‘Unethical’: ministers sit on LGBTQ research for five years

Preventing publication of two major taxpayer-funded studies into bullying and homelessness is wrong, say academics left in limbo

June 19, 2024
Make space for homeless queers placard at Pride London 2022
Source: Avpics / Alamy

Two academics whose studies into LGBTQ issues have been blocked from publication by the UK government for nearly five years have hit out at the “completely unexplained” and “unethical” delays in releasing their research.

In July 2019, Kesia Reeve, a housing researcher at Sheffield Hallam University, submitted a report to the Government Equalities Office about how homelessness affects LGBTQ people.

At the same time, Eleanor Formby, who is also based at Sheffield Hallam, handed in a separate evaluation of LGBTQ bullying in British schools, which included a survey of 62,000 people.

Despite repeated reassurances that both reports would be published imminently, most recently in January 2023, the taxpayer-funded studies have yet to be released. The studies are likely to be stuck in further limbo given the election neutrality rules in place until the next government is formed.

In both cases, their publications would have required sign-off from the equalities minister, currently Kemi Badenoch, a politician who has voiced strong opinions on gender ideology.

However, this should not have prevented the publication of Dr Reeve’s report, because its findings were not contentious, she told Times Higher Education.

“The study wasn’t critical of government policy, and the report was specifically commissioned by the government because there was an acknowledged gap in knowledge around LGBTQ people and homelessness,” said Dr Reeve.

Campus resource collection: The rainbow university

“I genuinely don’t understand why my report has been delayed for so long – it’s completely unexplained.”

With the equalities office sitting on the report, Dr Reeve has been unable to disseminate any of its findings for almost half a decade, she explained.

“As the funder of this report, the government owns the intellectual property rights, which means I can’t write about it or even talk about it at conferences until it is in the public domain,” said Dr Reeve.

“It’s worse for Eleanor, because she had a book contract based on her work but doesn’t have the right to publish.”

The research risked becoming obsolete, while participants had often spoken to her only on the basis that the work would be published and could help to influence policy, added Dr Reeve.

Professor Formby told THE that it was “wholly unethical of the government to have obtained data – via us – from over 60,000 people and to then not publish it”.

That is “particularly [so when the] findings could have helped improve the lives of LGBT+ young people”, she added.

The charity Sense about Science has written to the equalities office to highlight government social science research protocols, which state that publicly funded research should be published within 12 weeks of submission, barring unforeseen exceptions.

The charity has highlighted numerous instances over recent years where publicly funded reports by academics have been suppressed for several years, often until relevant policy decisions had already been made or legislation passed.

Tracey Brown, the director of Sense about Science, said the “next government’s ministers must look urgently at the gap between principle and practice when it comes to publishing the evidence for policies”.

“They commission and assemble – and pay for – evidence to inform decisions, and then it disappears. We already hear from top-class researchers that they won’t take government contracts,” said Ms Brown.

A government spokesperson said it was aware of transparency guidelines and would be in contact with the two researchers, although restrictions on pre-election activity meant the reports would not be considered by ministers until July.



Print headline: Scholars in limbo as UK ministers sit on LGBTQ research for five years

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