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Promoting a culture of dignity at work in research

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by Cancer Research UK | Research Feature

18 October 2018

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Research partnerships

Our new policy spells out our expectations and requirements of the researchers and organisations involved in our research to prevent bullying and harassment.

To bring us closer to our goal of beating cancer, we want our researchers to be able to focus fully on contributing their ideas, delivering high-quality, high-impact research and fulfilling their potential in positive research environments.

Through our grant policies as a research funder, we have always set expectations that organisations and researchers who receive our funding follow good research practice and create a positive research culture. Our new Policy on Dignity at Work in Research, which applies from today, clarifies our expectations in relation to inappropriate behaviour, and now forms part of our Grant Conditions.

Why we’re introducing this policy

We want to help ensure all people involved in our research treat each other with dignity and respect and each of you can fully contribute your ideas and fulfil your potential. To that end, we want everyone in our community to feel able to speak up if behaviour is inappropriate, without limiting their careers.

We want our researchers to feel supported throughout their involvement with CRUK and our funds to be used properly to support research of the highest quality in research environments that foster innovation.

What the policy requires from you

Our new policy applies to you and your host institution if you’re part of a grant application or award with us, if you sit on our Panels or Committees, or speak at our research events. It sets out the behavioural standards we expect, and that the vast majority of you observe already. It also underlines that it’s your host institution’s responsibility to ensure effective implementation of robust workplace conduct policies and procedures and to take reasonable and positive steps towards culture change.

We don’t employ our grant-funded researchers directly, so we won’t conduct investigations into allegations of bullying and harassment ourselves. But we expect any complaints to be handled and investigated appropriately to their full conclusion and for CRUK to be kept informed. Therefore:

  • When you apply for funding, your host institution must tell us about any active formal disciplinary sanction for bullying or harassment.
  • If you’re funded by us, sit on our Panels/Committees or are a speaker at our events, your host institution must tell us if they decide to formally investigate you, and what the outcome is; we will reserve any judgement until the investigation is complete.

For any upheld allegations, we will take action and may impose sanctions both against individuals or at institutional level if there has been institutional-level failure to respond appropriately.


Coordinating a culture change

We take bullying and harassment in research very seriously: it is unacceptable in any circumstances. We believe it can directly affect the quality of the science we fund and can have a destructive effect on researchers. We want our researchers to work in an environment that stimulates positive research culture, one that is conducive to career development and supports the best scientists carrying out innovative research.  

We acknowledge that, with the best of intentions, funders as well as research institutions have not always got this right. As a funder, we are committed to doing more. We will do all we can to ensure research environments are free from bullying and harassment. We’re also developing a new code of conduct for behaviour at our own research events.

For CRUK, it’s not just about policy box-ticking. We want to emphasise effectively taking positive steps towards genuine positive culture change. We hope this prevents bullying and harassment and promotes equal, diverse and inclusive research environments. We will align our approach with other funders to ensure we are doing all we can as a sector to tackle this issue. This will enable the best science to be carried out by the best scientists in an environment that fosters the next generation of cancer research leaders, bringing us closer to our ambitious goal of seeing 3 in 4 patients survive by 2034.



Dr Iain Foulkes

Director of Research and Innovation




Prof Karen Vousden

Chief Scientist