Guidance on ESRC “purdah” during elections in May 2014

On 22 May 2014, elections will be taking place for the European Parliament, and in many local authorities in England and Northern Ireland. There will also be elections for the directly elected Mayors of four London boroughs: Hackney, Lewisham, Newham and Tower Hamlets; and for the directly elected Mayor of Watford.

As a non-departmental public body the ESRC is bound by purdah during a pre-election period. This period commences immediately the election is announced and ends the day after the election. During this time the ESRC are unable to engage in any activities that might in any way influence the outcome of these local elections and must avoid competition with parliamentary candidates for the attention of the public.

The period of sensitivity is from 2 May 2014 until 23 May 2014. This is effectively a suspension of usual ESRC business.

These elections are different from a UK General Election. The UK Government will remain in office whatever the outcome of the elections. Ministers will continue to carry out their functions in the usual way. Civil servants will continue to support their Ministers in their work.

The ESRC’s purdah restrictions extend to ESRC funded research and researchers and any sub-contractors that are employed as part of the research project.

Please consider the following guidance (which the ESRC have also sent to the press office of each University in the DTC):

The ESRC strongly advises against issuing press releases about research findings related to Europe, European issues, local issues or the local constituencies during this period. Any press releases that are scheduled to be issued during this time, that give you cause for concern, should be sent to the ESRC Press Office ( three working days before they are issued. The ESRC reserves the right to 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 research to the ESRC. 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 ESRC.
  • Any ESRC-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 this period. This includes publication in magazines and newsletters, press releases and press announcements and academic conferences.
  • The ESRC advises that any posts to websites and social media platforms are done with due care and attention to the principles above. When writing blogs, posting views or content on websites and public social media sites about election-related issues please ensure that they are not attributed to ESRC support or associated with its investment.

We are aware that this guidance contradicts our usual position that seeks to ensure that ESRC-funded research is always clearly attributed, however, this situation is only until the election takes place and then things will return to normal.