What we do

We are the UK's largest organisation for funding research on economic and social issues. We support independent, high quality research which has an impact on business, the public sector and the third sector. Our total budget for 2013/14 was £212 million. At any one time we support over 4,000 researchers and postgraduate students in academic institutions and independent research institutes.

We are a non-departmental public body (NDPB) established by Royal Charter in 1965 and receive most of our funding through the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS). Our research is vigorous and authoritative, as we support independent, high-quality, relevant social science.

What we offer

We offer:

  • Quality: All ESRC research awards are made in open competition, subject to transparent peer assessment at the outset and evaluation on completion. Rigorous standards are applied to all the training we support. Our research often involves multidisciplinary teams, collaboration with other councils, and frequently takes a long-term view. Our datasets, longitudinal and panel studies are internationally acclaimed resources.

  • Impact: Our research makes a difference: it shapes public policies and makes businesses, voluntary bodies and other organisations more effective as well as shaping wider society. Our knowledge exchange schemes are carefully devised to maximise the economic and social impacts of the research that we fund.

  • Independence: Although publicly funded, our Royal Charter emphasises the importance of independence and impartial research. We have no 'in-house' researchers, but distribute funds to academics in universities and other institutes throughout the UK.

Our mission

Our role is to:

  • promote and support, by any means, high-quality basic, strategic and applied research and related postgraduate training in the social sciences
  • advance knowledge and provide trained social scientists who meet the needs of users and beneficiaries, thereby contributing to the economic competitiveness of the UK, the effectiveness of public services and policy, and the quality of life
  • provide advice on, disseminate knowledge of and promote public understanding of, the social sciences.

Research

We are committed to supporting the very best research, with scientific excellence the primary criterion for funding. All our funding opportunities are highly competitive and only those proposals judged by experts in the field to be of the highest scientific quality are supported.

Training

We play a key role in promoting and supporting training for the UK social science community throughout their careers. We invest in high-quality research training and development opportunities to produce skilled researchers who are able to tackle the most pressing social and economic challenges and have a broader impact on society.

Partnerships

Partnerships bring a wealth of opportunities to the social sciences, from the development of researchers skilled in knowledge exchange to creating maximum impact of our research on society’s most complex challenges. Building strategic partnerships with academia, the public and private sectors, and civil society is a key aspect of our work.

Infrastructure

Researchers require access to world-class data and pioneering research methods to deliver high quality research and maximise impact. We take a strategic lead in driving the expansion of the UK's data infrastructure and supporting cutting-edge methodological developments.

International leadership

We are an international leader in the social sciences. We foster international collaboration with a wide range of international partners and, through joint schemes, we enable UK social scientists to collaborate on challenging global issues with the very best international researchers from around the world.

Public engagement

We work to raise public awareness of social science and we encourage involvement in research that will translate into benefits for society and individuals.

Further information about the ESRC