When you think of diversity and inclusion, what comes to mind? Gender? Ethnicity? There are many different aspects to consider and build on if we are to create a truly inclusive environment – one that stands out to me is the diversity of the perspectives we have across Health Data Research UK. Whether that’s researchers, healthcare professionals or the public, we need to hear from and work with a wide range of voices and ensure we have the foundations in place so that the work we do reflects the diversity of the population. We are committed to improving the diversity of perspectives across the Institute and this is a key area of focus of our Diversity and Inclusion Policy. Enabling the different ways of working and engagement associated with being more diverse and more inclusive, will ultimately help us bring in a wider range of perspectives and experiences and to create better science and innovation.

For us, identifying opportunities to grow the diversity of perspectives has been a vital first step. The use of health data can benefit everyone and so bringing in an array of voices to Health Data Research UK is a priority. Within patient and public involvement and engagement, our Public Advisory Board has already played an integral role in shaping all major aspects of HDR UK and continues to do so. Now is the opportunity for us to build on this groundwork and bring in work together with our community to bring in new voices and perspectives.

A key example and priority is working with seldom heard groups. We want to ensure that all patients and members of the public who want to play a role in shaping the direction of our work are enabled to do so. It needs to go beyond socio-economics, age, ethnicity, cultural and even technological differences, particularly in the current pandemic. To do this, we need to remove barriers and that will involve a change to what would be considered ‘normal’ working practices. We’re currently embarking on a new piece of work to identify what groups and populations we’re not currently connected with and we will then work with them to determine how to change that. It could be that we hold workshops and meetings at different times of the day or we offer new ways to engage in our work, such as community-based activities. Whatever it may be, we know we need to adapt and be flexible in our approach. One way in which we are inviting input from the public is through a recently launched initiative, HDR UK Voices.

We know it will take time to find the best ways in which to build relationships and the right channels of communications with all those involved in and impacted by health data research. Apart from it being the right thing to do, taking the time and investing the resources will reap huge benefits for all. For example, we have embedded the opinions, ideas and viewpoints of the various sectors involved in the work of HDR UK – such as industry, health charities, health and social care providers, government and academia – into our annual stakeholder engagement cycle, that forms part of our strategy refresh. Our International Advisory Board, with members from across the globe, has helped us see our work in a new light and provided valuable advice – and we are currently looking to expand that group to bring in further global diversity. Our Early Career Committee bring an astute and vibrant voice into the work of HDR UK and provide the important perspective of those at an earlier stage of life and work.

We’ve already seen the value that can come from bringing in diverse perspectives and know there’s still so much potential – but we also know there is still a way to go. Working in partnership will be key to HDR UK’s mission so here is my ask to you. If you are new to HDR UK and want to work with us, or perhaps you’ve identified a gap in which there are perspectives we haven’t yet incorporated, tell us! The only way we can move diversity and inclusion to business as usual and bring in new and varied perspectives is if the whole community works together. Email us at feedback@hdruk.ac.uk and let us know as we’d be keen to develop this further with you!