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Bullying and harassment in the research and innovation sector

The Global Institute for Women's Leadership has published research commissioned by the government's UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) body to review the evidence on bullying and harassment in the research and innovation sector.

Read the research

The review informs UKRI's long-term equality, diversity and inclusion strategy and looks at:

  1. Current challenges with respect to bullying and harassment in the research and innovation landscape in the UK and internationally.
  2. Approaches to prevent and address bullying and harassment in research and innovation.
  3. Existing evidence for the effectiveness of those approaches and the main gaps in knowledge in this area.

The findings show that efforts in the higher education sector have primarily focused on addressing student-to-student sexual misconduct and harassment, with far less evidence on prevention and response strategies to address staff sexual misconduct, other forms of harassment, or general bullying.

Other key findings include:

  • Characteristics of the higher education research environment act as enablers of bullying and harassment, such as strong hierarchies, significant workloads, competitive behaviours and job insecurity.
  • There are no agreed definitions of bullying and harassment, which can hamper evidence-gathering and understanding trends.
  • There are low levels of reporting of incidents, arising from unclear policies, dissatisfaction with institutions’ responses and worries about retaliatory action.

The report outlines recommendations for HEIs to tackle the problem, including:

  • Viewing bullying and harassment as an organisational, not an individual, issue and adopting a whole-organisation approach to culture change.
  • Securing visible senior leadership commitment to tackling the issue.
  • Adopting preventative strategies by developing codes of conduct and delivering training programmes that clarify and reset norms of inclusive, supportive and respectful behaviour.