Economic and social science community addressing the challenges ahead for the UK

Tuesday 21 July 2009

Social science research is essential to tackling UK and global security challenges, getting to grips with reforming the financial markets and helping households adapt to climate change.  This is the message from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) as it publishes its Strategic Plan 2009-2014.

The Strategic Plan provides a road map for economic and social research over the next five years, with the aim of delivering a step-change in the impact of the social sciences.  Excellent social and economic research achieves impact through scientific advances, including significant advances in methods, theory, and application.  Impact does not stop at the scientific; research directly and indirectly contributes to society and the economy by informing public debates, as well as policy and practice at an individual level through to organisations and nations.

"Excellence remains the primary criterion for funding. You only get impact with brilliant social science research", said Ian Diamond, Chief Executive of the ESRC. "The community needs to appreciate that the emphasis on impact will not disadvantage basic research, nor stifle research creativity or scientific discovery. However, we need the community to work with us to demonstrate the impact of our research on society, to show which is why it is vital to go on investing in it."

Key to ensuring the maximum scientific and economic and societal impact from social science knowledge, is ESRC's support for a broad portfolio of integrated activities. Its new Strategic Plan therefore sets clear objectives to deliver impact: through

  • world class social science research
  • skilled people
  • world class infrastructure
  • international leadership
  • partnerships

Dr Alan Gillespie, Chair of the ESRC explains that "Delivering the benefits of research is a core part of what we do. We are increasingly looking to maximise the impact of social science research in all parts of society, such as the public sector, business, voluntary organisations and the research community itself."

ESRC will continue to support the blue-skies research ideas from its community, but will additionally focus a substantial part of its portfolio on seven social science challenges through investment in research, people and infrastructure:  

  • Global Economic Performance, Policy and Management
  • Health and Wellbeing
  • Understanding Individual Behaviour
  • New Technology, Innovation and Skills
  • Environment, Energy and Resilience
  • Security, Conflict and Justice
  • Social Diversity and Population Dynamics

These areas will not only contribute to the UK's knowledge base and address key societal issues, but also encourage multi-disciplinary approaches to research and international collaboration.

The ESRC will also encourage its researchers to engage with users in the design and delivery of research across the social science challenges. Prof Diamond added: "Partnerships provide opportunities to generate research findings that can impact on policy and practice. We will provide extra funding through our research grants to support the development of these partners and the sharing of the key research findings with policy makers and practitioners"

For further information contact

ESRC Press Office:

Notes for editors

  1. Please visit the ESRC's Strategic Plan 2009-2014 website for further information.
  2. The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) is the UK's largest organisation for funding research on economic and social issues. It supports independent, high quality research which has an impact on business, the public sector and the third sector. The ESRC's planned total expenditure in 2009/10 is £204 million. At any one time the ESRC supports over 4,000 researchers and postgraduate students in academic institutions and independent research institutes.
  3. The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) is an independent organisation, established by Royal Charter, but receive most of its funding through the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills.