Trupti Patel
Published On: 6 September 2022

I’m so excited to be joining the Race Equality Foundation team as a Research Assistant.

I completed a PhD in science and at the end decided to move away from working in the lab and became more interested in the effects of science and technology on the world. Following this, I worked on a project at University College London Department of Science, Technology, Engineering and Public Policy funded by the Department of Digital Culture Media and Sport on Internet of Things devices and their use within the home against survivors of technology-mediated violence and abuse working with the London Violence Against Women and Girls Consortium. The consortium is mainly composed of charities each representing different minority ethnic groups across London. The project focussed on understanding the key challenges for frontline workers and what this means for policy briefings and responses to Government consultations regarding the privacy of smart home devices. The experience made me reflect upon the need for better action-based research which highlights the needs of frontline staff and people with lived experience for a more collaborative approach with researchers.

Most of my past academic work made the case for involving citizens in the expert advice process and how this affects policy-making, as opposed to a top-down approach. For example, if the Government funds research, how can expert advice and policy which draws on this research be independent of the Government? What sort of research policy frameworks are better suited to ensure proper accountability? As the Race Equality Foundation’s work always emphasises the importance of community involvement and lived experiences, it is the perfect environment for me as it is an excellent example of the things I have called for in the past.

I also worked at University College London’s Department of Science and Technology Studies on an EU-funded project which looked at co-production to better involve the public in research in a meaningful way and how the Commission might do this for future funding calls, with the aim of creating a research policy framework. The project looked at the importance of producing knowledge with members of the public and how their involvement can better influence decisions being made at the interface of research and policy-making. Whilst here, I became interested in cultural aspects of knowledge production and how that might influence the way research should be conducted with Global South populations.

The Race Equality Foundation offered an exciting opportunity for me as the organisation has recently been working with Wellcome on the recording of ethnicity itself with NHS patients. This project looks at personal interpretations of ethnicity, and how these may change, which may be more telling than the recording in and of itself. In addition, all of the Race Equality Foundation’s work emphasises community and local level involvement, as well as a need to ensure the voices of people with lived experiences are highlighted as sources of knowledge, just as – if not more – valid compared to expert knowledge.

Many of the programmes run here, including Strengthening Families, Strengthening Communities (SFSC) are academically grounded in highlighting the importance of differences between cultural values and how we need to understand each others’ perspectives to live together. Recently, there has been much emphasis on co-production of knowledge with Global South populations as a method of decolonisation and my hope whilst here is to highlight the importance of the Foundation’s work, currently and historically, in feeding into this.

Trupti Patel is a Research Assistant at the Race Equality Foundation.