Result of independent investigation into whistleblowing allegations released

Independent barrister's report concludes that no wrongdoing took place, but that Institute procedures could be improved

Result of independent investigation into whistleblowing allegations released

In 2018 Lord David Willetts, Chair of Genome Research Limited, received whistleblowing allegations against the Director of the Wellcome Sanger Institute, Professor Sir Mike Stratton. The Wellcome Sanger Institute, its governing body (Genome Research Limited) and Wellcome take all such complaints extremely seriously and appointed an independent barrister to conduct a thorough investigation.

The report, conducted by Thomas Kibling, at the respected law firm Matrix Chambers, has now been published (Tuesday 30 October). It concludes that no wrongdoing took place, but that Institute procedures could be improved.

To read the Executive summary and recommendations, please download the PDF here. Please note, the report contains redacted materials, to protect the people involved in the investigation.

“I am pleased that the allegations of bullying and gender discrimination in the whistleblowing complaint have not been upheld. All other allegations, including wrongful exploitation of scientific work for commercial purposes and misuse of Sanger funding, have also not been upheld.

“However, the investigation has highlighted aspects of how I and the Institute conduct ourselves that require improvement. I would like to apologise for failures in people management that have occurred and have had unintended detrimental effects on individuals. The report has helped to identify a number of areas in which we can improve.

“There is a need for greater transparency and clarity in making and communicating decisions, particularly in how people leave the Institute, with better incorporation of HR support and advice.

“Furthermore, there are questions at Sanger relating to gender, notably the imbalance between the number of men and women amongst our scientific leaders and the challenges faced by women in forging scientific careers. Finding a solution to this is something I am personally committed to.

“We have taken steps at the Institute over several years to address these issues, but it is clear that more needs to be done to achieve the necessary change. We will review our faculty model to see whether it includes policies that inadvertently foster gender imbalance and inequality.

“It is an immense honour and privilege to be Director of the Sanger Institute and I profoundly believe in what we can achieve. I will ensure that we continue to reflect on these issues together in order to make our organisation an even better working environment for all.”

Professor Sir Mike Stratton, Director of the Wellcome Sanger Institute

“The Board of Genome Research Limited (GRL) has received the findings of the independent investigation by the barrister Thomas Kibling in relation to allegations against the management of the Wellcome Sanger Institute, which the Board oversees.

“The investigation has cleared those accused of wrongdoing of all charges. In particular, the Director of the Wellcome Sanger Institute, Professor Sir Mike Stratton, has been cleared by the investigation of bullying and gender discrimination.

“However, the investigation does show there have been failings in the way in which people have been managed. We also recognise that we need to do more to improve diversity at senior levels of the organisation.

“The Board has therefore decided to strengthen the role of HR within the Wellcome Sanger Institute to ensure there is better incorporation of HR support and advice for the Institute. We are also launching a review of the way the Wellcome Sanger Institute’s faculty model works so that it promotes further diversity, particularly among scientists at senior levels.

“The Wellcome Sanger Institute leads the world in genomic science, an endeavour which has the potential to improve lives everywhere. We are deeply committed to this mission, which requires both the best scientists and the best environment for them to work in.”

Statement from Lord David Willetts, Chair of the Board of Genome Research Limited (GRL) on behalf of the GRL Board

“Wellcome expects all the researchers and organisations we fund to adhere to the highest standards of research practice, behavioural conduct and professional integrity. Anyone working in a scientific institution should feel confident to speak out if they experience behaviour that falls short of these standards, knowing that their concerns will be taken seriously and investigated thoroughly.

“In this case, we are satisfied that a full, independent investigation has been carried out, which has cleared those involved of all allegations. Professor Mike Stratton has specifically been cleared by the investigation of bullying and gender discrimination.

“Wellcome has made diversity and inclusion a priority and, like most scientific institutions, there is more to do at the Wellcome Sanger Institute to make good on this commitment. These issues should have been recognised and acted on sooner, and I apologise for not doing so.

“Wellcome believes strongly that science and research has the power to improve lives. However, in order to avoid people leaving science, or thinking that science isn’t for them in the first place, we need to make the culture that surrounds science more inclusive.”

Statement by Dr Jeremy Farrar, Director of Wellcome on behalf of the Wellcome Trust

Notes to Editors

To download a PDF of the Executive Summary and Recommendations, please click here. Please note: the report contains redacted materials, to protect the people involved in the investigation.

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