Disability Inclusive Science Careers – project conclusion

The funding for DISC ended in February 2022, however, DISC continues through a range of other projects funded by NERC, Royal Society of Chemistry and the Foundation for the Sociology of Health and Illness. DISC has been a very successful project and our public engagement and impact work continues. Here we share the main messages from DISC. We also want to thank the EPSRC for their funding, all of our research participants and user-led research team and everyone who has supported the project along the way including Heriot Watt University, University of Edinburgh, the National Association of Disabled Staff Networks and University and Colleges Union Scotland.

DISC summary

  • Disability Inclusive Science Careers (DISC) was an EPSRC funded Inclusion Matters project which ran from 2019 to 2022.  
  • DISC was led by Heriot-Watt University (Professor Garry Pender and Professor Kate Sang as PIs/Programme Director, Co Investigators: Dr Sara Shinton, Dr Frédéric Bosché, Professors Malcolm Chrisp, Gill Hogg, Robert MacIntosh, Steve McLaughlin) partnering with the University of Edinburgh, University and Colleges Union Scotland, National Association of Disabled Staff Networks 
  • The aim of DISC was to improve the recruitment, retention & progression of postdoctoral disabled scientists through the co-design of a suite of open access web-based tools and immersive virtual reality gaming technologies 
  • Over a period of 3 years DISC mapped existing disability provision and policy across Scottish Universities, interviewed key stakeholders, co-designed, delivered and evaluated disability training which aimed to increase research leaders’ understanding of disability. 
  • Our data showed that disability is poorly served by university policies, often positioned as a problem for the organisation to solve, rather than a valued diversity. Key stakeholders displayed poor understanding of disability and disability policy. 
  • Using a participatory action research framework, DISC co-designed training for research leaders, focusing on the social model of disability and legal responsibilities. Immersive Virtual Reality training was used to enable training attendees to put into practice their learning from the training 
  • DISC has had considerable reach and impact. We have delivered training to 4 universities, one charity (twice), two private sector companies, a trade union and Scottish Government 
  • Examples of impact include change of university policies, wording on staff surveys (resulting in an increase in reporting rates of disability), raised understanding and awareness of disability, and successful additional funding. 
  • DISC will continue to monitor its impact, and widen the scope and depth of this impact within universities and across industry and government.  
  • We make a number of recommendations in this report for making research careers more accessible and inclusive for disabled early career researchers 

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