Purdah pre-election guidance for staff

With the general election scheduled for 8 June 2017, we are now in the official pre-election period between the election announcement and the final results. This period is known as purdah and will end when a new government is formed.

Purdah places restrictions on actions and announcements that could show affiliation to a political party or have an influence on the outcome.

As a university we are not bound by purdah ourselves, however we do need to act with caution when publishing details of government-funded research or initiatives, for example research that has been funded by research councils. 

Guidance varies slightly between funding bodies, but essentially suggests that:

  • New government-funded announcements should preferably be avoided during the period.
  • If publication dates are already planned, for example in academic journals, then they can go ahead but the associated publicity should not mention the funding body.
  • Academics should be cautious when promoting commentary/thought leadership that relates to Government-funded initiatives or research during purdah.

If in doubt or if you have any questions please contact your funder or email the University media team at: mediateam@sheffield.ac.uk

Specific guidance that we have been informed about includes:

  • The High Value Manufacturing Catapult is adhering to advice from Innovate UK that new announcements/publications or commentary/thought leadership should be avoided.
  • For Research Councils UK (RCUK) purdah restrictions extend to Research Council funded research and researchers and any sub-contractors that are employed as part of the research project.

RCUK has issued the following guidance:

  • The Research Councils strongly advises against issuing press releases about new research. Any press releases that are scheduled to be issued during this time, that give you cause for concern, should be sent to the relevant press office three working days before they are planned to be issued. We reserve 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 relevant Research Council. 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 Research Councils.
  • Any Research Council 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.
  • 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 the Research Council support or associated with its investment.
  • If you are asked about the source of your funding or your link to the relevant Council then you may still confirm this – it is not a secret. However, this information should only be offered reactively in the case of a specific enquiry.
  • Essentially, what we want you to do is to ask the question ‘why now, can this wait?’ If something is not time-critical then it is best left until after the election and outcome is known. 

A note on election and charity law issues for university communications and campaigns teams from Universities UK (UUK)

This sets out some of the issues to consider when considering what activities to organise or host – from providing statements on policies in manifestos, to holding hustings events (meetings where election candidates or parties debate policies and answer questions from the audience).

As with previous elections and the EU referendum, there is absolutely nothing to stop universities from highlighting the policy areas which affect the sector which we would like to see the next government tackle; indeed it is important that informed voices from academia are able to take part in dissecting and debating a wide range of issues. This note is therefore intended to help you and your university campaign and communicate in the run up to 8 June.

Download UUK note (PDF, 330KB)