Disability in STEM – research commissioned by the Royal Society

Supporting scientists with disabilities is a key priority for the Royal Society and its Diversity Committee, which set up a sub-group to focus on this important area in 2019. The sub-group commissioned two reports in order to understand where under-representation of students and staff with disabilities in STEM is occurring and what practical action could be taken to address that under-representation. 

The Society commissioned Jisc to carry out detailed analysis of Higher Education Statistics Authority (HESA) data over an 11-year time period, in order to understand how the proportion of students and staff with disabilities in STEM in the UK has changed over time, enabling the Society and the wider sector to pinpoint where under-representation is occurring.

The Jisc report shows considerable variation between students and staff in terms of reporting disabilities. In order to try to understand the reasons for the variation, the Society commissioned the Careers Research and Advisory Centre to carry out qualitative research to investigate the reasons for the variation in declaration rates, the barriers to scientists declaring their disability and what the Society and others might be able to do to address those barriers.

Both reports make recommendations for further research and practical action that could be carried out to address the inequalities highlighted. We hope that funders, higher education institutions and others across the sector will work independently and with the Society to take forward the recommendations in the reports. 

Diversity Committee members Professor Paul Upchurch and Professor Seralynne Vann shared their perspectives on the reports in a blog post.