Today, Wellcome is introducing a new policy that clarifies our responsibilities as a funder in relation to bullying and harassment. In it, we set out what we expect from researchers we fund and the organisations that employ them, to ensure that people involved in Wellcome-funded activities are treated with dignity and respect.
This complements our guidelines on good research practice, updated in April, and other policies currently under review, including those on clinical trials and intellectual property.
All aim to ensure that the great ideas we fund bring the most benefit to society, as well as sustaining a research environment that allows people to contribute fully.
Involvement doesn't stop when funding starts
Last year alone, Wellcome received more than 4,000 applications for funding. Although different schemes have different specific processes, every application was rigorously reviewed and assessed, and in total we made 939 funding awards together worth well over £1 billion.
Our involvement doesn’t stop when the funding starts. Far from it. We continue to support grantholders throughout the lifetime of each grant, providing advice and ensuring the right governance is in place to ensure the best use of our funding.
It is vital, therefore, that our conditions and policies to guide grantholders are appropriate and conducive both to supporting their work and also to promoting positive research cultures. Equally important is that we keep our policies under review to keep them relevant for the research environment of today – and tomorrow.
We have always stipulated that our grantholders and their employers must comply with relevant legal, ethical and regulatory requirements, as well as with Wellcome’s policies.
It is the responsibility of employers to investigate allegations of misconduct and to discipline their staff if necessary. But as a funder, it is right that Wellcome should also be informed, at an appropriate stage, about allegations made against anyone associated with a Wellcome grant.
This is as true for behavioural misconduct as it is for research misconduct. Bullying and harassment are unacceptable – such behaviour causes significant harm, stops people achieving their full potential and stifles good research.
Wellcome’s new policy outlines what information we need to be given when, and what actions we might take in response. We will work with the institutions we fund to ensure this happens.
Our policy is in line with existing internal policies for Wellcome employees, and it will help us achieve the goals of our Diversity and inclusion priority area in the UK research sector and beyond.
By being clear about our expectations and our responsibilities as a funder, just as we are in relation to issues such as research integrity and open access to research, this policy will help to promote and maintain research cultures in which great ideas thrive, which is fundamental to our vision for improving health.