Our invited response encourages the ESRC to support interdisciplinary and multi-scalar research, and invest in a spatial (geographical) focus.
Response submitted 2014
ESRC adds most value in its ‘traditional’ roles – research grants to support thematic and blue-skies research; training for the next generation of scholars; and funding of centres and infrastructure for longitudinal socio-economic surveys. In terms of newer initiatives, ESRC’s recent (recognising this has been ongoing) leadership in quantitative social science training (at undergraduate and advanced research level including the Q-Step initiative) and the capital bid to enhance social science infrastructure and the establishment of the UK Data Service are particularly notable.
ESRC does, and must, support and encourage critical, independent social science research from a broad range of disciplinary and multi-disciplinary perspectives
We encourage ESRC to continue to support its traditional areas of strength (research grants; training of doctoral students; social and economic data and infrastructure) and to work with others, collaboratively, particularly in the realms of public engagement and work with schools.
Many of the fields supported by ESRC benefit from a spatial (geographical) focus. We encourage ESRC to invest more in this and to recognise the contributions that result from consideration at different spatial scales – community, local, regional – as well as national and international.
We also encourage ESRC not to be unduly UK focused and to recognise, and support, international and comparative work. Members of the geographical community have pointed out before the importance of research on the global south that goes beyond the global south as a problem (poverty alleviation or international resilience/disasters) recognising what can be learnt from social organisations/civic experiences, managing and responding to environemental challenges, the diversity of local experiences etc.
Future Cities - change and resilience
Social diversity and population dynamics
Regional inequality in the context of global restructuring
Emerging and developing economies (beyond the rising powers), economic and political agendas
Water, energy and food resilience
Low carbon economy – social, cultural and economic implications
Sustain and invest in longitudinal studies
Small area data
Social science capability
Sustaining and developing capacity across ALL social science disciplines
Languages/field based skills to extend international expertise and focus
Non-academic partnerships and knowledge exchange
Work more closely with Learned Societies recognizing their capabilities are different
and compatable to ESRC and university-based academic community
Extend the breadth of international engagement
Develop capacity of next generation of scholars to work internationally and interdisciplinarily
The large projects supported by ESRC are inevitably inter-disciplinary; what is most important is to support/encourage early career researchers to be involved in such initiatives.
We encourage ESRC to continue to pay attention to the peer review process for interdisciplinary grants, taking care to allow for differences between reviewers/assessors from different disciplines in terms of perspectives, approaches and what is valued.
We note some social scientists seem to do better in EPSRC than ESRC. We encourage ESRC to investigate why and to adopt appropriate approaches.
The role of ESRC in supporting UK data services, longitudinal studies, advances in methodologies to collect small area data are very significant for the geographical community.
ESRC has a key role both in provision and in leading/collaborating with others. Recent collaborations around quantitative skills are notable here. Opportunities also exist in areas such as language skills and training.
ESRC needs to maintain independence as a funder and to work closely with a breadth of organisations, learned societies included, to engage communities with the process of research, findings and their uptake/implications.
We reiterate our comments about working with learned societies, particularly those which are also professional bodies who have strong links with business, not for profit, and government organisations.
Members of the community have highlighted (i) challenges for many businesses of donating time freely; (ii) the length of time for peer review/decision making (for some businesses this is seen to be slow and can be a disincentive to partnership).
Consult widely and use intermediaries.
This requires a very particular set of skills, which include but are not limited to multidisciplinary /multi-partner working. These are skills that need to be embedded at early career stages and positively encouraged. See comments in 9.
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