Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion in Research

The University of Guelph is committed to strengthening the quality, relevance, and impact of research and removing barriers to equal opportunity by integrating equity, diversity, and inclusion into every aspect of the research enterprise.

This commitment is reflected in the University’s endorsement of the Dimensions Charter, a program to promote and recognize EDI in the Canadian research ecosystem. It is also reflected in the University’s Strategic Research Plan, Anti-Racism Action Plan, Anti-Racism Policy Statement, Indigenous Initiatives Strategy, and the University of Guelph Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Action Plan for the Canada Research Chairs Program.

The Research Services Office aims to provide information and guidance to help researchers address EDI in research by:

  • creating an inclusive research work environment and culture that removes barriers to participation and engages diverse researchers throughout the research process
  • creating research designs that consider EDI at each relevant stage of the research process

EDI is foundational to research excellence at the University of Guelph. By learning and applying key principles and best practices, researchers will enhance the relevance and quality of their research, meet ethical standards and legal requirements for fairness and equity, and foster greater inclusion.

EDI Definitions

Core Definitions

  • Equity - The principle of considering people's unique experiences and differing situations, and ensuring they have access to the resources and opportunities that are necessary for them to attain just outcomes.
  • Diversity - The variety of identities found within an organization, group, or society.
  • Inclusion - The practice of using proactive measures to create an environment where people feel welcomed, respected, and valued, and to foster a sense of belonging and engagement.

Other Important Concepts

  • Stereotypes – Widely-held beliefs about the characteristics of all members of a particular group based on unsupported assumptions and oversimplified ideas and images.
  • Prejudice – Negative prejudgment or preconceived feelings or notions about another person or group of persons based on perceived characteristics.
  • Bias A predisposition, prejudice, or generalization about a group of persons based on personal characteristics or stereotypes.
  • Privilege Unearned power, benefits, advantages, access and/or opportunities that exist for members of the dominant group(s) in society. Can also refer to the relative privilege of one group compared to another.
  • Discrimination Treating someone unfairly by either imposing a burden on them, or denying them a privilege, benefit or opportunity enjoyed by others, because of their race, citizenship, family status, disability, sex, or other personal characteristics. Discrimination can occur between individuals, or it can be the result of seemingly neutral policies and rules that have adverse effects on certain groups. (Note: Human rights laws in Ontario and Canada make it illegal to discriminate on prohibited grounds. For further information see the University of Guelph Human Rights Policy.)
  • Subtle acts of exclusion (or microaggressions) The brief everyday slights, insults, indignities, and denigrating messages sent to people of colour, Indigenous peoples, 2SLGBTQIA+ folks, persons with disabilities, immigrants, women, etc. by well-intentioned folks who are unaware of the exclusionary messages being communicated.
  • Institutionalized or Systemic Bias Prejudice and bias that has become structured and entrenched within a system or institution
  • Internalization Absorbing prejudicial beliefs and attitudes and making them integral to one’s worldview.
  • Tokenism Refers to the principle or practice of granting minimum concessions, especially to minority or under-represented groups, as a token gesture to appease public pressure, comply with legal requirements, etc.
  • Sex Refers to a set of biological attributes in humans and animals. It is primarily associated with physical and physiological features including chromosomes, gene expression, hormone levels and function, and reproductive/sexual anatomy. Sex is usually categorized as female or male but there is variation in the biological attributes that comprise sex and how those attributes are expressed (CIHR 2019).
  • Gender  Refers to the socially constructed roles, behaviours, expressions and identities of girls, women, boys, men, and gender diverse people. It influences how people perceive themselves and each other, how they act and interact, and the distribution of power and resources in society. Gender identity is not confined to a binary (girl/woman, boy/man) nor is it static; it exists along a continuum and can change over time. There is considerable diversity in how individuals and groups understand, experience and express gender through the roles they take on, the expectations placed on them, relations with others and the complex ways that gender is institutionalized in society (CIHR 2019).

Recommended Further Reading

EDI and Research Teams FAQ

There’s a lot you can do right away. Start by creating a dedicated EDI file. Then begin filling it with the following suggested content:

  • Gather a few references that describe the challenges and barriers in your discipline faced by diverse groups seeking to participate as researchers.
  • Add information about challenges and barriers related to your specific research program, institution, and location, as applicable.
  • Make a list of past actions you’ve implemented, such as inclusive recruitment processes or mentoring initiatives, and think about how effective they were in practice, trying to identify what worked and where additional efforts are needed.
  • Begin identifying concrete future actions to help address the barriers and issues identified in the EDI literature relevant to your discipline.
  • Update yourself on the latest EDI information and training resources made available through your Department, College, and across the University, or through national or international bodies relevant to your area of research.
  • Take relevant EDI training that’s available, even if it’s not required – note down the ideas for action and best practices you obtain.
  • Build your EDI file over time so that you can draw on it at application time.

