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Millions of pounds of funding for pioneering social science research

Published: 8 February 2018
Population image

The ESRC Centre for Population Change (CPC) at the University of Southampton has been awarded a share of £6.9m which will allow eight established centres in the UK to continue their social science research.

The CPC, will receive £1.33m of the award from the Economic and Social Research Council – with the partner universities of Southampton, St Andrews and Stirling providing additional funding.

Over the last nine years, the centre has conducted world leading research into how and why our population is changing and what this means for people, communities and governments. This latest funding means it can continue this vital work into 2021 and help further boost research in an area of increasing global importance.

Professor Jane Falkingham, Director of ESRC Centre for Population Change and Dean of the Faculty of Social, Human and Mathematical Sciences at the University of Southampton, said: “I am delighted that ESRC has confirmed renewed funding for the Centre for Population Change, allowing us to continue to contribute to understanding the drivers and consequences of changes in the UK’s population in a period of increased uncertainty.

“With Brexit on the horizon, a rapidly changing economy demanding new skills, changes in family life and a growing number of older people living longer, it has never been a more interesting time to be a demographer and I look forward to sharing the exciting results of our on-going research.”

Professor Sir Christopher Snowden, President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Southampton commented: “The University welcomes this essential funding for its renowned Centre for Population Change and is delighted to see that there is a desire to secure the long term sustainability of social science research in the UK. Our world-class research in this area contributes to addressing some of the world’s most important challenges.”

Each of the eight research centres1 will receive ‘transition funding’, typically equating to 45 per cent of the full economic costs of their original five-year grant funding. For the first time, this is co-funded with contributions from the ESRC and the centres’ host research organisations.

The new centres’ transition funding policy marks a step-change in the way ESRC supports its centres after a five-year period. It follows a review into how ESRC could continue to foster and sustain the excellence and impact of its centres over the long term, without reducing investment elsewhere.2

Executive Chair of ESRC and Executive Chair Designate of UK Research and Innovation, Professor Jennifer Rubin, said: “We are delighted that these eight centres have secured the backing of their research organisations for co-funding with ESRC. This will sustain them over a longer period, and help set them on a path to continue beyond their ESRC centres funding.

“This model for funding social science research centres in the UK also establishes a new relationship between ESRC and research organisations. It recognises the strategic and financial benefits brought by these centres of excellence and their potential for making a contribution nationally and internationally.”

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Notes for editors

1) The research centres benefiting from this new funding are:

Centre for Population Change (CPC) at the University of Southampton

Social, Technological and Environmental Pathways to Sustainability Centre (STEPS) at the Institute of Development Studies

Centre on Dynamics of Ethnicity (CoDE) at the University of Manchester

Centre for Macroeconomics: Working towards a stable and sustainable growth path at the London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE)

The Systemic Risk Centre at the London School of Economics & Political Science

Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy (CCCEP) at the London School of Economics & Political Science

International Centre for Life course Studies in Society and Health: Centre Mid-Term Review Proposal (ICLS) at University College London

ESRC Centre for Corpus Approaches to Social Science (CASS) at Lancaster University

2) The review found that ESRC centres had considerable scientific, societal and policy-making influence. Despite this, under the old model, some centres were experiencing a ‘cliff-edge’ in their funding when their five year grant came to an end, which meant they were unable to make the most of their research achievements, and were unable to take up opportunities to maximise their wider societal and economic impact. It also led to a reduction in centres funded by the ESRC and put added pressure on centres and large grants competitions; reducing opportunities for new centres. This so called cliff-edge model was, however, unintentional. It was created when the period of centre funding was reduced from a possible 10 years to five, for budgetary reasons.

The new policy acknowledges that while ESRC is not in a position to fund existing centres in full for a further five years, an additional period of three to five years of ESRC support at a lower level would assist these centres to maximise the impact and use of their research findings, methods and data developments, and provide a base level of funding to support them as they move towards becoming more self-sustaining.

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