UCL Astrophysics Group


Group and departmental commitment to preventing bullying and harassment

Since early 2015, members of the Astrophysics Group and the Physics and Astronomy Department have devoted a considerable effort to preventing and addressing bullying and harassment. These efforts are part of a broader commitment to equality and diversity (for example our Athena SWAN Silver and Juno Champion accreditations).

  • From December 2016, members of the Astrophysics Group lobbied for improvements and reform to institutional processes. By working with the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion team as part of a College-wide effort:
  • UCL ran a symposium on harassment (June 2017), chaired by the Provost and involving the entire UCL community.
  • UCL set up a high-level group, which has membership from the Department, to review and implement strategies to improve the prevention of harassment at UCL, the support given to those reporting incidents and its policies and procedures for handling allegations of harassment.
  • The work of this group has already resulted in the recruitment of a full-time manager working exclusively on sexual misconduct, and trained case managers to support the process.
  • From September 2015, members of the Astrophysics Group worked with the UCL Equality, Diversity and Inclusion team to lobby for the implementation of an online reporting system that will enable staff to report harassment including anonymously. The University has been developing the system and it will shortly be available.
  • From October 2015, members of Astrophysics staff volunteered to act as a “listening group”. We sought out specialist training, and now act as an ear to students and postdocs, and make clear that harassment and bullying is unacceptable. This approach is now being implemented across the department.
  • From September 2017, we instigated an Astrophysics Group welfare committee to oversee further efforts to improve the working environment. This has resulted in, for example, a peer mentoring scheme for PhD students which will shortly also be extended to postdocs. A Departmental welfare committee is also now in place, adopting this model for monitoring and improving welfare.
  • The department has created, and financially supports, PhD and Research Associate networks, established on recommendations from Juno. These have significant further provisions for support at the departmental level.
  • The head of department, group, and people in other senior roles have participated in the workshop “Taking the Lead”, which provides targeted training on bullying and harassment and is now regularly offered across UCL.
  • From April 2015, members of the Astrophysics Group have been active in promoting the adoption of formal professional codes of conduct at international meetings and large international collaborations.
  • The department co-facilitated and contributed ideas to an inaugural workshop for UCL staff, "Where do you draw the line?". These workshops have now rolled out across UCL and other institutions. More than 1,000 staff have so far participated in these workshops which are focused on prevention and intervention. Over the next academic year, a further 2,000 staff will have attended them.

We continue to push forward in addressing this challenge in every way we can.