D&I Research

How to Address Diversity in Research Proposals - A Guide

Writing robust, detailed gender and/or diversity plans in grant applications has become increasingly important. With some funders requiring explicit descriptions on how one addresses dimensions of gender and diversity in one's project, this guide provides some prompts for thinking about the gender/diversity dimensions of your project in a comprehensive way. 

For example, Horizon Europe grant proposal templates now contain a specific one-page section titled “Gender dimension.” It used to be sufficient for applicants to mention gender balance in team composition and sample populations, as well as sex balance in animal models and cell lines. It was also sufficient for applicants to say that they will follow their institution’s gender equality or diversity plan.

However, gender and/or diversity dimensions of research proposals extend beyond team composition. They require thinking carefully about the nature of your research, your methods, and the organisation and implementation of the project, including governance, dissemination, and outreach. Also, funders expect more than a mention of a university's gender plan. 
    Below is our guide, which provides pointers for addressing this dimension in different sections.

Download the guide here to get started right away!

Purpose of this guide

This guide contains some prompts/questions to enable you to think comprehensively about the gender/diversity dimensions of your project. Please note a couple of things: 

  • The prompts are meant to spark further thinking, especially during project planning and proposal writing phases. 
  • The list isn't exhaustive -- other prompts may occur to you.
  • The list isn't intended to be a checklist. 
  • We chose to make it suitable for a range of fields rather than comprehensive for any single field. 
  • It is suitable for individual and collaborative projects.
  • It is not intended to be a guide to all of the best practices for diversity and inclusion in scholarly research, science, or academic culture. Hopefully it will prompt you to look for useful resources.

This guide is specifically focused on ensuring that proposals are competitive because they describe considerations about sex, gender, and other elements of diversity comprehensively and in the appropriate places. Check out UM Pride's video 'Sex and Gender: What?, Why?, and How?' on our D&I Education and Social Safety page for the relevance of sex and gender in research.

What diversity topics should you address (if they are relevant)?

What diversity topics should you address (if they are relevant)? Medium
  • Team composition

    Team composition Topic 1 Off
    Team composition Yes No  Information to be provided in the proposal Other resources

    Is the research team representative of the sample or study population?

        If yes, you should say so in the proposal. If no, you might consider explaining why.  
    Are there opportunities for teams to incorporate categories of diversity that are also present outside the research team?     If yes, you should explain how.  
    Is there a balance in terms of gender, age, disciplinary background (when applicable), ethnicity, language skills, socioeconomic position, disability, and other attributes (see above)?     If there is a balance, and/or you have made conscious efforts to seek a balance, then you should say so in your proposal.  
    Are you making efforts to recruit underrepresented groups to the team?     If yes, you should say so in your proposal. A list of resources is being built.
    Are you planning to make sustainable efforts to increase access of underrepresented groups to this area of research?    

    If yes, you should say so in the proposal. 

    (Note: this might be appropriate for funding from NWO or other funders for science communication. It may also be appropriate for sections of the proposal that ask about activities related to open science.)


    Also: For a management section/work package, it might be appropriate to discuss the diversity of the team and how you will ensure that it flourishes.

  • Management

    Management Topic 2 Off
    Management Yes No  Information to be provided in the proposal Other resources
    Do you have an advisory board with members from the study population?     If yes, describe how they are chosen and compensated.  
    Is there an external advisory board?    

    If yes, how far does it represent relevant diverse voices?

    Are early stage researchers given opportunities to have roles of responsibility?     If yes, describe how this will happen.  

    Do you have a conflict resolution procedure to deal specifically with issues related to gender and diversity?

        If yes, you should state this in the proposal. If not, you should state your confidence that the conflict resolution for scientific matters also functions for other conflicts  
  • Scope of the Project

    Scope of the Project Topic 3 Off
    Scope Yes No  Information to be provided in the proposal Other resources
    Is your research about events, procedures, histories, or other aspects that involve a certain group or community of humans?    

    If yes, do you involve the perspectives of that group in the design, execution of research methods, the analysis of results, and the reporting of findings?
    Note: There are two ways to do this: you can imagine these perspectives, or you can ask the target group (which is the stronger strategy). Describe in the proposal how you do this.

  • Methods

    Methods Topic 4 Off
    a. Study Population Yes No  Information to be provided in the proposal Other resources
    Have you created a list of all of the criteria for inclusion and exclusion from the study group?     If so, list the criteria in your proposal.  
    Can you justify these criteria, so that they do not privilege one group over another on any dimension?     If yes, consider justifying them in your text, especially if they seem contradictory.  
    Are there consequences of this selection for the subject group and for those not belonging to your subject group?     If yes, consider discussing these consequences in your text.  
    Can the results still be applied to larger groups (if applicable)?    

    If yes, justify this generalisation.

    Are there groups that are often excluded from comparable research setups?     If yes, consider explaining the reasons as well as the consequences.  
    Do you need new data(sets) in order to include diversity dimensions?     If yes, describe how you will acquire this data and incorporate it into your study.  
    b. Your presence as a researcher Yes No  Information to be provided in the proposal Other resources
    Would you consider yourself a member of your subject group (if applicable)? Are others in your research team?     If yes, mention this in the proposal, and describe its implications for the research process.  

    Does your gender/nationality/ethnic/language skills/physical ability/age/socio economic background etc. play a role in how you set up data collection, do the data collection, and impact your ability to recruit subjects?

        If yes, describe in the proposal how you accommodate this impact and mitigate any risks it presents. If not, and if one could reasonably conclude that there should be an impact, you might consider describing how you will manage these.  
    If you do interviews, will your interviewees have a comparable level of proficiency in the interview language as you do?    

