A UK funding organization, the British Academy, has experienced a significant rise in research grants awarded to ethnic minority academics after introducing a randomization process for grant allocation.
Last September, the British Academy initiated a “partial randomization trial” for its Small Research Grants program, which provides funding of up to £10,000 for innovative projects in the humanities and social sciences.
While applications are still screened by experts to ensure quality, successful applicants are chosen randomly.
Allocation boosts diversity in British academy funding
This approach was adopted following international trials aimed at reducing the burden on peer reviewers and eliminating bias against female and ethnic minority applicants and those from less prestigious universities. Typically, research applications are evaluated based on excellence.
The British Academy reported a “notable” increase in grants awarded to candidates from black, Asian, and other ethnic backgrounds, with this group accounting for 27% of successful applicants, compared to 18% under the previous scheme.
Success rates for candidates from Scotland and Northern Ireland also increased, surpassing their respective proportions of the UK population.
The third round of the trial is now open for applications, with the experiment set to run for three years in total. The academy plans to share a full analysis of the model’s effectiveness and its impact on grant outcomes upon completion.
Alex Lewis, the academy’s director of research, expressed enthusiasm about the potential to increase equity of access and open up research funding to previously underrepresented groups, indicating that this approach aligns with the organization’s strategic goals.