Equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI)

We have a strategic commitment to fostering a more equitable, diverse and inclusive health research system.

Diversity in research is important to cultivating talent and promoting inclusive excellence, which in turn drives discovery and helps build a more equitable health research system.

Data from Canada and around the world show a lack of diversity in the research system, as well as systemic inequities in access to research jobs, funding and other resources. These inequities disproportionately impact groups who have been historically underrepresented among researchers and in academia, including those who are Indigenous, Black and people of colour, LGBTQ+ people and people with disabilities.

As BC’s health research funding agency, we have an important role in leading and supporting efforts to address systemic racism and other forms of bias and discrimination that create and exacerbate inequities in the health research system. In recognition of this, we are taking a number of actions to advance EDI in our health research funding programs, policies, processes and strategic initiatives. These are described below in more detail.

Alongside our EDI-focused work, we are working to grow our knowledge and skills in Indigenous cultural safety, including through staff training, improving our policies, programs and practices, and building relationships and partnerships with Indigenous organizations, collectives and communities. Our intention is to do this work from a place of humility, integrity and accountability, grounded in our ongoing commitment to reconciliation and respect for Indigenous self-determination.

Expanding our EDI data capabilities

As an evidence-informed organization, we have a long history of systematically tracking and analyzing data and other information about our funding programs. To help deliver on our strategic commitment to EDI, we’ve made it a priority to improve our data collection on who is applying to our funding programs, reviewing applications for us, and receiving MSFHR funding.

Self-identification form

In 2019, we implemented a self-identification form to collect demographic information about applicants, their supervisors and collaborators, and the health research experts who review funding applications for us. This information can help to identify potential barriers and challenges to EDI within our funding programs, as well as opportunities for improvement.

The self-identification form invites all applicants, co-applicants, research users, trainee supervisors and peer reviewers to share information about their gender identity, LGBTQ+ identity, age, Indigenous identity, racialized/visible minority identity, population group, and whether they identify as  disabled.

We’ve also ensured our EDI data are collected and analyzed in ways that facilitate comparison with national data. This helps us to contribute to the bigger picture understanding of diversity within BC’s and Canada’s research system and to subsequent conversations about actions that may need to be taken in response to systemic inequities.

EDI-related program improvements

Equity, diversity and inclusion is central to our work. In the past, we’ve primarily focused our efforts on gender equity in our funding programs. Today, there is gender parity in award funding rates for the majority of our funding programs, though we recognize there are persistent gender inequities in research and academia and that actions to remedy them are still required. As part of our commitment to EDI, we are now enhancing our efforts to support other groups and communities who have been historically underrepresented among health researchers, including Indigenous, Black and people of colour, people with disabilities, and LGBTQ+ people.

We have implemented policy, program and process improvements to reduce barriers and facilitate greater diversity among MSFHR funding applicants and award recipients. For example, over the past several years, we’ve:

  • Implemented unconscious bias training for all our peer reviewers
  • Revised our application evaluation criteria for peer reviewers to mitigate potential biases in application assessment
  • Developed an EDI-informed supplemental guide and training sessions for peer reviewers on how to fairly, equitably and consistently review applications, including in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Become a signatory to the Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA) as part of enacting our broader commitment to fair and equitable assessment of research outputs
  • Engaged in proactive outreach and dialogue with research-intensive universities in BC who are underrepresented amongst MSFHR funding applications and award recipients to enable successful applications from diverse institutions across BC

Knowledge exchange and learning

As a learning organization, we are continually looking for ways to share, expand on and improve our knowledge and understanding about EDI in health research funding and the health research system.

We are members of an international consortium, the Research on Research Institute (RoRI), working in collaboration with other partners to conduct new research on research systems and test innovations to enable a more strategic, open, diverse and inclusive research system. One example is the RoRI Excellence Project, which examines how traditional definitions of research excellence can create barriers to EDI and innovation.

