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The Researcher Wellbeing Project (RWP): addressing researcher distress, trauma and secondary trauma

This project explores the impacts of researching emotionally challenging topics and aims to establish what interventions researchers want for their wellbeing.



Project status

In progress


1 Apr 2023 to 31 Jul 2024

Project overview

This project is split across two years with a series of overall aims.

Year 1: understanding and raising awareness

In year 1, the project focused on understanding and raising awareness of researcher wellbeing.

We conducted interviews and questionnaires with a purposeful sample of 31 researchers across the University of Bath Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences who have undertaken emotionally challenging research.

Although the majority of researchers interviewed were positive and passionate about their research, we found that symptoms linked to secondary trauma were common across topics and disciplines. Some researchers had informal mechanisms to help them cope with their research and a very small minority had formal support. But what the majority wanted was formal specialist-funded support put in place by the University (e.g., Researcher Wellbeing Plans, including clinical supervision and counselling).

The findings were presented to key stakeholders at all levels, including:

  • University of Bath Research Culture Celebration and Launch
  • South West Doctorial Training Partnership MRes/PhD induction
  • University of Bath Doctorial ‘Lunch and Learning’ induction session
  • European Criminological Association Annual Conference
  • Research Ethics Association conference
  • PhD/Early Career Researcher Wellbeing Group event

Discussions were commenced and continued with key managers within the University of Bath, other universities and national/international associations. These focused on the development of a strategic response to researcher wellbeing and emotionally challenging topics.

Read more about our findings

Year 2: developing and piloting measures

In year 2, the project aimed to develop and pilot a package of measures to help prevent and mitigate distress and secondary trauma in researchers. These were based on our findings from year 1, and were as follows:

  • Develop this web page, guidance and other resources to help improve practice
  • Start mainstreaming researcher wellbeing training in undergraduate, master's and doctorial provision in the University of Bath
  • Build on the Researcher Wellbeing Project to gain GW4 Development Fund grant for our GW4 Researcher Wellbeing Evidence and Learning Laboratory
  • Continue negotiations to develop a strategic approach to researcher wellbeing

Resources for Researchers, Supervisors and Institutions

Below are resources developed as part the University of Bath Researcher Wellbeing Project (funded by the Research England Enhancing Research Culture Fund).

These are tailored for researchers, supervisors and institutions who may be exploring emotionally challenging topics and are not formal institutional policies of the University of Bath.

Resources can be used in any institution free of charge (if you use them, simply reference the documents as indicated in the footnotes).

Please note: If you are a University of Bath staff member, you can access bespoke resources

Quick tips for writing a grant application

An easy-to-access round-up of the resources below.

Researcher Wellbeing Plan

Guidance for what to do if a researcher/you get(s) distressed

Guidance for people experiencing distress while working on emotionally-challenging research topics.

Wellbeing guidance for researchers, teams and supervisors: gold, silver and bronze

Guidance on managing researcher wellbeing when undertaking emotionally challenging research. Our recommendations are grouped into gold, silver and bronze categories.

Guidance for institutional support of emotionally challenging research (funders and employers)

Guidance for funders and employers supporting researchers working on emotionally challenging research topics.

Risk assessment guidance for emotionally challenging research

Guidance for researchers completing risk assessments (ideally) before undertaking emotionally challenging research projects.

Guidance for researchers if participants experience distress

Team members


This project benefits from the contributions of external funders.

Contact us

If you have any questions about this project, please contact us.