Statement from Prospect’s UKRI branch following Michelle Donelan’s letter calling into question UKRI’s work on equality diversity and inclusion

10 November 2023

Our Committee is shocked and disappointed by Michelle Donelan’s (Secretary of State for DSIT) letter using the personal views of academics to call into question UKRIs positive work ensuring equality, diversity and inclusion principles in its centres and institutes and promoting these same values in the research it funds.

We are deeply concerned about the impact this has on the well-being of the academics involved and our colleagues at all levels, within and beyond UKRI, who are being forced to respond. During a time of high tension and political polarisation, it is irresponsible for a high profile politician to direct negative public attention towards individuals in this manner. We hold well-being in high regard and believe the duty to care for staff or collaborators is unconditional.

We also condemn Michelle Donelan’s recent speech in which she complained of the “slow creep of wokeism” in science. This is a transparent act aimed at undermining vital work to promote equality, diversity and inclusion in the research and innovation sector.

As a principal funder of research and innovation in the UK, UKRI is uniquely positioned to model equality, diversity and inclusion principles in its actions and behaviours. UKRI must be able to create its own EDI initiatives without interference from any government.

Given the nature of the appointment of the UKRI Executive the Secretary of State’s deliberate decision to make these allegations via a public forum was nothing more than political posturing to apply pressure to UKRI’s senior management team and bring a great deal of attention to the organisation’s response. We strongly believe such political game-playing has no place in research and innovation, EDI, or the broader public service.

We have confidence that UKRI will conduct the investigation, which constitutes the first part of its response, into the specific matters raised as swiftly as possible and that any outcomes will be fully shared with the Trades Unions and staff. We will carefully consider those outcomes and the Secretary of State’s response to decide on any actions we wish to take at that time.

Our stance on the crisis in Israel and Palestine aligns with the TUC Statement of October 13th.

We believe that the people of the region deserve lasting peace, and this cannot be brought about by violence against civilians.

We will continue to defend the right of all workers to express their views freely, within the law, and without fear of intimidation.