We are creating a unified UKRI website that brings together the existing research council, Innovate UK and Research England websites.
If you would like to be involved in its development let us know.

Tackling bullying and harassment

Tackling bullying and harassment

Jennifer Rubin, UKRI Champion for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion; Executive Chair, ESRC.

Bullying and harassment is detrimental to individual careers and experience. It’s also destructive of the wider culture and environment for research and innovation. This means that it’s associated with loss of talent and expertise from the sector.

As the UKRI Champion for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, I believe it is crucial that we use our position as the UK’s main public funder to promote a research environment in which all are shown respect and in which quality of life is valued alongside quality of work.

This is why UKRI is taking significant steps to address bullying and harassment. In October 2019 we published our bullying and harassment position statement that sets out our expectations for the organisations that we fund and outlines how we will work to support improvements in research and innovation environments in the coming years.

The position statement (PDF, 981KB) acknowledges that these are institutional, and not just individual, problems – and should be addressed as such.

From now on we will require organisations that receive grants from us to have a framework of measures in place to prevent and address bullying and harassment. UKRI itself as an employer is following the ACAS guidelines and we will expect our grantees to do the same or have frameworks that mirror those standards.

Evidence Review

Together with the position statement we have published an evidence review, Bullying and Harassment in Research and Innovation Environments (PDF, 3.3MB), produced by the Global Institute for Women’s Leadership at King’s College London. The review examines the wider evidence base surrounding bullying and harassment, including the drivers, prevention strategies and interventions implemented to tackle bullying and harassment, across sectors.

It notes that within the literature – including reports and workplace surveys -- there are differing methodologies, unclear definitions and low reporting levels of bullying and harassment. We currently cannot accurately measure the scale of the problem – to say how many people are affected, and whether bullying and harassment is more prevalent in research than in other sectors. This does not deter us from working to eradicate bullying and harassment because any harassment – and a wider environment that enables harassment to persist – must be addressed.

Organisations are adopting a variety of measures, ranging from formal and informal resolutions to codes of conduct and bystander training, but there are currently no wide-ranging evaluations that provide clear evidence of what is effective in the long run in stopping bullying and harassment and in shaping respectful and inclusive working environments. We will work collaboratively with our partners and other stakeholders to create effective and evidence-informed interventions.  

The review makes four key recommendations:

  • Taking a whole institution approach by embedding activities across the organisation.
  • Securing visible commitment from senior leadership to tackle the issue.
  • Removing barriers to reporting through clear processes and expeditious disciplinary systems.
  • Implementing a prevention strategy with codes of conduct and training programmes.

These recommendations have informed the framing of our position statement and forward plan.

We look forward to working with all who can help improve research and innovation environments in the coming years.