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EDIRI Working Group Report

The University of Toronto’s commitment to equity and diversity is central to its public mission as well as its devotion to the pursuit of excellence. One of the strategic objectives of our new Institutional Strategic Research Plan is a commitment to advance equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) across research and innovation, and this objective will guide the work of the division of the Vice-President, Research & Innovation (VPRI).

Given the importance of EDI at the University, in 2017 I struck the Equity and Diversity in Research and Innovation Working Group. The Working Group was charged with providing VPRI with counsel and direction on strategies to foster a culture of EDI within U of T’s research and innovation activities, as well as advising on new requirements for equity action plans for some federal research programs (including the development of our CRC Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan). The Working Group met regularly during 2017–18 and has provided me with their Final Report. I thank the members of the Working Group and the Chair, Professor Lori Ferris, Associate Vice‐President, Research Oversight & Compliance, for their efforts and their service to the University in producing this comprehensive and insightful Report.

The Report proposes forty-nine recommendations to support our commitment to excellence and EDI as related to external and internal research funding programs, honours and awards for faculty, and innovation and entrepreneurship. In particular, the recommendations highlight the need for VPRI to provide leadership in ensuring consistent EDI practices, increasing awareness of institutional actions, supporting education and resources, facilitating the collection and use of data, and promoting community partnerships in research involving underrepresented groups. The recommendations also call on the VPRI to engage with the Provost, the Vice-President, Human Resources & Equity, the academic divisions and affiliated hospitals, as well as the broader University community to implement EDI measures to attract and retain diverse and excellent researchers among both faculty members and trainees, foster flexible working conditions that accommodate personal circumstances, and create an inclusive environment.

I accept all the recommendations of the Report that are directed to my office and agree to work with relevant University officers on recommendations that are in the jurisdiction of those offices. The Working Group noted that the Report recommendations build on previous and ongoing work at the University to fulfill our shared responsibility to build an equitable, diverse, and inclusive environment for faculty, staff, and students. The Report stressed that institutional work to address EDI at U of T should not happen in silos. Accordingly, my office is engaged in consultations with the Provost, Vice-President, Human Resources & Equity, Principals & Deans, and the Research Advisory Board in order to develop an implementation plan for EDI in research and innovation. We will work to coordinate with existing activities being carried out in other portfolios to avoid duplication of effort and to ensure consistency for our community.

Several of the recommendations of the Working Group relate to the building of capacity within VPRI to lead the implementation of the recommendations. Two recommendations point to the need for senior staffing within the VPRI portfolio. I am pleased to report our success in appointing a new Research Equity & Diversity Strategist, who will be responsible for guiding and supporting implementation of VPRI’s equity and diversity initiatives, with particular emphasis on facilitating the implementation of the Report recommendations and ensuring we meet the requirements of the University’s Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan in relation to the Canada Research Chairs (CRC) program. The Strategist will work with key stakeholders across the University and affiliated hospitals and in consultation with other shared service offices and the leadership of the academic divisions. A new Partnerships Development Officer has also been appointed to provide proactive support in promoting community partnerships in research involving underrepresented groups, including Indigenous communities, as well in developing a long-term strategy to help us better assist our faculty who wish to build partner-based research programs.

Through the implementation of the recommendations and the continual examination and monitoring of practices, policies, and programs, we will work to integrate EDI principles within the University’s research and innovation activities as well as aligning the VPRI’s strategies with the broader initiatives at the University of Toronto.

Vivek Goel
Vice President, Research and Innovation, and Strategic Initiatives
September 11, 2018

Equity and Diversity in Research and Innovation (EDRI) Working Group

Recommendations: May 14, 2018


Members of the Working Group

  • Lori Ferris, Chair, Associate Vice-President, Research Oversight and Compliance and Professor, Dalla Lana School of Public Health, STG
  • Caroline Fusco, Associate Professor, Faculty of Kinesiology & Physical Education, STG
  • Bryan Gaensler, Director, Dunlap Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics, STG
  • Sarah Kaplan, University of Toronto Distinguished Professor of Gender & the Economy, Rotman, STG
  • Alison Keith, Director, Jackman Humanities Institute, STG
  • Anna Korteweg, Chair, Department of Sociology, UTM
  • Renée J. Miller, Professor, Department of Computer Science, STG
  • Keren Rice, University Professor and Chair, Department of Linguistics, STG
  • Lisa Robinson, Professor, Department of Paediatrics and Faculty of Medicine Chief Diversity Officer, STG
  • Paula Rochon, Vice President, Research, Women’s College Hospital and Professor, Faculty of Medicine
  • Bryan Stewart, Vice-Principal Research, UTM
  • Stephannie Roy, Director, Strategic Initiatives, Office of the Vice-President, Research and Innovation
  • Andrea Russell, Director, Academic Affairs, Office of the Vice-Provost, Faculty and Academic Life

Section 1: Message from the Equity & Diversity in Research & Innovation Working Group

The University of Toronto is committed to excellence in achieving our academic mission as we strive for a diverse, equitable and inclusive community [1]. The Working Group believes that if we broaden where we look and how we look for excellent scholars, we will increase the involvement of diverse groups in research and innovation activities, in Vice President Research and Innovation (VPRI) portfolio adjudication activities, and more generally expand the richness of our academic community. The Recommendations in this Report are intended to address this commitment to excellence, diversity, equity and inclusiveness.

