ESRC - Building a strong and sustainable future for UK social science

05/26/05

The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) today publishes its Delivery Plan, which highlights the core themes of quality research, sustainability and partnerships. The document outlines the Council's priorities and performance measures for the next three years.

ESRC will continue to lead the social science research agenda in the UK by facilitating a wider range of research opportunities. This will allow the Council to continue to support social science of the highest quality but will also underline the importance of social science research to global problems and natural science questions, as well as addressing a range of social and economic issues in the UK through ESRC's diverse portfolio.

The Delivery Plan will also enable the Council both to seize opportunities and to create new response mode research in partnership with the social science community and its wider stakeholders, in areas ranging from succeeding in the global economy, to education, welfare, and life chances.

ESRC will receive 123.4 million this year from the Science Budget through the Office of Science and Technology (OST) rising to 150 million for 2007- 08. Within this, issues relating to the 'health of social science disciplines' will be targeted as the Council recognises that the demography of the academic community in some areas, means that there is an urgent need to develop a new generation of world class social science specialists.

The key intentions set out in the plan are:

  • To increase the proportion of the Council's budget allocated to responsive mode funding. The raising of grant application success rates, the introduction of a new scheme for large grants, a first grants scheme for junior researchers, and regular open centres competitions, are all seen as vital elements of this strategy.

  • Key areas of the social science community are facing serious problems in the recruitment and retention of staff, and threatening our ability to sustain the quality of the UK's research base. We aim to specifically address this by, for example, increasing the number of studentships and post doctoral fellowships in priority areas such as economics, management and business studies, and quantitative analysis. This will entail some reprioritisation of our funding between disciplines. In addition, the first grants scheme will enable new researchers to gain a foothold on the research ladder.

  • The enabling of major partnerships through collaborative funding and knowledge transfer activities - both with our sister Research Councils, other UK funding bodies such as government departments and with institutions outside the UK. EPSRC is soon to announce joint schemes with sister Councils in at least seven countries. The Council will also be increasing the international dimensions of all aspects of its work to include not only research collaboration but also improved bibliometric measures of output, new work on comparative research methods, and the introduction of a series of international benchmarking reviews.

  • Addressing a number of key research challenges which are relevant to people's lives in areas such as the environment and climate change; identities, ethnicity and religion; and international security.

  • Demonstrating to our stakeholders the high ethical standards of social science research in the UK and the efficient use of the public funding ESRC receives.

    Through these activities, ESRC will continue to support leading edge research and reinforce its commitment to strengthening the research base.

    Commenting on the Delivery Plan, Professor Ian Diamond, Chief Executive of ESRC, said: "Perhaps more than any other research council, our work covers a wide and disparate range of topics and disciplines. Through this Delivery Plan, ESRC can both implement and innovate, and ensure that its stewardship of public funds is effective in delivering world class outputs in a way that will benefit not only social science but also the economy and society of the UK and the wider world."

    Source: Eurekalert & others

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