equality + diversity 

At the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, we've been leading a number of equality & diversity initiatives to increase inclusion of people from diverse backgrounds and experiences in neuroscience.

Please feel free to use any of the resources we've generated (or get in touch to add to any of the lists - they are always in development).

List of prizes for early-career researchers to consider applying for 

(NB: (1) time since PhD typically excludes any career breaks, parental leave etc.; (2) this list does not include travel awards to attend specific conferences, since most societies have these, but does include travel awards to attend any conference; (3) please contact @camillalnord (Twitter) to add any more prizes to this list, or if you are a previous winner who is willing to be contacted by applicants at the MRC CBU).

List of fellowships for early-career researchers to consider applying for

This is a list of postdoctoral/early-career fellowship opportunities compiled by Rogier Kievit and the MRC CBU Equality and Diversity Committee. It was up-to-date as of e/o 2019, but alas it is always changing... Below is an overview of Postdoctoral Fellowships in/to the United Kingdom. These have a special focus on psychology, neuroscience, development, and mental health. They vary in remit, duration, and eligibility – Be sure to check the current scheme notes as they are subject to change.


Research Councils/Academies



Asking about gender, race, and socioeconomic status in your experiments

How should we phrase questions regarding sex, gender, and ethnicity in our experiments? They are sensitive topics and (of course) the way you do it will depend on the research question you're asking. But we've put together a few example ways of phrasing things that seemed to minimize offence and increase the chances that someone will want to take part in your experiment. Please feel free to use, modify, or suggest some better ones!

With thanks to Prof Mike Anderson, Dr Kevin van Schie, Giulia Barsuola, and the MRC CBU Equality and Diversity Committee.

Example sex, gender, and ethnicity questions for demographic questionnaires


Example introductory statement:

The following section includes some questions about your background and demographics. These questions may not seem particularly relevant to the research tasks that you completed today. However, knowing the demographics of the people who take part in our research helps us understand who our participant sample represents. This is important in understanding the extent to which our findings might be specific to certain groups of people (e.g., undergraduate students), or whether they might generalise to wider populations. Collecting these data are part of our efforts to increase diversity within our research participant samples.  Please note that these questions are optional, and you are free to leave them blank if you would prefer not to answer. As with all other data you have provided today, your answers will be anonymised and kept securely.

What is your gender?




Other (please describe):

Prefer not to say


Is it the same as your sex assigned at birth?



Prefer not to say


Which categories describe you? Select all that apply to you: 

American Indian, Alaskan Native, Aboriginal Australians, Maori – for example, Navajo Nation, Blackfeet Tribe, Mayan, Aztec, Native Village of Barrow Inupiat Traditional Government, Nome Eskimo Community, Anindilyakwa, Arrernte, Bininj, Gunggari, Muruwari.

Asian – for example, Chinese, Filipino, Asian Indian, Vietnamese, Korean, Japanese

Black or African American – for example, Jamaican, Haitian, Nigerian, Ethiopian, Somalian

Latino/Latina/Latinx – for example, Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Salvadoran, Dominican, Columbian

Middle Eastern or North African – for example, Lebanese, Iranian, Egyptian, Syrian, Moroccan, Algerian

Pacific Islanders – for example, Native Hawaiian, Samoan, Chamorro, Tongan, Fijian, Marshallese

White – for example, German, Irish, English, Scottish, Welsh, Northern Irish, British, Traveller, Italian, French

Other ethnicity or origin (please describe):

Prefer not to say

How can we stem the ‘leaky pipeline’ of diverse neuroscientists? (MRC CBU Equality and Diversity Day 2020)

On 6th November, we hosted the MRC CBU’s Equality and Diversity Day 2020. The topic was: How can we stem the ‘leaky pipeline’ of diverse neuroscientists?


The detailed schedule can be found on the link above, but includes the following talks:

 11.00: Sophie Meekings,"Doing acoustic research as a deaf person, and other terrible decisions"

11.25: Jo Begbie, "The role of Foundation Years in championing socioeconomic diversity" 

12.10: Rogier Kievit and Anne-Laura van Harmelen, "Spinning plates - combining caring roles and scientific careers"

12.35: Alfredo Carpineti, "What it’s like being LGBTQ+ in STEM"

13.35: Lorna Halliday, "Plugging the leaky pipeline of women in science"

14.00: Michele Veldsman, "The many faces of imposter syndrome"

And a general discussion at the end.

Here is the recording of the talks and discussion (with speakers' consent)

Guidance on mitigating effects of CV-19 on careers: advice for applicants and line managers

Most members of the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit (CBU) have faced barriers in continuing their work during the CV-19 pandemic. In some cases, these barriers have been substantial: inability to conduct most normal work activities due to the lock-down, limited time to work due to caring responsibilities, or living situations that preclude working from home. We have put together a document that provides a small number of example scenarios to suggest some ways of discussing the impact of CV-19 on your work when you apply for jobs and promotions (etc.). We welcome additions to this list (email camilla.nord@mrc-cbu.cam.ac.uk with the format “example situation” and “example text for CV or statement”).


Do I need to include a statement about the effect of CV-19 on my career?

Not necessarily. Consider the following scenarios carefully and think about whether CV-19 has had a noticeable impact on your career which you think merits an explanatory note in the context of whatever you are applying for. If need be, consult with colleagues or mentors. It may be that for certain applications, you do not feel the need to excuse a change in work due to CV-19, but for others (perhaps further in the future when a gap in productivity or the time-line of your research is evident), an explanation is helpful.

 Whether or not you believe your work suffered, it may have changed considerably as a result of CV-19 (examples below include moving teaching modules online or virtual team-management, but there are many others.). You may find this general information is actually helpful to include for a particular application, if you think it is relevant.

 Of note, funding bodies like Wellcome are actively encouraging people to discuss what they’ve had to cope with on funding applications1. Wellcome have introduced a space on their application forms to specifically mention the impacts of COVID-19 on their progress. At the Unit, if relevant, you could consider including a statement like this on your annual appraisal, promotion application, or application for grant or fellowship funding.

 Why is this issue relevant for equality and diversity?

 Long-term effects of the pandemic are still uncertain, but initial evidence certainly indicates there are disproportionate effects of the pandemic on under-represented groups, which includes people from financially disadvantaged backgrounds, women, people from minority ethnic backgrounds, and people with physical and mental health conditions. In addition, early-career academics are emerging as a group that may be particularly affected by the pandemic. See example articles below (A few perspectives on the unequal effects of COVID-19).

1 https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-020-02183-x

Example scenarios and possible ways of addressing

 Example scenario: any situation that reduced your working hours

First, calculate your rough % FTE during the pandemic. E.g., if you are normally contracted to work 36.5 hours per week, but during the pandemic you have only been able to work one day per week, you have been working at 20% FTE. If this changed at some point (3 months at 20%, one month at 10%), be explicit.

 Example text for CV/statement in job application or promotion form (you do not have to explain why – for ways to do this if you want to, see additional examples):

 *NB: From March 2020 – [fill in relevant end-date], I worked the equivalent of 10% FTE [calculate your equivalent amount] from [start date] to [end date].


Example scenario: Early-career researcher running a study that has not yet resulted in publications because of CV-19 delays

Example text for CV/statement in job application or promotion form:

*NB: From March 2020 – [fill in relevant end-date], data collection for this study was halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This resulted in later-than-anticipated study follow-up and closure, with concomitant delays in the [x number of] publications expected to result from this project.


From 2019-2021, I was the lead researcher for STUDYONE, a longitudinal cohort study with multimodal assessments (neuroimaging; behavioural; clinical symptoms). Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I was responsible for rapidly moving assessments online and restructuring our follow-up data collection sessions via extensive coordination with participants. Although these exceptional circumstances delayed study output, this demonstrates my ability to flexibly restructure complex experiments in circumstances of extreme uncertainty.