    If yes, mention how you will accommodate these differences. If not, mention that it does not. 

    c. Assumptions Yes No  Information to be provided in the proposal Other resources
    Do your data collection, data analysis, and their outputs assume homogeneity of anatomy, physiology, disease processes, cognition and social behavior along dimensions of diversity?     If yes, definitely reflect on this assumption. In the proposal, consider justifying this assumption and how you have made allowances.  
    d. Other Yes No  Information to be provided in the proposal Other resources
    Do the administrative units/jurisdictions in which your research takes place have rules about reporting sex/gender that contradict procedures of your research? (Eg., some EU member states are working toward not requiring the reporting of sex/gender data.)    

    If yes, mention how you accommodate these rules. 

  • Results/Analysis

    Results/Analysis Topic 5 Off
    Results / Analysis Yes No  Information to be provided in the proposal Other resources
    Does your analysis team involve any members of the community you are studying?     If yes, describe how. If word counts allow, consider briefly describing why this inclusion was not possible.  
    Have you ensured that you can avoid gender/diversity-related bias in statistical analyses, modeling, and other analyses?     If yes, describe that you have done this, and also describe how.  
  • Reporting and Dissemination

    Reporting and Dissemination Topic 6 Off
    Reporting and Dissemination Yes No  Information to be provided in the proposal Other resources
    Do you have plans to report findings to the community you are studying?     If yes, describe how. If no, justify this.  
    Do you have plans to report your findings to a wide range of audiences — ie., not just academics?     If yes, describe those plans.  
    Have you thought about the assumptions you make about the homogeneity of your outreach audiences? For example, reaching out to heart patients with results from a cardiovascular study is important, but do not assume that all heart patients have the same language skills or the same gender of the subjects in your study.     If yes, consider describing this process when you assemble your dissemination plan.  
    Do you consider digital accessibility of your proposal and research output? Find a checklist here.     If yes, include this in the proposal.  
    Will research results be presented at conferences that maintain a diverse speaker balance? Here are some examples.    

    If yes, say so in the proposal.

  • Impact

    Impact Topic 7 Off
    Impact Yes No  Information to be provided in the proposal Other resources
    Have you considered the potential scientific, societal, and economic impact of addressing dimensions of diversity in your methodology and dissemination plans?     If yes, include these impacts in your proposal. Also say that you have considered these potential impacts.  
    Does your research contribute to increasing equity in society?     If yes, you should certainly mention this in the proposal.  
    Does bringing diversity dimensions to your research meet previously unmet needs or open new markets?     If yes, you should mention this.  
  • Inclusive language

    Inclusive language Topic 8 Off
    Inclusive language Yes No  Information to be provided in the proposal Other resources
    Do you use gender inclusive language in your proposal?     If yes, state this.  

    Do you review the proposal (either by hand or using automated tools) for inclusive language?

        If yes, state this.  

    Do you use singular they instead of he/she?


    Do you use other inclusive terms (e.g. “person-hours” for “man-hours”)


    Has the proposal been reviewed for inclusive language, especially if it deals with a group that has been historically excluded? Think racial/ethnic categories, religious groups, and queer communities.


    If yes, incorporate any changes, and also indicate that you have done this review.

    Will other documents from the project be reviewed for inclusive language?    

    If yes, incorporate any changes, and also indicate that you have done (or intend to do) this review.

    Will all materials from the proposed study (questionnaires, interview protocols, tasks, websites) be reviewed for understandability/usability?     If yes, state this in the proposal.  
    Does the proposal have an inclusive reference list?     If yes, state this in the proposal.  

Don’t have answers to any of these questions? Learn more by going to this page.


Which proposal sections have ‘diversity dimensions’?

There are specific sections on gender diversity, sometimes titled “gender dimension plan,” in Horizon Europe templates. Any dimensions of diversity relevant to the proposal should be addressed here.
    In addition, other sections of research proposals related to/interwoven with gender and diversity are, for example: 

  • Organisation and implementation of the project
  • Specific sections on activities related to open science. Many diversity issues intersect with open science considerations.
  • Sections/work packages on project management, including recruitment and hiring processes, and composition of external advisory boards. These should mention how advisory board members are recruited and compensated. They should also mention how early stage researchers are encouraged and promoted in the project, if relevant. 
  • Methodology sections, especially regarding subject recruitment, data collection, data analysis.
  • Sections on outreach dissemination
  • Sections on community involvement 
  • Sections on scientific, economic, and societal impact and knowledge utilisation

What does diversity mean? 

Many of our prompts here focus on gender because it is the minimum element of diversity consideration that many funding agencies currently ask for. For an explanation of sex vs. gender, please consult this resource.
     However, “diversity” obviously encompasses many other attributes, including race, ethnicity, age, religion, language, language proficiency, having care responsibilities, country of origin, (dis)ability, sexuality, socio-economic position, and political preference/ideology. All these aspects may be taken into consideration when assessing the gender and diversity dimension of research proposals, depending on e.g., the research topic, scope, population and used methods.
     Also, EU proposals often require participation from diverse EU member states as well, and participation from underrepresented countries is particularly encouraged.

About this guide

This guide was created by Constance Sommerey and Michael Erard in the fall of 2021, prompted by a presentation that Constance made to the UM funding advisor group. Additional comments were provided by Bart Penders, Aurélie Carlier (on behalf of FEM), Sueli Brodin, Latifa Abidi, and Hans Bosma. UM funding advisors (Eva Rijkers, Merle Achten, Vivian Brakers, Pan Xu, Willem Wolters, Marcel Giezen, Raymunde Neven, Anouk Holsgens, Marco Berndes and Anne Gisling) also provided valuable feedback.