Breaking good:
taking down the walls of academia

When it comes to dismantling the perceived ‘walls of academia’, results suggested that cultural changes in the higher echelons of institutions needed to change.

Notably, 61% of academic respondents said, ‘Poor decision making by policy makers’ was the single largest factor in preventing a more inclusive society.

Policy making

The survey also revealed that poor decision making by policy makers was at least a ‘moderate’ factor 98% of the time. Moreover, policy making is an area that academics frequently consider in their research outcomes – in terms of recommendations and impacts on society.

In addition, 52% of academic respondents thought, ‘Academic research can lead to better evidence-based decision making by government and policy makers’. This comes as no surprise in an area where academics will already be working with policy makers. As researchers increasingly look to make a difference, demonstrating impact through policy change becomes much more significant – 79% of academics believe there should be more funding for research on these issues.

However, the call for more funding was significantly quieter in the public surveys – 47% of the US public said there should be more research funding into issues for an inclusive society – while only 31% of the UK public agreed the same.

Question: What do you think is the main benefit of research in achieving an inclusive society?

% Benefit
52% Academic research can lead to better evidence-based decision making by government policy makers
25% Better public awareness of the issues around inclusivity
17% Improved quality of education for all
3% Other
1% Don’t know/don’t understand the benefits of completing academic research

All knowing

According to the survey, the main challenge to academia in building a more inclusive society lies in ‘knowledge mobilisation’: making sure academic research gets into the hands of those who will use it in practice. This was chosen as the single biggest factor within academia (67%). Businesses and policymakers were viewed as the strongest force for creating a more inclusive world.

The need for interdisciplinary collaboration was also seen as an important issue for driving inclusivity research, with 6 in 10 academics believing that this was a significant factor in driving inclusivity.

The sentiment was mirrored when respondents were asked to rank traits that they felt created a more inclusive society, with the belief that inclusivity promotes different ways of thinking, a more open learning culture and a positive effect on creativity clearly emerging.

The fourth biggest factor for creating greater cohesion, with just over half (51%) of academics choosing this option, was for international universities and institutions to work more collaboratively. In an age where more and more challenges are global, with the COVID 19 pandemic a poignant example, international collaboration has never been more important.

Furthermore, international teams that are also interdisciplinary are vital for tackling such complex and grand challenges. Funding for international projects, however, is notoriously difficult and often requires applying to multiple sources.

Large research programmes such as Europe’s Horizon 2020 are often a go-to for those looking to fund international projects, but for UK researchers at least, access to EU funding may become more problematic after the Brexit transition ends.

What needs to change in academia

Question: What do you think the main challenges are to academia in creating a more inclusive society as defined by the UN Sustainable Development Goals? The percentages are of times selected (ranked).

% Change
67% More knowledge exchange between academia and practice to be effective
60% Needs more of an interdisciplinary approach
55% Addressing that academic culture itself isn’t very inclusive
51% More collaboration across different universities globally
43% Addressing that there’s not enough funding compared to other subject areas
37% More collaboration needed between established researchers and early career researchers
36% The incentives in academia work against the definition of inclusivity
35% Provable benefits take too long to be evident in society
30% Hard to prove the benefits of the research in driving change

What's in the report?

The report contains an introduction and 9 sections; use the grid below to navigate, or click to go to the next section.

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Through the barricades: establishing barriers to inclusivity

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Driving inclusivity: responsibilities within academic research

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