Our Working Group was struck by the Vice-President, Research and Innovation in June 2017. The Recommendations from this Working Group build on previous and ongoing work at the University of Toronto (U of T) to fulfill our shared responsibility to build a diverse, equitable and inclusive community for faculty, staff and students.

The Working Group was asked to (see Appendix A for the full terms of reference):

provide the Vice-President, Research and Innovation with counsel and direction on matters relating to equity, diversity and inclusion within the University of Toronto’s research and innovation enterprise. Working in synergy with initiatives in other portfolios (e.g., Vice- President and Provost, Vice-President, Human Resources and Equity), the EDRI will advise on new requirements for equity action plans for some federal research programs and on strategies to foster a culture of equity, diversity and inclusion within U of T’s research and innovation activities.”

The Working Group spent the first part of its time providing advice on the development of the University’s Canada Research Chair Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan and the new Institutional Strategic Research Plan, 2018-23. The next phase of its work was to make Recommendations related to external and internal research funding programs, awards and honours for faculty, and innovation and entrepreneurship.

The need for quality data specific to U of T underpins many of the Working Group’s Recommendations and we have made specific Recommendations to facilitate collection and use. Unfortunately, there is an absence of U of T data but this should not hinder moving forward on the Recommendations. It will take time to collect and use data, and in the meantime, the Working Group encourages the use of whatever data we have and other sources of information (e.g. literature, work done in the divisions). The Working Group realizes that collecting the data needed to truly move forward on equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) is not easy, in part as many people may not wish to self-identify. To facilitate the collection of data, one of our recommendations is for the VPRI to mount a high-profile campaign with a strong presence on the new VPRI portfolio website, to encourage researchers to complete the University’s diversity survey and participate in other surveys or forms of data collection pertaining to EDI in research and innovation. We believe that faculty, students and staff will be more likely to participate in data collection efforts if they clearly understand why this information is important and how the data will be protected and used.

While there needs to be continual effort on the part of the University to focus on the Canada Research Chair (CRC) Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan, we need to be ready for other Tri-Agency efforts to increase equity, diversity and inclusion. NSERC is now moving toward having advancement of EDI as one of its selection criteria for the Discovery grants and other programs (see here for more information). Our Recommendations should help in positioning the VPRI for this future. The Working Group is very supportive of the new VPRI portfolio position that was awarded in the 2018 budget to particularly support the implementation of the CRC Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan.

The Working Group is impressed with many initiatives at the university that promote EDI. It is not possible to catalogue all of these measures. However, the Working Group would like to highlight some that seem the most related to our work; these are noted in our Report. We also recognize that local initiatives are pivotal as they can be strategically designed to address inequities or relevant issues. We encourage departments and divisions to develop their own mechanisms to address local EDI concerns.

Implementing the Recommendations will take both time and resources. To maintain leadership in the area of EDI in research and innovation, the VPRI will need to prioritize the Recommendations. The VPRI has already made a significant commitment to EDI by including it as a strategic objective in the 2018-2023 Institutional Strategic Research Plan and with this in mind, we encourage timely implementation of our Recommendations.

Section 2: Introductions & Definitions

The EDRI Working Group is guided by the University of Toronto’s Statement on Equity, Diversity and Excellence, which recognizes that:

“Our teaching, scholarship and other activities take place in the context of a highly diverse society. Reflecting this diversity in our own community is uniquely valuable to the University as it contributes to the diversification of ideas and perspectives and thereby enriches our scholarship, teaching and other activities.”

“An equitable and inclusive working and learning environment creates the conditions for our diverse staff and student body to maximize their creativity and their contributions, thereby supporting excellence in all dimensions of the institution.”

The terms of reference for the Working Group are to examine equity and diversity within research and innovation. As the literature refers to equity, diversity and inclusion, the Working Group adopted inclusion in its work.

Equity, Diversity and Inclusion

The Working Group has adopted a broad definition of equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) to inform its Recommendations that encompasses the groups captured by the University’s updated diversity survey — gender identity, sexual orientation, disability and ethno-cultural identity [2]. The Working Group also recognizes that individuals are socially defined in many ways in terms of gender, race, ability, religion, Indigenous identity and sexual orientation, and that there is overlap and intersections within these identities. In our Recommendations we refer to EDI for groups for whom we are seeking equity. We emphasize both the need to better represent the diversity of our community in the Greater Toronto Area and recognize that people who identify with one or more of the interacting categories of women, Indigenous people, racialized persons/persons of colour, LGBTQ+ persons, and persons with disabilities need to be full participants in research and innovation at U of T. Inclusion is foundational to a truly equitable and diverse working and learning environment and allows researchers to fully realize their aspirations.

