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ESRC clarifies rules on making political comments

Image: Royal Statistical Society

UK social sciences council chair confirms ERSC-funded researchers are under “no constraints”

The Economic and Social Research Council chair has clarified rules on what his council’s funded researchers are allowed to say during the pre-election period.

Stian Westlake (pictured), via a statement on platform X (formerly Twitter), confirmed on 23 May that “researchers working for independent organisations such as universities are under ‘no constraints’ from the [Economic and Social Research Council] about what they can say in public in the run-up to the election”.

He made the clarification after saying he thought it was “worth pre-emptively laying to rest some rumours that sometimes circulate on what ESRC-funded researchers supposedly are and aren’t allowed to say during [this period]”, after a 4 July general election was called by Rishi Sunak a day earlier.

Formal guidelines

This confirmation for ESRC-funded researchers, which was welcomed by the research community, has come before the council is due to publish formal guidelines on the matter.

Westlake went on to actively encourage social science researchers to engage in pre-election conversations, saying: “It’s a tribute to the relevance and quality of the work of UK social scientists that many play a prominent role in important national conversations [during election periods]…The more the better, from my point of view.”

He also cleared up some researchers’ questions about whether reports published during the election period should leave off the UK Research and Innovation and/or ERSC logo, responding that they should not; “there [are] no such rules”, he said.