Digital Social Research
Digital Social Research aims to maximise the uptake, use and impact of new digital technologies across the social science community.
What is Digital Social Research?
Digital Social Research refers to the application of a new generation of distributed, digital technologies to social science research problems. The aim is to enable social research by developing innovative and more powerful, networked and interoperable research tools and services that make it easier for social scientists to discover, access and analyse data, and to collaborate so that they may tackle increasingly complex research challenges.
Realising the research value of our data resources - including new sources of data such as administrative and transactional records, and the web - demands the development of more sophisticated and secure techniques for data discovery, access, linking and management, and more powerful tools for data analysis. To meet these needs and so ensure that UK social research remains world-leading, Digital Social Research seeks to harness global efforts to advance the state of the art in digital research infrastructure or 'e Infrastructure'.
National Strategic Directorate for Digital Social Research
In 2009, Professor David De Roure, based at the University of Oxford, was appointed as National Strategic Director for Digital Social Research, with Dr Marina Jirotka, University of Oxford, as Deputy Director. Professor Rob Procter, The University of Manchester, and Professor Anne Trefethen, University of Oxford, hold consultancy roles. The role of the Directorate is to co-ordinate research activities and to advise us on the future strategic direction of Digital Social Research.
The Directorate have developed the Digital Social Research strategy, which aims to maximise the benefit from existing digital social research investment through a programme of small strategic investments in the period 2010-2012. These investments are targeted to broaden practice in order to boost research impact, and to lay the ground for future world-class social research that harnesses advances in digital technology and practice.
The Digital Social Research website provides up-to-date information about digital social research activities, including research projects, events and funding opportunities.
Digital Social Research was previously termed e-Social Science. In 2004 we established the National Centre for e-Social Science (NCeSS) to stimulate the production of new computer-based tools and services and their uptake by social scientists, to enable them to address the key challenges in their research fields in new ways. This was a distributed centre with a 'hub' at The University of Manchester and a network of research 'nodes' spread across the UK. This was the single largest investment in e-Social Science anywhere in the world.
NCeSS node research programme
The NCeSS node research programme has been a key driver behind the development of e-Social Science. The main strand of the programme consists of a series of projects ‘nodes’ which are seeking to draw upon unfolding advances in e-infrastructure tools and services and apply them to the particular needs of the social science community. The projects cover quantitative, qualitative and mixed methods approaches and a wide range of social science disciplines.
The programme also contains a second but equally important social shaping strand, which aims to understand the social, economic and other influences on how e-infrastructure is being developed and used, and its implications for scientific practice and research outcomes.
The current research programme consists of the following nodes:
- The GENerative e-Social Science Project (GENeSIS) - UCL and University of Leeds
- Obesity e-Lab - The University of Manchester
- The Oxford e-Social Science Node (OeSS) - University of Oxford
- PolicyGrid - University of Aberdeen
- e-Social Science Quantitative Node (e-Stat) - University of Bristol
- Understanding New Forms of Digital Records (DReSS) - University of Nottingham
- Data Management through e-Social Science (DAMES) - University of Stirling
- LifeGuide - University of Southampton
- Mixed Media Grid (MiMeG) - University of Bristol
- Collaboratory for Quantitative e Social Science (CQeSS) - University of Lancaster
This programme was part of a wider RCUK e-Science programme, and in 2009 the RCUK e-Science programme was reviewed by an International Panel. The findings of the panel confirmed the importance of e-Social Science and the international pre-eminence of the UK activity.
Demonstrator and Sustainability projects
In 2011, in order to broaden practice and sustain innovation in Digital Social Research, we commissioned a series of projects to assist translating existing digital research innovation into practise and sustain proven software, services and practises so that they may further support economic and social science using digital research methods.
- Supporting the use of digital media in research with children and young people
- Issue Mapping: Demonstrating the Relevance for Participatory Social Research
- A 3D psychological face database and tools
- Digital Social Research Tools, Tension Indicators and Safer Communities: A Demonstration of the Cardiff Online Social Media ObServatory (COSMOS)
- Preparing MethodBox for National Service
- Sustainable Carbon Counters
- Developing Sustainability Pathways for Social Simulation Tools and Services
Community Activities Funding
The Digital Social Research Community Activities Funding scheme aims to provide researchers with funds to support ideas exchanges, training in digital social research tools and methods, outreach events and partnerships. The three types of funds include:
- Partnerships – joint activities, including the facilitation of social scientists studying e-Science projects
- Visitors – supports exchanges, prioritising linking across investments and mobility of 'Research Technologists' for whom other programmes are unsuitable, building on past programmes
- Training and events – materials and support including engagements with other relevant projects such as the National Centre for Research Methods and Digital Economy.
Funds can be use to cover a wide variety of activities relating to the above, such as travel and subsistence for visits and speakers, events, and consulting fees for researchers to complete projects relating to one of the three activities listed. Funding is available of around £5,000 per application. See further details