EDI considerations are essential to ensure equal opportunity to participate in research work. Without conscious attention to inclusion, barriers to equal opportunity related to historic and present-day discrimination may continue to prevent equal participation. Research excellence is also strengthened through EDI considerations because diverse research teams have been shown to deliver greater innovation. Understanding the EDI implications of your research design is also important. Please see EDI and Research Design FAQs.

No. Examples of good paragraphs can certainly help shed light on the expectations of granting agencies. However, they tend to have the effect of narrowing ideas along the directions outlined in the examples. This would run counter to the effective EDI actions that create actual change, i.e., approaches or action plans custom-developed for each team and research program based on their specific challenges.

It is true that some EDI practices come to mind more readily than others. However, since researchers are asked to identify challenges and barriers specific to their program, research area or institution, this will result in personalizing the texts. This is the most effective way to ensure the progression of intentions into action. Researchers are asked to think about different ways of doing things and to explain an approach or game plan adapted to their reality. Note that granting agencies know customized approaches are more likely to be implemented.

There are four aspects to consider:

  • Team composition and trainee recruitment processes
  • Research work environment and culture
  • Mentoring, training, and access to development opportunities
  • Roles of team members in the research process

A team can be diverse in terms of identity and discipline.

  • Identity diversity refers to the individual identities of team members related to: gender, ethnicity, race, sexual orientation, indigeneity, language, age, socio-economic background, etc.
  • Disciplinary diversity refers to the training and expertise of team members, such as: mechanical engineering, psychology, marketing, photonics, technology instruction, etc.

Note: The federal and provincial granting agencies often refer to the designated groups in connection with diversity. These are groups of people who face persistent barriers to employment. In Canada, the designated groups according to the Employment Equity Act are women, Indigenous peoples, persons with disabilities and visible minorities. However, it must be remembered that diversity does not refer only to the designated groups.

No. It’s about the equitable and inclusive processes by which your team is formed and operates. It’s not about the representativeness of your team, it’s about the EDI competence and culture of your team. Do not specify or allude to the personal identities of your team members as this may contravene their right to privacy. Instead, it is recommended to describe:

  1. The challenges or barriers to recruiting a diverse team and to establishing equitable processes and an inclusive working environment; and
  2. The action plan adapted to the research team to overcome these challenges and obstacles.

Note that review committees do not judge the composition or representativeness of the team, but rather the processes put in place to support diversity.

There are three key considerations:

  • Run equitable and transparent selection processes: Make sure that systemic barriers to diversity have been identified and removed, and that the process applied is transparently communicated.
  • Threshold of competence and skills: Establish a threshold of competence and skills at which an individual is deemed capable of succeeding in the position to be filled. Make the final selection from among the pool of people who meet this threshold to complete the team.
  • EDI training: Make sure that members of the hiring committee are aware of unconscious biases and other systemic barriers to the hiring and advancement of persons belonging to designated groups. If necessary, seek out someone with EDI expertise to act as an EDI champion on your committee.

The answer to this question has three parts:

  • Beyond diversity: The fact that a team is diverse does not mean that its members are necessarily unaffected by unconscious biases, exclusion, inequity, etc. This is why team diversity is only one component of EDI in training and research. Each action plan should therefore also address the inclusive practices of team leaders and how equity is ensured in team management processes.
  • Random chance or not: The people reviewing a grant application are not in a position to know whether the current situation within a team is a result of random chance, or of actions that were carried out. So, even if a team is currently diverse, it is important to describe the action plan in effect for sustaining a diverse team over the years.
  • Beyond the research team: It is also possible to get involved outside the research team with other targeted audiences, such as high school students, in order to promote one’s area of research (e.g., outreach efforts) and generally attract a greater diversity of people and profiles.

Below we offer RSO guidance on inclusive language in grant applications but always encourage applicants to refer to specific grant guidelines in addition to our guidance.