Example scenario: Staff member with managerial responsibilities who has been responsible for moving team workloads online

Example text for CV/statement in job application or promotion form:

During the CV-19 pandemic [specific dates], I undertook responsibility for those I managed to proactively and deliberately ensure the preferred level of contact on the preferred communication channel was observed in all my correspondence. I led the adaptation of my team’s work deliverables to a variety of different platforms to maintain work momentum. Additionally, this undertaking to observe and be seen to support the agreed team protocols helped prevent social exclusion within the lab group and boosted team cohesion by strengthening trust.

Example scenario: Student or staff member with caring responsibilities who has been unable to work their expected hours

Example text for CV/statement in job application or promotion form:

*NB: From March 2020 – [fill in relevant end-date], I worked the equivalent of 10% FTE [calculate your equivalent amount] from [start of additional caring responsibilities] to [end of additional caring responsibilities – amend for relevant changes].

Example scenario: Member with teaching responsibilities responsible for moving to an online format

 Example text for CV/statement in job application or promotion form:

 In [dates], I rewrote all teaching materials for online delivery, including a hybrid discussion-lecture model in lieu of the traditional lecture format. This substantial undertaking also involved additional responsibilities for online teaching administration, including decisions about online exam formats and marking, and support for students with exceptional needs during the pandemic.


Example scenario: Member with severe technological or other impediments to home work

 *NB: From March 2020 – [fill in relevant end-date], work on these studies  was severely restricted due to home working/severe technological impediments during the global pandemic.


Example scenario: Member with physical or mental health condition causing work delays

 *NB: From March 2020 – [fill in relevant end-date, if applicable], work on these studies was severely restricted due to ill health. [If applicable: I resumed full-time work from [relevant date]].


Example scenario: Member with close bereavement due to CV-19

 *NB: From [fill in relevant start-date], I experienced a close bereavement due to CV-19, causing a severe restriction in hours worked and concomitant delay in study output. I resumed full-time work from [relevant date].

A few perspectives on the unequal effects of COVID-19

Nature careers article on ‘how the pandemic threatens to make UK universities less diverse,’ and what institutions can do to staunch these effects. Reports on a June letter to Nature Ecology and Evolution arguing that job losses form the pandemic will disproportionately affect researchers from under-represented groups, including women, people from minority ethnic backgrounds and those who are financially disadvantaged:



Science commentary on ‘How early-career scientists are coping with COVID-19 challenges and fears’, including quotes from scientists about their experience and how they have tried to mitigate the effects on their careers:



Nature Reviews Cancer commentary on the effect of the pandemic on early-career cancer researchers (also relevant for non-cancer researchers), which discusses the additional effects of caring responsibilities, disproportionately carried by ECIs (particularly women), and the set of challenges faced by investigators who are from minority groups which may be amplified. Moreover, clinical trainees, with in-demand skillsets, are necessarily being pulled from protected research time to provide clinical care to patients with COVID-19. Also proposes some initiatives to help mitigate the effects:



Nature careers article on ‘The career cost of COVID-19 to female researchers, and how science should respond’. Discusses the potential for inequality in scientific publishing output (suggesting female researchers, particularly those at early-career stages, are the hardest hit). Journal editors, funders, and academic leaders comment on how to mitigate the threat for female researchers specifically.



PNAS comment on the gendered impacts of COVID-19 on academic faculty/PIs, which they argue are exacerbated by salary inequalities for women, and in particular women faculty of colour. Discusses ‘ways in which COVID-19 is amplifying known barriers to women’s career advancement’, and proposing actionable solutions, which include the formation of a Pandemic Response Faculty Fellow or Pandemic Faculty Merit Committee (PFMC) https://www.pnas.org/content/117/27/15378 (most relevant to US universities but with some transferable messages to the UK).


Nature careers article on ‘Six ways to juggle science and childcare from home’. Some first-person perspectives from scientists working while caring for children. https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-020-01060-x


Times Higher Education report of survey that shows gender gap in working time, with childcare the biggest factor (need to register to read) https://www.timeshighereducation.com/news/childcare-key-limit-scientists-pandemic-working-hours