The terrible recent events in the US have thrown a sharp focus on the need for better progress here in providing real opportunity, better outcomes and the right assistance for all underrepresented communities, but especially BAME groups. The recent IJMR lecture from MRS 'Covid-19 and race: protecting data or saving lives?' brings the need to be smarter at how we achieve this into sharp highlight.

If we are to provide a window on the world for clients, stakeholders and decision makers we must represent the world’s population properly.

Very specifically for BAME communities we need to improve drastically their representation at all levels of employment in the sector, but just as importantly we need to give those communities a better voice, helping clients and decision makers have better evidence and insight on which to make commercial and public policy decisions.

The IJMR lecture Covid-19 and race: protecting data or saving lives? is an important contribution to this debate. The lecture series is normally only available free to our CMRS members and our Fellows. We are making this lecture freely available for all.

MRS has had a growing Diversity and Inclusion programme for several years. Clearly, it needs to move faster.

Recognising the intersectionality of many of the issues that we have identified with the help of MRS’ annual inclusivity research, our volunteers and our working party, the programme is built around a Manifesto for Opportunity, a pledge to which we ask others to commit.

When we launched this initiative in 2018, I said: “We believe that a sector that provides insight and evidence needs to be representative of the world it serves, and we are committed to creating an environment where the only barriers to progress are personal choice and professional competence.”

The Manifesto makes commitments to, amongst other things, targets on the inclusion of BAME people and women at senior levels and for pay parity for women and BAME people.

MRS believes that only commercial pressure throughout the supply chain will make swift change possible. To that end MRS has encouraged clients via its Senior Client Council and its accredited client companies to include the CEO Pledge in procurement processes.

To back up the Pledge and provide more practical support we have introduced within the MRS mentoring scheme the option for BAME matching, supported bursaries for professional qualifications via the MRBA, and we are in the final stage of completing an apprenticeship scheme to provide an alternative to the generally university based entry routes to the sector.

MRS wants to capitalise on the success of the Inclusion programme so far. MRS has achieved gender parity on all its platforms, and we must ensure much greater diversity too. I am calling on all BAME MRS members to provide names of other BAME colleagues and volunteer themselves for one of our many speaking opportunities. If main stage at Impact conference is not for you, we have many different  opportunities in our networks such as the &more network for young researchers, MRSPride or ADA for the data analysts.

I return to the fact that as a sector our greatest contribution to the BLM movement and wider BAME community must be to provide the best possible evidence & insight. I am delighted that MRS has a new Main Board member Babita Earle to help lead and speed up progress. With her help MRS is going to help to produce a guide to researching BAME communities. The IJMR lecture is just a start.

Please do get in touch with me if you have any ideas or wish to get involved.

The Labour Cabinet Minister, Tony Benn once told an MRS Conference that the research sector’s greatest contribution to society was giving people a voice to power. This remains as true as ever. We all need to commit to it.

Watch the IJMR lecture:  'Covid-19 and race: protecting data or saving lives?'

1 comment

Riaz Marzban18 Jun 2020

A great initiative and welcome push from MRS and a step in the right direction.

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