We want every scientist to thrive in cancer research – Cancer Research UK

A diverse research community which represents the breadth of our population is vital if we want to be confident we have the best talent addressing the full range of questions in cancer research, the answers to which will lead to the best outcomes for everyone. But right now, the cancer research sector doesn’t represent the wider population.  

The statistics depict a progressive loss of women at each step of the career pipeline, and a profound lack of Black scientists at all career stages.   

Diversity is integral to excellence and recognising this, Cancer Research UK launched its first cross-organisational EDI strategy in 2021. Since then, we’ve been working hard across the charity to embed these EDI ambitions in all that we do. 

I am passionate about ensuring that our research workforce is inclusive and diverse, and that our research outputs benefit people equally across the population.  As Executive Director of Research and Innovation I’m passionate about driving long-term change and am convinced progress against cancer will improve if we are successful.  

To keep driving progress, and to hold ourselves accountable, in 2021 we published our first “EDI in research action plan. This plan lays out our commitments as a funder to develop a more diverse and inclusive research community and contribute to tackling systemic issues like underrepresentation and racial bias.  

This week we’re celebrating the positive progress we’ve made, with the launch of our Driving Change” report, some of which I am going to reflect on in this article.    

But it’s important to note that the progress we’ve made at Cancer Research UK in inequalities spans far beyond what we have done in the Research and Innovation directorate. It is in fact through collaboration across the charity that we have been able to implement bigger changes and begin making a true difference. And so, to complement this piece, in the next article my colleague Ian Walker, who is the Executive Director of Policy, Information and Communications, will cover some of the progress driven by his directorate.   

Diversifying the talent pipeline 

One of the cross-org priority areas set out in our strategy was to develop a more diverse and inclusive research community through the research we fund. 

Equity in research stretches far beyond numbers. It’s not just about diversity in the number of people we fund, it’s about creating equal opportunity and experience. And we want everyone to feel they can go into a career in cancer research and have every chance to thrive and progress.    

So, we’ve partnered with expert charities and grassroots organisations to drive strategic initiatives at all stages of the research pipeline.  

Our partnership with In2Science and In2Research helps provide opportunities for young people and undergraduates from disadvantaged backgrounds to receive mentorship as well as opportunities to build a career in cancer research.  

To help address the underrepresentation of Black students in university we have joined forces with Black in Cancer for the Black in Cancer Mentorship Programme. This programme connects Black undergraduates with cancer research professionals who give career advice and provides opportunities for cancer research summer placements.    

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