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Modern Slavery and Human Rights Policy and Evidence Centre announces its first research pre-calls

The Modern Slavery and Human Rights Policy and Evidence Centre (the Centre, or Modern Slavery PEC) has today issued its first two pre-calls for research proposals focused on the effects of Covid-19 on modern slavery and on survivor support.

The Modern Slavery PEC was created by the investment of £10 million of public funding from the Strategic Priorities Fund to enhance understanding of modern slavery and transform the effectiveness of law and policies designed to overcome it.

The Centre aims to bring together academics, policymakers, businesses, civil society, survivors and the public on a scale not seen before in the UK to collaborate on solving this global challenge. Led by the Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law and funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) with support from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), the Centre is a consortium of universities and Independent Research Organisations.

The Centre focuses its research on four main areas: victim and survivor support and recovery; prevention; product supply chains; and legal enforcement measures. A focus on the needs of victims and survivors, and protection of their human rights, is at the heart of its work. The research that the Modern Slavery PEC is seeking should be innovative, collaborative, and aiming to drive real policy change.

Today the Modern Slavery PEC announces two major pre-calls for research proposals, one focussing on the impact of COVID-19 on modern slavery practices, and one focussing on survivor support and recovery.

Call for research on the effects of Covid-19 pandemic on modern slavery

Through a new Covid-19 funding call, the Centre seeks research that can generate evidence to improve understanding of the effects of the pandemic on behaviours, systems and structures associated with modern slavery. This includes both the effects of the pandemic and the responses to it by governments, businesses and organisations that can affect people's vulnerability to exploitation and the systems underpinning exploitative practices. The projects must be hosted by an eligible institution in the UK, but may look globally in their scope and impact.

Research proposals submitted can aim to address both the effects of and responses to the pandemic, and should have an appropriate balance between identifying problems and proposing actions to address or mitigate those problems.

The funding call will operate on a rolling basis in order to respond effectively to the evolving nature of the pandemic. Details on the size and scale of grants available will be set out in the call specification.

Call for research on victim and survivor support and recovery

For victim and survivor support and recovery, the Centre is seeking original and innovative research, which identifies ways to improve the current support system for slavery survivors so that it fulfils their individual needs in short-term and long-term recovery.

The Centre takes a partnership approach, inviting proposals for projects involving those on the frontline, and puts the needs of victims and survivors at the heart of research to influence future policy development.

The Centre is looking to fill gaps in the evidence base in areas such as the decision-making processes for identifying people affected by slavery and the impact it has on survivors, the recovery and reintegration needs of both adults and children identified as victims, and approaches to prevent re-trafficking.

For this area of research, the Centre will be accepting proposals up to full economic cost of £300K for a period of up to 12 months. The call will close at 1600 hours on Wednesday 30 September 2020.

Murray Hunt, Director of Modern Slavery PEC, said:

"Today's announcement marks the opening of a new chapter in the UK's and the world's ability to respond to the one of the biggest human rights challenges of our time: modern slavery.

"Together with our partners in the Policy and Evidence Centre, we are looking forward to bringing together researchers, policymakers, legislators, civil society, businesses and the public in a collaborative effort to stand up against slavery and design a world where people are not exploited for someone else's gain."

Professor Andrew Thompson, AHRC Executive Chair said:

"Modern slavery is one of the most egregious human rights abuses of our time. We urgently need more research with victims and survivors at its heart to deliver meaningful improvements in policy. We already know from anecdotal evidence that COVID-19 is having an impact on modern slavery but need to build up a comprehensive evidence base to protect those at risk in the future.

"We also know more work is required to understand the needs of victims and survivors and what more we can do to support their recovery. These vital research calls will help us build a more robust evidence base to ensure we are using every tool in the policy arsenal to eradicate modern slavery, wherever it is found."

Further information on the call requirements, eligibility, and how to apply can be found on the AHRC website, both on the COVID-19  and survivor recovery  calls.

Notes to editors:

For further information about the Modern Slavery and Human Rights Policy and Evidence Centre please contact Modern Slavery PEC's Communications Director Jakub Sobik at or on 07912145610.

For further information about UK Research and Innovation and the Arts and Humanities Research Council please contact the UKRI Press Office at

For more information about the research calls please contact Joanna Dunster on

About Modern Slavery and Human Rights Policy and Evidence Centre (Modern Slavery PEC):

The Modern Slavery PEC was created by the investment of £10 million of public funding as part of the Strategic Priorities Fund, delivered by UK Research and Innovation, to enhance the understanding of modern slavery and transform the effectiveness of laws and policies designed to overcome it. It's designed to provide independent, impartial and authoritative insight and analysis on modern slavery, based on high quality research, of real practical utility to policymakers, legislators, international organisations, businesses, civil society and the public. 

The partners in the consortium are the Rights Lab  at Nottingham University, the Wilberforce Institute  at Hull University, the Centre for the Study of International Slavery  at the University of Liverpool, the Bonavero Institute on Human Rights  at Oxford University and the Alan Turing Institute.

For more information about the Modern Slavery PEC visit: .

UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) works in partnership with universities, research organisations, businesses, charities, and government to create the best possible environment for research and innovation to flourish. We aim to maximise the contribution of each of our component parts, working individually and collectively. We work with our many partners to benefit everyone through knowledge, talent and ideas.

Operating across the whole of the UK with a combined budget of more than £7 billion, UK Research and Innovation brings together the seven research councils, Innovate UK and Research England. For more information visit .

The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), part of UK Research and Innovation, funds internationally outstanding independent researchers across the whole range of the arts and humanities: history, archaeology, digital content, philosophy, languages and literature, design, heritage, area studies, the creative and performing arts, and much more. The quality and range of research supported by AHRC works for the good of UK society and culture and contributes both to UK economic success and to the culture and welfare of societies across the globe.

You can find out more information via or following us on Twitter at @ahrcpress , on Facebook at @artsandhumanitiesresearchcouncil , or Instagram at @ahrcpress .

The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), part of UK Research and Innovation, is the UK's largest funder of research on the key social and economic questions facing us today. It supports independent, high quality research which has an impact on business, the public sector and civil society. ESRC supports the development and training of the UK's future social scientists and funds major studies that provide vital infrastructure for research.

The Strategic Priorities Fund supports high quality research and development priorities identified by researchers and businesses at the cutting edge of research and innovation.

The Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law  is an independent research institute which proactively advances the Rule of Law worldwide. It is based in London and is part of the British Institute of International and Comparative Law.

About modern slavery:

Modern slavery is an umbrella term for practices where people are trapped, controlled and exploited in a situation they can't get out of because of threats, violence, or just taking advantage of the position of vulnerability. Its forms include human trafficking, forced labour, bonded labour and forced marriage. Modern slavery traps estimated 40.3m people worldwide. The UK government estimates that 13 thousand people are trapped in slavery today, with the National Crime Agency indicating that the numbers are now likely to be "in the tens of thousands". Only in 2019 over 10,000 were reported to the UK authorities as potential victims of slavery, 43% of them children, with British citizens being the largest source of victims .

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