Published: 13 November 2023
There are no agreed definitions of bullying and harassment and the terms are often used interchangeably. The below definitions have been adopted by the research and innovation sector as a starting point:
Bullying is any offensive, intimidating, malicious, or insulting verbal or non-verbal communication including physical behaviour. It is an abuse or misuse of power through means intended to undermine, humiliate, denigrate, or injure a person.
Harassment is unwanted conduct related to your ‘protected characteristics’ that has the purpose or effect of violating your dignity, or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for you. It is also unwanted conduct of a sexual nature which has that same purpose or effect. Protected characteristics are: age, sex, disability, gender (including gender reassignment), marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, and sexual orientation. Within the UK, ‘harassment’ is defined by the Equality Act 2010.
Currently the data on bullying and harassment in academic research and how it compares to other work environments is limited. However, there are reports that highlight bullying as a major problem in universities. For example, a Guardian investigation from 2018 found nearly 300 academics, including senior professors and laboratory directors, had been accused of bullying students and colleagues.
Bullying and harassment has no place in the work environment. It can negatively impact on both individuals and the quality and integrity of research.
As contributors to nearly half of all publicly funded medical and health research in the UK, it is important that AMRC members take this issue seriously and build a culture of dignity and respect. Our members should expect the organisations and researchers they fund to prevent and address any harm or abuse