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Safeguarding in Research

Female students doing group work
Safeguarding in Research
Preventing Harm (Safeguarding) in Research & Innovation Activities

Everyone involved in the international development research chain, from research funders, planners and practitioners to local community members, has the right to be safe from harm. The UK Collaborative on Development Research (UKCDR) define safeguarding as preventing and addressing “any sexual exploitation, abuse or harassment of research participants, communities and research staff, plus any broader forms of violence, exploitation and abuse… such as bullying, psychological abuse and physical violence.” This belief that everyone has the right to be treated fairly with dignity and respect, extends to both research and innovation activities. Please note consideration of safeguarding in research and innovation activities is required for all projects in all locations i.e. international and domestic. The University acknowledges it has a duty of care to ensure the welfare of staff, students and others conducting activities on its behalf by ensuring the consideration and mitigation of potential risks. The University is aware that these activities (research and/or innovation) conducted on its behalf can impact external individuals and communities and that potential to cause harm to these parties should also be considered.

Why do we need to consider the prevention of harm in our research and innovation activities?

In October 2018 a number of key funders (BEIS, DFID, DHSC, UKRI and Wellcome) issued a joint statement illustrating their commitment to strengthen safeguarding practices and compliance processes in the research community.  In this statement the funders condemned all forms of harm and abuse, including bullying, and sexual and other forms of harassment.  They also required research institutions, including universities, to promote a culture in which harm and abuse is less likely to happen.  Funder’s Terms and Conditions (T&Cs) now require Universities to have systems and processes to ensure Safeguarding requirements are met. 

The University is currently in the process of drafting an internal policy in relation to safeguarding in research and innovation activities.  Until this policy is drafted everyone within the University who is involved in research and innovation that involves working with children and adults at risk must comply with the University’s arrangements for Safeguarding Children and Adults at Risk.

My responsibilities in preventing harm when undertaking research/innovation

All those involved in research and innovation activities must ensure they consider safeguarding issues and mitigations during project planning and continuously during project implementation.  For research/innovation projects that involve work with children and adults at risk you must comply with the University’s safeguarding arrangements.

Equally, all project partners should be involved in safeguarding discussions.  This is to ensure all reasonable efforts are taken to identify safeguarding risks and ensure appropriate mitigating action is taken to reduce the likelihood of occurrence. 

The mechanisms for reporting and dealing with safeguarding concerns should be known and agreed by all project partners.  Specific arrangements are in place for work involving children and adults at risk.  It is also critical that reporting mechanisms are culturally and contextually appropriate for all those impacted by research and innovation activities.

Researchers and academics should familiarise themselves with their individual project funders’ expectations, policies or terms and conditions related to preventing harm in research and innovation activities.

Should you currently have any issues or concerns regarding safeguarding in research and innovation activities, these should be directed to Head of School/Centre Director   Please note, safeguarding concerns regarding children and adults at risk should be reported as indicated in this link.  Further information on reporting may be found within the University’s Whistleblowing policy. This reporting route/process may change upon finalisation of University policy

Resources and further information

As an interim measure the following references should be considered with regards to preventing harm in research and innovation activities.  These references will provide additional information and guidance on this issue.

In addition to the general UKCDR resources a number of funder’s policies are also referenced for review.

NIHR Guidance Requirement

Academics and researcher are asked to note the following requirement with regards to NIHR, contained within their guidance document.

“All organisations managing and/or receiving NIHR funds are required to ensure that all staff members and partners involved in the delivery chain adhere to their safeguarding responsibilities. This includes not engaging in sexual activity with any individual under the age of 18, even if the age of majority or age of consent is lower in the relevant territory. This also includes children and vulnerable adults in the community who are not direct beneficiaries but may be vulnerable to abuse and harm.”