The Research Councils are committed to high standards of service in all their operations.

Despite this we recognise that things can sometimes go wrong and we want you to have the opportunity to raise any problems or complaints with us. Any complaint will be taken seriously and treated in the strictest confidence.

Reasons for complaints

A complaint may relate to:

  • failure to follow stated policies or processes
  • inappropriate or insensitive attitude by staff
  • failure to follow our legal obligations.

A complaint will not be considered when:

  • matters are subject to legal proceedings or litigation
  • disagreeing with a funding decision based on academic/scientific judgement
  • complaints relate to decisions by Research Organisations
  • stated policies and processes have been followed
  • the matter has been considered appropriately under the complaints policy and closed.

Where a complaint is related to Research Conduct, please refer to the RCUK Policy and Guidelines on Governance of Good Research Conduct, which provides detailed guidance.

In order to allow a complete review of any complaint, we request that any complaint is submitted within six months of the issue/problem.

How to make a complaint

In the first instance we ask you to try to resolve your complaint directly with the Research Council officer dealing with the issue.

If the matter is not resolved and you wish to escalate your complaint please follow the individual escalation procedures for the relevant Research Council. For ESRC if you wish to register a complaint please contact

The complaint must be made in writing, by either email or letter. Any telephone complaints will need to be followed up in writing to be formally investigated.

Information to include in complaint

In order for the Research Councils to investigate the complaint in a timely and effective manner we request that the following information is provided:

  • Full contact details of complainant
  • The section/team within the Research Council and the name of the Research Council officer (if known) dealing with the issue
  • A clear description of the complaint
  • Desired outcome of complaint, if appropriate.

The complaint will be acknowledged within five working days with a full response made within 20 working days thereafter. If a full response is not possible within this time we will provide details of progress made and a target date for resolution or further point of contact.


The following standards will be applied when considering any complaint:

  • Treated in confidence and within current information legislation (including Data Protection Act 1998 and Freedom of Information Act 2000)
  • Handled fairly, sensitively and respectfully.
  • Treated in a competent and timely manner.

Any whistleblowing complaints received will be handled in line with the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998.


If you have gone through the complaints procedure and remain dissatisfied with the outcome you have the right to refer the matter to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration (the Ombudsman). You will have to make your complaint to the Ombudsman through your local Member of Parliament.