Brain Sciences


Research Funding Proposals

Learn about the research we funded for 2022/23.

Funding Grant Applications 

A top priority for The ERB Centre is funding research projects that contribute to generating understanding and solutions for equality challenges in policy and society. Here are the funding grant applications with summaries about the research that received funding support from the ERB Centre.

Grant 1: An exploration of the experiences of students from Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds on a pre-registration speech and language therapy training programme. 

Authors: Smith, Christina christina.smith@ucl.ac.uk; Rees, Rachel rachel.rees@ucl.ac.uk

Summary: Previous research with students from BAME backgrounds on physiotherapy training programmes identified themes that included: feeling like an outsider, lack of understanding of cultural and ethnic differences and lack of power and influence. The speech and language therapy profession has even fewer members from BAME backgrounds.  Therefore, this study will aim to discover whether similar or different themes arise with speech and language therapy students.   

All students on the MSc Speech and Language Sciences programme (approximately 120 students) will be invited to participate in an online focus group if they identify themselves as being from a BAME background.   We are recruiting a research assistant, not associated with the programme, to run the focus group with ten students, using a topic guide developed from the literature.  

The group conversation during the focus group will be recorded on Zoom, so that a good quality transcript will be automatically generated.  The research assistant (supervised by the applicants) will conduct an analysis on the transcript and will take a lead on writing the report. 

Ethical guidelines will be followed. The student volunteers will be asked for consent after being provided with the relevant information.  Only the research assistant will know the names of the participants and, during the focus group, they will instruct the participants not to use each other’s names. The recording will be deleted once the anonymised transcription is completed.   

Themes arising from the analysis will indicate issues to be addressed on the programme and other programmes for health professionals at UCL and other higher education institutes. 

Grant 2: Accessibility and digital systems support for neurodivergent students at UCL 

Authors: Cox, Anna anna.cox@ucl.ac.uk; Rudnicka, Anna anna.rudnicka.15@ucl.ac.uk; Tcherdakoff, Alex 

Summary: Blended learning has become a mainstream learning experience for many universities, including UCL, during the COVID-19 pandemic. While blended learning has received much attention over the years, particularly in the area of education, we still know little about how people with disabilities engage in blended learning from their homes and what access means in this context. To understand and rethink accessibility in blended learning, we propose a programme of study of blended learning practices of neurodivergent students who have Autism Spectrum Disorder, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, learning disabilities (e.g., dyslexia) and psychosocial disabilities (e.g., anxiety, depression).  

We request funds to support a study that will explore the extent to which neurodivergent students are able to create accessible physical and digital workspaces, negotiate accessible communication practices, and reconcile tensions between productivity and wellbeing. Our analysis will identify what access means in blended learning environments for neurodivergent students and offer practical insights for inclusive teaching and learning practices and accessibility improvements in remote learning tools. We will submit the resulting paper to an HCI journal and create a leaflet to support neurodivergent students in their use of digital technology for blended learning. 

Grant 3: UCL and EDI: Investigating wellbeing during the pandemic period. 

Authors: Gutman, Leslie l.gutman@ucl.ac.uk

Summary: We have recently obtained access to the UCL Weekly Wellbeing Survey, which can be used to investigate the wellbeing of UCL colleagues during the pandemic. This is a large and rich data set (n = 45,454) collected weekly from June 2020 to July 2021. What is interesting about this dataset is that it contains data on participants' wellbeing and their views of UCL's support and policies during the pandemic as well as their gender, age and ethnicity.  This makes it a great opportunity to investigate changes in wellbeing and how UCL's support and policies contributed to wellbeing during COVID-19. We further aim to investigate whether the pandemic was particularly challenging for certain groups of UCL colleagues and whether UCL's support and policies mitigated these challenges, enriching the ongoing UCL discussions in terms of EDI and COVID-19. Together with the quantitative analysis of the dataset, we plan to conduct qualitative interviews, combining the insights from the two data sources to suggest intervention strategies to improve wellbeing for different groups as they adjust to the new hybrid working environment.

Grant 4: Inclusiveness in Mental Health Research: A Survey of Attitudes, Awareness, and Actions among Neuroscience, Psychology and Psychiatry Journal Editors 

Investigators: Patrizia Pezzoli and Essi Viding (UCL Psychology and Language Sciences), Joan Marsh (The Lancet Psychiatry, European Association of Science Editors)  

Summary: To improve inclusiveness in mental health research, a change in academic culture is needed. Peer-reviewed journals are among the key drivers of this change, as they influence science dissemination and, indirectly, funding and direction of research. Despite this, hardly any studies have been conducted to examine Journal Editors’ awareness and actions in appraising and selecting content that is inclusive and diverse. This study will examine the current knowledge of and commitment to available guidelines and best practices concerning inclusiveness in mental health research practices and reporting. We will invite Editors-in-Chief and Senior Editors at Neuroscience, Psychology and Psychiatry journals handling mental health submissions to complete an anonymous online survey. The survey will measure attitudes towards, awareness of, and perceived adherence to editorial policies aimed to enhance inclusiveness in research practices and reporting. It will cover the following three dimensions of inclusiveness: 1) Sex and gender, namely biological attributes relating to sex, as well as roles and expectations relating to gender; 2) Race and ethnicity, namely self- or socially ascribed membership to a group, based on physical characteristics and skin colour or based on values, norms, and behaviours of those who share culture and language; and 3) Inclusion of the voice of service users (individuals with lived and living experience) in the development, implementation, and dissemination of the research. This study is expected to shed light on current state of inclusiveness issues in Neuroscience, Psychology and Psychiatry journals, and to identify areas of improvement that can inform policy development efforts.

Grant 5: Impact of a discussion forum for diverse groups of students and impact on mental health 

Authors: Howell, Peter p.howell@ucl.ac.uk; Zhongyao Zhang; Audrey Zhang

Summary:  UCL Diversity Forum is an online platform devised by UCL scholars. It aims to promote diversity and inclusion at UCL. The forum works by providing students with an opportunity to share their opinions privately about individual backgrounds and societal challenges students face when adjusting to university life. The anonymized posts are analyzed to establish statistical trends concerning factors that affect student welfare.   

The Diversity forum has been a platform for students from diverse racial and gender groups to voice their opinion since 2019. Issues that have triggered lively discussions recently include academic stress during lockdown and international affairs. Users from different racial groups who used the forum increased their engagement and feeling of belongingness to the UCL community. The forum also engaged student groups who usually do not express views publicly, particularly those students with mental vulnerabilities (high stress/low mental wellbeing). Posts and comments from students with mental health issues provide valuable insights for university administrators when devising inclusive and personalised curricula.   

The next step is to extend the forum from departmental, to faculty-wide, cohorts of students. The diversity forum will provide an important means for researchers to understand the perspectives of students from diverse backgrounds on external (e.g., international crises), and internal (e.g., tuition fees) issues, and how these factors enhance or diminish students’ satisfaction with university experiences.  

The Diversity Forum addresses some of UCL’s grand challenges for EDI. Staff can learn about the experiences and suggestions students share about private and public concerns and different impacts of policies on students from diverse backgrounds. Consequently, this project should promote a culture of accessibility and inclusivity for all identities and groups and for developing a model for effective communications between staff and students.


two people pictured starring

Current Funding Calls 

Funding calls are currently open.