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What Researchers Think About the Culture They Work In (Wellcome Trust Report, 2020)

Although the research sector is recognised for the excellent work it produces, there are persistent underlying concerns about the research culture in which this work is produced.

In 2020, Wellcome Trust commissioned a report to investigate researchers experience of research culture and their visions for the future.

They conducted a literature review, 94 qualitative interviews, four workshops and an online survey of more than 4,000 researchers. The outcomes of the report show that researchers are passionate and committed to their work, but also that there were serious concerns about the following:

  • The sustainability of a research culture that relies on short, fixed-term contracts, does not offer job security or clear career pathways and often involves an unequal work-life balance

  • A complex network of incentives from government, funders and institutions that seem to focus on quantity of outputs and narrow concepts of impact

  • A culture of aggressive competition

  • Poor management and leadership and a lack of attention paid to the career development of researchers

  • The wellbeing of researchers

  • Bullying, harassment and discrimination

Recommendations for improving research culture:
  • Making changes to funding structures, funding criteria and incentives

  • Providing more support for early-career researchers

  • Providing training to help researchers promote good culture through managing and mentoring

  • Putting in place ways to identify bad behaviour in order to deter it and ways for researchers to raise concerns without fear of reprisals or prejudice

  • Promoting good practice.

Read the full report