In addition, members of our leadership team are leading and engaging in EDI-focused dialogues with other research funders and health research system colleagues and collaborators in BC, Canada and internationally. These conversations focus on key challenges, opportunities and actions we can take to enable a more equitable, diverse and inclusive health research system for all.

The future of EDI at MSFHR

We have developed and committed to an action plan that will guide and focus our EDI efforts in 2021 and beyond, as we work with the BC Academic Health Science Network (BC AHSN) to create an integrated and dynamic new health research organization in the late 2021. We will regularly share updates on our progress in, and learnings from, this work.

User data and privacy

Responses to the self-identification form will be securely stored and access to the raw data will be restricted to MSFHR’s data analytics department. The data collected will only be used in aggregate in order to protect the identity of individuals. Chairs, scientific officers and peer reviewers will not have access to respondents’ information.

Information shared in the form will be stored on secure Canadian servers in MSFHR ApplyNet, a grants management system developed and hosted for MSFHR by SmartSimple, a leading grants management service provider.

FAQ

Why am I being asked to complete the self-identification form?

The data we collect through this form will help us better understand the demographics of who is applying to our funding programs, reviewing applications for us and receiving MSFHR funding. This information will help us better identify barriers and challenges to funding that may exist as a result of inequities, bias and discrimination, as well as opportunities for advancement.

Who is required to complete the form?

For the 2021 competition cycle, MSFHR will collect data from applicants, co-applicants, research users, trainee supervisors, and peer reviewers. For our team-based awards, such as Reach and C2, all team members with an ApplyNet account, including researchers and research users, will be required to complete the form.

Why were these questions (or this terminology) chosen? Can you clarify what is being asked?

Our form was adapted from a similar form implemented by CIHR in May 2018 and subsequently by all tri-council agencies and the Canada Research Chairs program. Federal funders updated their self-identification form in 2020, so we made corresponding revisions to ours in order to ensure comparability with national data. Our self-identification form covers the following dimensions: gender identity, LGBTQ+ identity, age, Indigenous identity, racialized/visible minority identity, population group, and disability. 

Where possible, we have aimed for consistency with the federal questions set to enable us to compare our data with national data. MSFHR has adapted some questions through a process of consulting with our CIHR colleagues, literature and experts in equity, diversity and inclusion.

I am not comfortable responding to these questions. What should I do?

If you do not want to share your information, you have the option to choose “I prefer not to answer” for each question. However, each question does require an answer.

Who will see my information? Will peer reviewers be able to access this information?

Responses will be securely stored, and access to the raw data will be restricted to MSFHR’s data analytics department. The data collected will only be used in aggregate in order to protect the identity of individuals. Chairs, scientific officers and peer reviewers will not have access to your information.

How will my information be used?

Your responses to the form will not affect eligibility for funding from MSFHR. We are collecting this information to learn more about equity and diversity as it relates to who is applying for and receiving MSFHR funding and reviewing applications for our funding programs. This data is important for informing evidence-based policy solutions designed to increase equity, diversity and inclusion among all those involved in the research enterprise. Data will only ever be shared in aggregate format.

How will my information be stored?

Information will be collected through MSFHR’s ApplyNet, a grants management application system developed and hosted for MSFHR by SmartSimple, a leading grants management service provider. Your data will be stored in Amazon Web Services (AWS) Canada Central data centre. Smart Simple makes its security, privacy and architecture policies publicly available at https://www.smartsimple.com/security-privacy.html.

Although your responses will be linked to your ApplyNet profile, which is done to ensure that your data is saved for future competitions, the data itself is stored separately from application information.   

Can I make changes to my form after it has been completed and submitted?

Yes, you can change your answers at any time by logging into your account on ApplyNet. 

When do I have to complete the equity and diversity survey?

Applicants and reviewers have to complete self-identification form when they initially complete their profile on ApplyNet. 

Will my responses be tied to funding decisions in any way?

No, the self-identification form is not tied to funding decisions.