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Pre-election rules – what they mean for researchers


On 8 June 2017, the UK General Election will take place.  As with previous elections, non-departmental public bodies, including the research councils, are bound by pre-election rules. The pre-election period commences from midnight on Friday 21 April 2017. During this time we are unable to engage in any activities that might in any way influence the outcome of the election and must avoid competition with parliamentary candidates for the attention of the public

The period of sensitivity is from midnight on 21 April 2017 until at least 9 June 2017. The pre-election rules will only end when a new government is formed, which may take additional time after polls close in the event of a hung parliament.

The pre-election rules extend to all our communications activities as Research Councils and our employees and directly employed researchers, who will have received internal staff guidance. Our guidance explains how research council funded researchers wishing to comment during the election should do so under their university affiliation rather than the Research Councils.

How the pre-election rules affect research council funded researchers

Here are some ways that you can work with us during the pre-election period:

  • Unlike normal times we will not be actively encouraging you to issue press releases about new research during the pre-election period. Any press releases that are scheduled to be issued during this time, that give you cause for concern, should be sent to the relevant research council press office three working days before they are planned to be issued. We may advise you withhold the press release for issue until after the election.
  • Researchers called upon to provide expert comment about the elections or local issues during this period should do so under their university affiliation and not attribute the research to the research councils. This also applies to printed materials such as features in commercial magazines and newsletters which may have been scheduled before the election was announced.
  • Researchers scheduled to deliver papers or speak about their research at academic or public conferences relevant to the elections must not attribute their research to the research councils.
  • Any research council funded data which relates to voting patterns, or predicts or influences voting behaviour that is currently not in the public domain should not be published during the pre-election period. Researchers can comment on data already in the public domain, but they must do this under their university affiliation and not attribute the research to the research councils. This includes publication in magazines and newsletters, press releases and press announcements and academic conferences.
  • Any content published on websites and social media platforms should adhere to the principles above.  When writing blogs or posting views or content on websites and social media sites about election-related issues please ensure that they are not attributed to research council support or associated with its investment.

If you are asked about the source of your funding or your link to a research council then you should still confirm this. However, this information should only be offered reactively in the case of a specific enquiry.

We are aware that this guidance contradicts our usual position that seeks to ensure that research council funded research is always clearly attributed. However, this situation is only until after the election takes place (and a new government is formed) and then things will return to normal.

Essentially, what we want you to do is to ask the question ‘why now, can this wait?’ If something is not time-critical then it is best left until after the election outcome is known.

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Further information

If you have any questions during the pre-election period please contact the most relevant research council:

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