We recognize that this lens is broader than the designated groups used in Federal programs. The Federal programs have four designated groups: women, Indigenous/Aboriginal persons, visible minorities, and persons with disabilities [3]. It is understood that the University is required to collect information about these designated groups for the Federal programs and the EDRI Working Group recognizes this obligation in its Recommendations. This Working Group was planned before the federal government’s announcement of required institutional Canada Research Chair (CRC) Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Action Plans. The review of the University’s Action Plan was an important aspect of the Group’s work and we view initiatives specific to CRCs as being important for research and innovation more broadly at U of T. We hope our Recommendations will be foundational to meeting our CRC Action Plan goals. Yet, we believe that fully addressing EDI requires moving beyond the four categories put forth by the government.

The Working Group adopted the following definitions to guide our work:

Equity is the fair and respectful treatment of all people and involves the creation of opportunities and reduction of disparities in opportunities and outcomes for diverse communities. It also acknowledges that these disparities are rooted in historical and contemporary injustices and disadvantages.

Diversity is the demographic mix of the university community and involves recognizing and respecting everyone’s unique qualities and attributes, but focuses particularly on groups that remain underrepresented at U of T.

Inclusion means creating an environment where everyone feels welcome and respected, focusing on groups that remain underrepresented at U of T. It means creating the conditions to have the opportunity to fully participate in the University, and where everyone’s talents are valued and celebrated. It is important to note that while an inclusive group is by definition diverse, a diverse group is not always inclusive. An inclusive University strives for equity, and respects, accepts and values difference.

Collectively, these are referred to as EDI in this report. These Recommendations build on previous and ongoing work at the University of Toronto to fulfill our shared responsibility to build an equitable, diverse and inclusive environment for faculty, staff and students.

Section 3: Recommendations

View the EDIRI Recommendations


Appendix A – Equity and Diversity in Research and Innovation Working Group Terms of Reference

The Equity & Diversity in Research & Innovation Working Group (EDRI) will provide the Vice- President, Research and Innovation with counsel and direction on matters relating to equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) within the University of Toronto’s research and innovation enterprise. Working in synergy with initiatives in other portfolios (e.g., Vice-President and Provost, Vice-President, Human Resources and Equity), the EDRI will advise on new requirements for equity action plans for some federal research programs and on strategies to foster a culture of EDI within U of T’s research and innovation activities.

Terms of Reference

  1. The EDRI will provide advice and guidance to the Vice-President Research & Innovation on equity matters related to research and innovation including:
    • Canada Research Chairs (CRC) & Canadian Excellence Research Chairs (CERC)
    • Research funding (e.g. CFI, CFREF)
    • Internal programs (e.g. Connaught)
    • Awards and honours
    • Researcher recruitment and retention 
    • Innovation and entrepreneurship
  2. Appointment of faculty to the Working Group is made by the Vice-President, Research and Innovation with advice from the Vice-President and Provost and may include senior academic leaders (e.g. Vice-Provost, Faculty & Academic Life) in an advisory capacity.
  3. It is expected that the Working Group will have an initial meeting in the spring 2017 and continue to meet in the fall. It is anticipated that mandate will be for one year, with a final Report in the spring of 2018.
  4. The Working Group may create subgroups to investigate particular topics in more depth. Appropriate VPRI staff will be available to support these subgroups as needed.
  5. Members of the Working Group will advise on an implementation strategy to ensure increased awareness of equity and diversity issues in research and innovation in our community.
  6. The Working Group Report and Recommendations and will be received by the Research Advisory Board (RAB) through the Office of the Vice-President Research & Innovation.

Appendix B – Research-related Recommendations from the Final Report of the Steering Committee for the U of T Response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC)

The Working Group believes that implementation of the research-related recommendations from the Final Report of the Steering Committee for the University of Toronto Response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (“TRC”) will further EDI at U of T.

 The Working Group has included the research-related recommendations from the TRC in this Appendix and ask that it be understood that the Working Group strongly supports the TRC recommendations and considers timely implementation of the TRC recommendations as being critical to EDI.

Below are the verbatim recommendations from the TRC that are research-related.

Recommendations from the Final Report:

The Vice-President, Research and Innovation should work with other universities, in close collaboration with the granting councils, to convene a joint committee to consider the Tri- Council Policy Statement: Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans, its application to research involving Indigenous peoples and communities, and the fit with existing research funding programs of the granting councils.

