Donelan orders review of sex and gender questions in research

UK science secretary claims she is taking a stand against the ‘slow creep of wokeism’ in academia

October 3, 2023
Michelle Donelan

UK science secretary Michelle Donelan has ordered a review into the use of sex and gender questions in research and official statistics, lashing out at the “slow creep of wokeism” in scholarship.

Speaking at the Conservative Party conference, Ms Donelan expressed concern about scientists being “told by university bureaucrats that they cannot ask legitimate research questions about biological sex”, although she did not specify which case she was referring to.

She also said it was worrying that the Office for National Statistics had had “to be taken to the High Court because its census guidance said it was possible to change your biological sex”.

“Any credible scientist will tell you that gender and sex are two different things,” Ms Donelan said. “To suggest otherwise is not only scientifically illiterate, it actually damages scientific research and statistics in everything from population studies to medicine to sport.”

Ms Donelan said a review into the use of sex and gender questions in scientific research and statistics would be led by Alice Sullivan, professor of sociology at UCL, and tasked with producing “robust” guidance within six months.

“To those who think they have the right to impose this utter nonsense on science, let this message go out from this conference hall: we are safeguarding scientific research from the denial of biology and the steady creep of political correctness,” Ms Donelan said.

“We are making a stand before it suffocates British identity and our values entirely. That is why we are depoliticising science, because science is the most extraordinary force for good – from curing disease to growing our food – we’ve got to keep it that way.”

In her conference speech, Ms Donelan also said the government would provide £8 million to fund an additional 800 scholarships in artificial intelligence, and announced a £60 million Regional Innovation Fund that will support universities to work with local businesses.

Also at the conference, Steve Barclay, the health secretary, confirmed that plans for more than 200 additional places in UK medical schools were being brought forward by a year, and that the spots would be available from 2024.

Most of these places will go to the new medical schools at the universities of Worcester and Chester and Brunel University London, which currently do not have any publicly funded places.

Additional places will also be allocated to medical schools at the University of Central Lancashire and Edge Hill University.

Speaking afterwards, Mr Barclay said the plans would “boost the number of people studying medicine at university, which will lead to more doctors staffing our hospitals in the future”.

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Reader's comments (1)

It's simple. Anyone asking me about my gender or ethnicity unless there is a clear and valid reason for it will get a short and sharp answer of the negative persuasion. Most of the time it is completely irrelevant. I've even removed this information from my employee records. Even the census... I put 'other' for ethnicity and wrote in 'human being'.