Guidance on “Purdah” for the May 2016 Elections

On Thursday 5 May 2016, elections will be taking place to the National Assembly for Wales as well as the Scottish Parliament; the Northern Ireland Assembly; some local authorities in England, including for the directly elected Mayors of London, Bristol, Liverpool and Salford; and for Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) in England and Wales (excluding London and Greater Manchester – subject to legislation).

The ESRC – and by extension, ESRC-funded research and researchers  – are bound by certain restrictions prior to these elections.

The period of sensitivity (“purdah”) during which the guidance below must be followed varies in relation to the different elections taking place. It is from:

  • Thursday 24 March for the elections to the Scottish Parliament
  • Wednesday 30 March for the Northern Ireland Assembly
  • Wednesday 6 April for the National Assembly for Wales
  • Thursday 14 April for the local, mayoral, and PCC elections

Please follow this guidance from the ESRC:

  • The ESRC advises against issuing press releases or announcing new research in or about the affected areas or about devolved, local or PCC issues during this period. Any press releases that are scheduled to be issued during this time should be sent as always to the ESRC press office ( a minimum of two working days 48 hours before they are planned to be issued. The ESRC reserves the right to withhold the press release for issue until after the election.
  • The ESRC advises against holding launch events or any other event about or in the affected areas or about devolved, local or PCC issues during this period. If you have an event already scheduled that you think may impact one of these elections/areas please contact the ESRC press office for guidance as soon as possible.
  • Researchers asked 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 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.

If you are asked about the source of your funding or your link to the ESRC then you may still confirm this – it is not a secret. However, this information should only be given in the case of a direct enquiry.

We are aware that this guidance contradicts our usual position that seeks to ensure that ESRC-funded research is always clearly attributed. However, we are bound by purdah and these restrictions will only apply until after the elections take place, when things will return to normal. Essentially, what we want you to do is ask the question ‘why now, can this wait?’ If something is not time-critical then it is best left until after the elections and outcome is known.

If you have any questions during the purdah period please contact Sarah Nichols in the ESRC Communications team.

Please note this guidance relates to the May elections, and not the EU referendum on Thursday 23 June 2016, which will be covered by separate guidance. We will provide purdah guidance for the EU referendum as soon as we receive it. The provisional date for purdah for the EU referendum to begin is Thursday 26 May 2016.