The Provost and the Vice-President, Research and Innovation should oversee the development of research training modules that recognize historical patterns of unethical research in and with Indigenous communities. Specific cultural and research ethics training should be made available to any scholar seeking to work in an Indigenous community. 

The University should consider the creation of a Research Ethics Board sub-committee focused solely on Indigenous-related research. The sub-committee would be tasked to develop a protocol for coordinating the ethical review with Indigenous communities.

Recommendations from the Indigenous Research Ethics and Community Relationships Working Group:

Invest in education for those engaged in agreements with Indigenous communities on behalf of faculty members and U of T. It is important that interested parties learn how to facilitate negotiation and understand issues that are potentially quite sensitive and be open and engaging. The Working Group believes that it is important to deliver this education within the academic divisions and the central office of the Vice-President, Research and Innovation, to ensure they have the tools to promote Indigenous-related research (Note: the permanent central office can be a major resource for this education).

Ensure that new faculty hires at U of T who are doing Indigenous research have adequate start- up funds for commencing ethical and respectful research studies. The key here is to optimise the conditions for success for University faculty hires.

Take a leadership role in advocating for grant funds for pilot work (e.g. seed grants) in support of Indigenous-related research as well as for funding to facilitate Indigenous linguistic and cultural translation for research dissemination, knowledge transfer and exchange, and knowledge translation. 

Examine why the Canadian Institutes of Health Research disbanded its standing peer-review committee on Indigenous-specific research, and advocate for an alternative for the various granting agencies, if this proves to be important. 

Collect feedback from researchers about how research agencies can improve their views on the peer-review system and the evaluation of Indigenous-related research grants and use this information to advocate for change in the research granting councils. U of T must be willing to take these concerns forward using an approach that is respectful of Indigenous scholarship and one that does not perpetuate the Eurocentric lenses. 

Establish accountability mechanisms at U of T to monitor and evaluate how well the University is doing in prioritizing and advancing Indigenous related-research. 

Incorporate content addressing the history of unethical research on Indigenous people in Canada into all research ethics training for students and faculty.

Ensure that training and orientation materials specifically address the Canadian context, underscoring ethically dubious research in the past and ways of avoiding similar mistakes in the future. 

Explore with Indigenous communities whether there should be a two-pronged approach to ethics review involving the specific Indigenous communities and the U of T’s REBs. The aim would be for the University REBs not to review a protocol until after the community is satisfied with the ethics of it. Such a system will need to be sensitive to the mandate of each of the two ethical review processes and be coordinated in some way so that researchers and communities are not delayed.



  1. University of Toronto Governing Council. Statement on Equity, Diversity and Excellence. December 14, 2006. 
  2. University of Toronto Employment Equity Report, 2016-2017 
  3. These are the four designated groups under the Employment Equity Act 
  4. Underrepresented groups may spend more time on administrative service and also invisible labour such as mentoring students or junior faculty. 
  5. Research has shown that having only one member of an underrepresented group on shortlists does not increase the likelihood that an underrepresented person will be hired. 
  6. This document would outline fair and equitable processes cited in the literature (for example Trix & Psenka, 2003) and resources such as those available at: http://www.faculty.utoronto.ca/resources/enhancing-diversity/unconscious- bias-education/ 
  7. TIDE—Toronto Initiative for Diversity and Excellence—was launched in Fall 2017. This program ensures that trained faculty facilitators are available to attend divisional meetings to facilitate discussion of Unconscious Bias. Representatives from a cohort of twenty-five faculty members are available to meet with any type of faculty group or committee seeking guidance on bias and how it may impact their work. 
  8. An example of an inclusion lens can be found at: http://inclusionlens.yorku.ca/ 
  9. Examples of U of T resources for student academic accommodations: Demystifying Academic Accommodations and What faculty need to know about accommodating students. 
  10. An example of voluntary self-identification is a question asking applicants to Ontario universities to voluntarily identify as Indigenous. This information is disclosed (with the student’s consent) to the universities where the student applies so they can offer services and supports and special programs (including specific admission streams). This data may also be reported in aggregate by universities to the provincial government. The Council of Ontario Universities Aboriginal Self-Identification Project provides additional information on voluntary self-identification in Ontario universities. 
  11. The gender gap in science: How long until women are equally represented? 
  12. U of T 2012 COACHE survey responses indicated the need for these resources and workshops. 


  • Implement the recommendations that are directed to the VPRI and its activities
  • Work with other offices and portfolios to implement recommendations under their jurisdiction
  • Consult and coordinate efforts with senior administrators
  • Monitor VPRI policies and practices, and identify opportunities for improvement

VPRI Contact

Nicole Kaniki
Director, Equity, Diversity & Inclusion in Research & Innovation
Office of the Vice-President, Research & Innovation

Andrea Gill
Research Equity & Diversity Strategist
Research Services Office