Employment news

Senior Science leaders speak out on tackling bullying and harassment

Some of the UK’s leading scientists have called on universities and funders to sign up to a set of principles that they believe will stamp out bullying and harassment in research. Their call comes amid continuing concern about the “insufficient progress” that has been made until now.

The scientists quote surveys, reports and specific incidents that show bullying and harassment as still widespread in the UK’s research and innovation culture, and that insufficient progress has been made.

The seven principles cover requiring institutions and funders to publish annual statistics on complaints about bullying, harassment and discrimination; the adoption of sector-wide standards on sanctions that funders can apply when individuals or organisations fall short; creating a single way of reporting harassment within an institution, or improving communication across offices, to allow patterns of behaviour to be identified; ensuring that all supervisors undertake regular and accredited training in issues such as equality and diversity, and understanding how research incentives contribute to stress, competition and insecurity.

Adopting these principles, the scientists say, would “empower individuals to speak up, protect alleged perpetrators against malicious accusations and enable institutions and funders to together develop processes that are fair and transparent”.

UK Research and Innovation, the UK’s funding body, set out plans for tackling bullying earlier this year, requiring institutions to have training and guidance in place and allowing – when problems occur – for suspension of funding until remedial action can be taken.