How do you appoint researchers?

We generally issue invitations to tender for all major research projects we commission.  We are also open to receiving proposals for innovative research which are usually reviewed once a year by the Research & Evaluation Committee.

What is your annual research budget?

We spent almost £1.5 million on research in 2016/17, and allocate 10-15% of our income each year to research.

Who determines what research you commission?

The Responsible Gambling Strategy Board (RGSB) advises the Gambling Commission and, in turn, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), on research, education and treatment programmes needed to support a national responsible gambling strategy and associated funding requirements. Responsibilities for commissioning research are shared between us and RGSB under the terms of an agreement signed in 2012.

The Responsible Gambling Strategy Board has responsibility for:

  • The establishment and maintenance of a detailed research strategy - a thematic framework of research questions relating to the priority areas identified within the broader responsible gambling strategy. 
  • The production and publication, at the appropriate time, of a project brief for each significant project or programme within the research strategy. The project briefs will outline the policy context and need for the research, explain how it fits with the strategic priorities and identify the research questions to be addressed.

GambleAware has responsibility for:

  • Developing, maintaining and delivering its own commissioning plan after considering the RGSB research strategy and seeking to deliver as much of that strategy as possible while meeting the Trust’s overall charitable objects.
  • The issue of Invitations to Tender (ITTs) for each major project. 
  • The evaluation of bids in response to ITTs and the issue of contracts to the successful bidder.
    Ensuring the quality of commissioned research through the establishment of appropriate steering groups of qualified individuals. 
  • Ensuring a process of robust peer review. 
  • Publishing research papers.

Some of your trustees have interests in the gambling industry. How do you prevent them influencing the research you fund?

The Board of GambleAware has delegated responsibility for oversight of all these responsibilities to its Research & Evaluation Committee.  The Board as a whole has no influence over the research questions to be addressed, the scope of the research, the choice of researchers or the content of the research reports. It does, however, have responsibility for satisfying itself that adequate arrangements exists to ensure the quality and integrity of the assurance process.

Trustees with a declared interest in the gambling industry are specifically excluded from membership of the Research & Evaluation Committee. (Click here for a list of trustees' interests.)  One member of the Responsible Gambling Strategy Board, and one or more members of its secretariat, attends Research & Evaluation Committee meetings as actively participating observers, as do representatives of DCMS and the Gambling Commission.  

This arrangement, in combination with the fact that the overarching research strategy which the Research & Evaluation Committee considers when it draws up its commissioning plan is determined by the Responsible Gambling Strategy Board, has been put in place by GambleAware to ensure that the gambling industry has no opportunity to influence the nature or outcome of any research projects.

How do you determine when to publish research?

Researchers are free to publish research when it is ready (following peer review). We will not delay publication for political or commercial reasons. Our industry trustees are only shown the completed research on a confidential basis 24 hours before publication.  Industry partners who participate in research e.g. by providing data or access to venues, and the media may from time to time be given embargoed copies of completed research but this is only ever in its final published form and cannot be amended in any way at this stage.

What happens if the gambling industry tries to influence researchers?

We include a "whistle-blowing" clause which guarantees researchers can walk away from projects we've commissioned and still receive their full grant if they demonstrate that industry has made any attempt to unduly influence their work.  Equally, if we discover that any research we are funding has been unduly influenced with the connivance of the researchers, we can cancel the grant.

Some researchers refuse to do work funded by the industry, in spite of these safeguards. Would it not be better for the government to fund this research independently?

We work within the current system, but are open to reform if ministers decided there was a better approach.  We have previously sought to work through academic funding bodies, but they found themselves unable to award any funds after peer review of the applications they received. We are also regulated by the Charity Commission which is independent of the government, reporting directly to the Crown – in other jurisdictions where government regulators commission research, there is often controversy about whether concerns about the revenue impact of gambling undermines independence.