In fulfilling our role as a leading research consortium we have, in addition to producing energy demand research, shared our practise and learning on programme management including our work in equality, diversity and inclusion.
One area of focus has been in recruitment where we have sought to refine our own practices and develop guidance that can be used to help create more equitable practices in energy research recruitment.
Creating a diverse research community starts with ensuring that opportunities to work are made available to a wide range of people . Consciously evaluating the recruitment processes which bring people into a team or institution is an important step to improving diversity.
To this end, four main actions were included in the CREDS EDI plan, which members of the consortium were encouraged to adopt.
Later on, each of these individual institutions were surveyed to assess whether they had committed to these actions. The limited data available revealed that there was a reasonably strong uptake of the measures suggested, such as including statements to encourage underrepresented groups to make applications.
Building on this, we took the decision to create a more thorough set of recommendations for the benefit of the consortium and its member institutions.
The scope of influence
Responsibility for recruitment sits with the individual institutions which make up the CREDS consortium, which means that many aspects of the process are subject to the rules of each particular university.
The guidance we developed therefore took the entire recruitment journey from the identification of the role through to the shortlisting and interviewing process, and offered tips on how to incorporate diversity and equity practice as a Principle Investigator (PI). We were not therefore directly commenting on the issues of systemic or cultural change that may need to be addressed at an institutional level and which have a bearing on recruitment.
We initially published and promoted the guidance to the CREDS research community via our website. Recruitment activity had, in the main, taken place at the beginning of the project but some teams continued to fill occasional roles throughout. In addition, as CREDS moved into its final phase, we felt that consortium members would be turning their minds to their follow-on work, and that the guidance would have a positive impact in how they recruit for their future teams.
The guide was also shared with the cross-consortium group of which CREDS was a founding member. This group is made up other energy related research institutes and projects such as UKERC. It is hoped that the guide can inform their existing recruitment practices and reach a wider user audience.
We also decided to seek out opportunities for further impact, and examined whether the document might be used by the HR departments of the universities which make up the consortium. We initially approached the School of Geography and Environment at Oxford University, which is where the core team of CREDS are based.
Working with the HR professionals in that team, we amended the guide to be more generic and less energy-related and they adopted its use within the department. In addition, the guide was then recommended to the HR teams at a divisional level within the University of Oxford. It has now been taken up for use by those teams, who offer recruitment advice to the fifteen academic departments which make up the social service division.
We then decided to reach out further, connecting via our consortium members to the HR departments in other universities. We have been attempting to engage with the HR teams responsible for recruitment to learn about their practices and share the guide document.
This is something which is harder to push forward as institutions already have large HR departments which have no doubt developed guidance and other documents themselves. However, we hope that by sharing the guide, where possible to do so, will add to the resources available and provide a useful point of reflection.
We have also taken the opportunity to present and share it with external bodies, such as Energy Systems Catapult. Further efforts are ongoing.
In addition, the recruitment guide will be used as part of the supporting EDI documentation in a call for an EDI Hub proposal which is being funded by EPRSC in December 2023.
If we are to bring about more diverse research communities, small but lasting adjustments must be made to the whole academic pipeline.
Outreach work with schools must inspire the young researchers of tomorrow and creative measures such as bursaries and grants must be available to support people in their studies who might otherwise drop out.
Academic institutions must seek to encourage applications from suitable candidates and not place unnecessary barriers in the way of those who aspire. Academic disciplines which are perceived – rightly or wrongly – to be closed shops, must make conscious efforts to practice fair and transparent recruitment practices, in order to bring about lasting cultural change.
Saunders, A. 2023. The CREDS EDI Recruitment Guide: an impact case study. Centre for Research into Energy Demand Solutions. Oxford, UK. CREDS case study.
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