  • Historically, "he" was used as a default pronoun whenever a universal example was needed. This practice is outdated and it is now recognized as sexist.
  • Instead, in some documents, people use the terms “s/he” or “he/she.” However, these options are still not inclusive of non-binary people who use other third-person pronouns.
  • People do not always use the pronoun that you may expect based on their name or appearance. Using someone’s correct pronouns validates their identity, helps make them feel like they belong, and signals that you are a supportive colleague. When someone is referred to with the wrong pronoun, it can make them feel disrespected, invalidated, dismissed, and/or alienated. The key is to respect how people self-identify.
  • As a faculty member and research leader, you have the ability to set the tone for your research team. By modeling the use of pronouns for other researchers and collaborators, you can help create an inclusive work environment. When you introduce yourself with your pronouns, you create space for others to do the same.
  • To begin, where the gender of the person is not known or is irrelevant you may use the gender-neutral singular pronoun "they". People already do this naturally when they do not know the gender of the person they are referring to, as in the sentence, “A researcher has to be completely committed to their field of study.” For new team members, such as HQP, who have not yet been identified, refer them by using “they/them” as a gender-neutral singular pronoun.
  • Next, as you are building your team of collaborators, the suggested best practice is for the research leader/lead applicant to reach out to each team member individually to ask how they would like to be referred to in the grant application.
    • For example, “I’m reaching out to team members to confirm how they would like to be referred to in the upcoming grant application. I’m referred to as she/her, or by [name or surname]. Please let me know how you would like to be referred to. 
  • Each team member’s pronouns can then be presented following their full name when first introduced in the application. For example, Parvati Smith (she/her), Joe Fischer (he/they), Minh Nguyen (they/them), etc. These pronouns can then be used throughout the remainder of the application as necessary. If a team member uses more than one pronoun, try to use each of them.
  • If the lead applicant has not had an opportunity to ask each team member how they want to be referred to, then we suggest one of two approaches:
    • Use “they” as a gender-neutral singular pronoun throughout the grant application to refer to all research team members. A second approach is to refer to members of the research team by name only, avoiding the use of pronouns. The disadvantage of this latter approach is that, depending on the length of the application, the writing can become cumbersome and repetitive.
  • At first, it may feel awkward to ask people how they want to be referred to but your efforts to respect each individual by referring to them correctly helps to build a culture of belonging for all members of the research community.

Some content adapted from: EDI in an NSERC Discovery Grant Application FAQs, Université de Sherbrooke, and Tip Sheet on Incorporating EDI in Grant Applications, McMaster University.

EDI and Research Design FAQs

Identifying a problem or a puzzle and framing a research question are typically the first steps in research design. Assumptions and worldviews underpin all research questions, including assumptions about whether and how sex, gender, and diversity apply to the research topic. EDI-informed research questions re-examine assumptions and ensure that research findings are relevant to society, rigorously tested, and ethically sound.

Sex, gender, and diversity can have implications for your research design in at least three different ways: 

  1. Sex, gender, and diversity are variables that directly affect the outcomes of interest. For example, many technical and environmental topics would benefit from research that integrates sex, gender, and diversity as variables. In the case of research on strategies to minimize waste production, optimize waste management, and reduce associated greenhouse gas emissions, it has been recognized that sex, gender, and diversity are related to differences in waste production and management behaviours.
  2. The needs of the population(s) affected by your research vary based on sex, gender, and diversity. Many research topics appear to not directly engage with sex, gender, or diversity as variables. However, new technologies and innovations researched in apparently “neutral” research settings will ultimately be deployed in the real world, where the needs of populations and societies vary along the lines of sex, gender, and other aspects of diversity. For example, it’s been shown that new technologies, such as agricultural innovations, can lead to unequal benefits, or even harms, when gender norms are not considered. Conversely, conscious consideration of gender and diversity norms can lead to transformative approaches that create greater social equality. 
  3. The sex, gender, and diversity content of your research topic can affect the diversity of the researchers who are attracted to joining your research team. In one case, a shift in the research priorities of a mechanical engineering lab led to an increased number of women working in the lab. This was due to a change in focus toward fluid mechanics with human health applications of importance for women.

Ideally, you need to able to be able to do two things:

  • Articulate how sex, gender, and diversity relate to your study. Reflect on the diversity of populations in or related to your research and how the research question and/or methodology could be adapted. Consider learning more about and applying gender-based analysis plus (GBA+). See Additional Resources for more information.
  • Consider how all relevant aspects of the research design could be strengthened by integrating EDI considerations, from the framing of research questions to dissemination of results. Be prepared to explain your rationale about how you considered sex, gender, and diversity and the implications.

While some research designs may not involve sex, gender, or diversity as variables, have you considered who is involved in the design of research questions, the conduct of the research, and the dissemination of results? If you can find no intersection between your research and sex, gender, and diversity, you will need to explain how and why sex, gender, and diversity do not apply to your research design.

Ask yourself the questions in this Sex, Gender, and Diversity Research Design Questionnaire to help you reflect on when, where, and how sex, gender, and diversity interact with your research design.

Additional Resources