ESRC Open Meeting

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    Katie Metzler

    Last night I attended the ESRC Open Meeting last night. (For those of you not from the UK, the ESRC is the UK’s largest funder of research on economic and social issues.) It was quite an upbeat affair, with the ESRC assuring the attendees that they had done very well out of the government in the last funding round. According to them, social sciences in the UK aren’t under threat anymore than any other discipline. They also made quite a convincing case that they remained as independent as possible from government influence in their grant awarding decisions. The ESRC has decided to focus on the three (very broad) strategic priorities (Economic Performance and Sustainable Growth, Influencing Behaviour and Informing Interventions, and A Vibrant and Fair Society), though they have reserved £48m worth of grant money for what they call ‘responsive research’ – meaning it doesn’t need to fit into their agenda, it just needs to be a good idea which peer reviews well to receive funding.


    The word of the night was (once again) IMPACT. As 20% of the REFs criteria will be around research impact, it’s still a hotly contested area. How do we measure impact? What’s the timescale? The ESRC was, once again, quite positive on this. They argue that academics got into academia because they want to have an impact so they shouldn’t be too worried about needing to state openly what they hope this will be in grant applications and REF submissions. The ESRC’s definition of impact is very broad, they don’t expect instant impact on policy as they realise this would be grossly misunderstanding how policy-making works. They also accept that impact could take decades to be seen, and that there are different types of impact (academic, economic and social). Visit the ESCR wesbite’s page on impact for more…


    Dissemination of results is a key factor and the ESRC was strongly advocating publishing your research findings as widely as possible, not just in highly cited journals, but in other forms (books, popular media, social networking, conference papers). Methodspace is a great place to discuss and disseminate your research!


    Would be interested to hear from anyone else who was at the meeting or who has thoughts on the impact agenda!

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