible collaboration for better outcomes for all involved;
    • Calling on natural scientists to enable knowledge sharing and knowledge co-production; 
    • And calling on natural scientists studying animals to seek out advice from Elders for respectful ways of handling animals.

Key resources specific to EDI considerations in the research process

Key resources specific to EDI considerations for research teams


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This glossary was developed using definitions from various sources and includes definitions that were previously available in earlier editions of some documents. However, the current glossary will be continuously revised, as needed, using updated definitions such as those included in the Government of Canada’s Guide on Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Terminology.

Accessibility: The combination of aspects that influence a person's ability to function within an environmentFootnote 8.

Diversity: Term used to describe the presence of a wide range of human qualities and attributes within a group, organization or society. Diversity encompasses acceptance and respect of individual identities, which include, but are not limited to, the dimensions of race, language, ethnicity, gender identity and expression, sex, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, age, disability, neurodivergence, physical appearance, religious beliefs, political beliefs or other ideologies, ancestry, culture, geographic background (see also equity, inclusion)Footnote 9.

Equity: The principle of considering people's unique experiences and differing situations, and ensuring they have access to the resources and opportunities that are necessary for them to attain just outcomesFootnote 10.
Equity means fairness; people of all identities being treated fairly. It means ensuring that the processes for allocating resources and decision-making are fair to all and do not discriminate on the basis of identity. There is a need to put measures in place to eliminate discrimination and inequalities which have been well described and ensure, to the best degree possible, equal opportunities.

Notes: Equity aims to eliminate disparities and disproportions that are rooted in historical and contemporary injustices and oppression.
Equity is needed to achieve equalityFootnote 11. For example, treating people as equals in an environment in which historical and systemic disadvantages prevent people from operating as equals can be inequitable—it lacks the fairness of a truly equitable situation.

Ethnicity: The variety of beliefs, behaviours and traditions held in common by a group of people bound by particular linguistic, historical, geographical, religious and/or racial homogeneity. Ethnic diversity is the variation of such groups and the presence of a number of ethnic groups within one society or nationFootnote 12.

Gender: Gender refers to the socially constructed roles, behaviours, expressions and identities of girls, women, boys, men, and people with diverse gender identities. It influences how people perceive themselves and each other, how they act and interact, and the distribution of power and resources in society. Gender is usually conceptualized as binary (girl/boy and woman/man), yet there is considerable
diversity in how individuals and groups understand, experience and express gender, including agender, non-binary and transgender identitiesFootnote 13.

InclusionFootnote 10: The practice of using proactive measures to create an environment where people feel welcomed, respected and valued, and to foster a sense of belonging and engagement.

Note: This practice involves changing the environment by removing barriers so that each person has equal access to opportunities and resources and can achieve their full potential.

Indigenous Peoples: Indigenous means “native to the area” and applies to peoples who have occupied a territory since time immemorial. In Canada, Indigenous Peoples include First Nations, Inuit and Métis  (see also Aboriginal Peoples, First Nations, Inuit, Métis)Footnote 14.

Intersectionality: A term coined in 1989 by Kimberlé Crenshaw, and built upon by other Black feminist scholars, which acknowledges the ways in which people’s experiences are shaped by their multiple and overlapping identities and social locations, as well as intersecting processes of discrimination, oppression, power and privilege. Together, these interlocking identities and processes can produce a unique and distinct experience for an individual or group, such as the creation of additional barriers or opportunitiesFootnote 15.

RaceFootnote 10: A group of people who are arbitrarily categorized according to common physical characteristics, regardless of language, culture or nationality.

Notes: The concept of race has long since been used to establish differences between groups of people, often according to a hierarchy. It focuses on identifiable physical characteristics, such as skin colour, hair texture and facial features.
There is no scientific basis for the concept of race.
Refusing to talk about race could imply that racism and its consequences do not exist.
Not to be confused with the term “race” used to mean “ethnic group,” which refers to a group of people with shared cultural, linguistic or religious characteristics.

SexFootnote 10: A defined set of anatomical and physiological characteristics, including chromosomes, gene expression, hormones, and reproductive or sexual anatomy.

Notes: Sex is usually categorized as female or male, but there is variation in the biological attributes that comprise sex and how those attributes appear. Often a person with these variations is characterized or self-identifies as intersex.
While sex refers to a set of anatomical and physiological characteristics, gender refers to a social construct, and goes beyond the traditionally understood binary concept that there are only two genders (women/men) and that a person’s sex assigned at birth aligns with their gender identity.

Unconscious bias: An implicit attitude, stereotype, motivation or assumption that can occur without one’s knowledge or intention. Unconscious bias is a result of one’s life experiences and affects all types of people. Everyone carries implicit or unconscious biases. Examples of unconscious bias include, among others, gender bias, cultural bias, race/ethnicity bias, age bias, language bias and institutional bias. Decisions made based on unconscious bias can compound over time to significantly impact the lives and opportunities of others who are affected by the decisions one makesFootnote 16.

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