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New social sciences funding to help tackle society’s most pressing challenges

Posted on 7 March 2023

The University of York has been awarded £1.25m of government funding to support and enhance its social sciences research.

Picture: Karsten Würth, Unsplash.

The funding, part of the Economic and Social Research Council’s (ESRC’s) five-year Impact Acceleration Accounts (IAAs), will enable staff to undertake a range of activities to achieve further impact from their research.

Societal challenges

The University’s social sciences research includes work on some of the key issues we face as a society. Building on the success of previous rounds of ESRC IAA funding, over the next five years the Faculty of Social Sciences will support impact activity in a wide range of areas including a focus on four key themes: enabling the sustainable society; entrepreneurship for all; healthy and caring society; and social justice and vulnerability.

Professor Karen Rowlingson, Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences and Professor of Social Policy, said: “As a University for public good our research is focused on making a difference locally, nationally, and internationally. Our priority themes align with our research strengths and will enable us to make a real, positive impact over the next five years.”

Increasing capacity

The funding will increase the University’s capacity for commercialising social science research, building policy and stakeholder engagement, working across disciplines, and enabling the movement of people and ideas through secondments and multidisciplinary projects.

Through The York Policy Engine, the University will continue to engage and influence policy and help build skills among research staff. The funding will enable collaboration with the Universities of Leeds and Sheffield on a new initiative, The Yorkshire Policy Observatory, which will strengthen influence on policy by drawing on the combined strength of the institutions.

Professor Yvonne Birks, Associate Dean (Research) in the Faculty of Social Sciences and Associate Director NIHR School for Social Care Research, said: “Importantly this funding will help us to build new partnerships and work across disciplines to build on our existing research. Across our faculty, we have creative and curious staff who work together and with partners to drive positive change in our society.”

Accelerating impact

Interim ESRC Executive Chair Professor Alison Park said: “The social, behavioural and economic research we fund helps us understand how we live and how society functions, throwing new light on how best to tackle our most pressing challenges. This investment creates a network of research organisations with dedicated funding to support and accelerate the impact of this research.

“We have already seen the benefits of previous rounds of IAA funding, which have leveraged an extra £52 million from partners ranging from local government to private business. This new cohort of 32 research organisations in receipt of IAA funding is the largest and most diverse group ESRC has funded. I look forward to seeing how these investments maximise the impact of social science research.”

Further information:

About ESRC IAAs 2023

  • 32 research organisations across the UK will benefit from the ESRC’s support through five-year IAAs totalling £40 million.
  • IAAs enable research organisations to support a wide range of social, economic and behavioural science impact activities. The funding generates greater benefits from research, helping create a more prosperous, inclusive, healthy and secure society.  
  • Research organisations awarded an IAA are empowered to use the funds flexibly and responsively, aligning with their strategic aims, to unlock the value of their existing social science research. This can take many forms. Initiatives delivered by previous rounds of funding include examples of:
    • place-based projects to further develop research impact at a local level  
    • commercialisation of social science research and the creation of new partnerships with business 
    • supporting charities and public sector organisations to deliver better services.
  • Previous ESRC IAA funding rounds have been highly successful in attracting additional investment. For every £1 million invested by ESRC, an additional £1 million was leveraged back into knowledge exchange and impact from 6,560 non-academic partners, including businesses, charities, local councils and other partners.  
  • Research organisations that are awarded ESRC IAA funding also participate in ESRC’s annual, UK-wide Festival of Social Science.
  • The 2022 Festival connected more than 14,250 people across the UK with social, economic and behavioural science.

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