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The University of Southampton

Major funding boost for economics and social sciences research

Published: 7 March 2023
Comic by ACoRNS/New Forest School.
A comic by ACoRNS and New Forest School to support autistic children’s educational transitions.

Social science researchers at the University of Southampton have been awarded a major funding boost to help speed up the impact of their research on society and the economy.

The University has been awarded a £1.25 million grant to support research collaborations with local communities, businesses, charities, policymakers and other higher education institutions.

The University is one of 32 institutions to receive an Impact Acceleration Account (IAA) from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). It is the third time Southampton has received the award.

Over the last four years, the University has used its IAA funding for social sciences to create secondments, for training, and to build relationships between researchers and businesses.

The funding has supported projects that include supporting the teaching of foreign languages in primary schools, improving education experiences for autistic children and young people, and improving care for people with dementia.

Dr Alison Porter , Associate Professor in Applied Linguistics, is working to empower primary school teachers to teach foreign languages. Through the IAA funding, she has developed a teachers’ network and an online course to support professional development around foreign language teaching.

ACoRNS, the Autism Community Research Network Southampton is led by Sarah Parsons , Professor of Autism and Inclusion, and Dr Hanna Kovshoff , Associate Professor of Developmental Psychology. ACoRNS works with educational settings to improve the transitions and trajectories of autistic children and young people, putting their voices at the centre.

A third project to benefit from IAA funding is focused on developing person-centred care in care homes. The funding enabled the project team – Jackie Bridges, Professor of Older People’s Care, and Dr Kellyn Lee, Research Fellow in Aging and Dementia – to work with care home charity Brendoncare to develop and roll out an online educational programme for staff and residents’ relatives. The programme has included ‘Material Citizenship’ training for care home staff, emphasising the importance of everyday objects to people with dementia.

Professor Mark Spearing , Vice President (Research and Enterprise), said: “I am delighted that the University has been awarded this funding by ESRC. The University has a particularly strong track record in delivering impact from research, as evidenced by our Research Excellence Framework 2021 performance and consistently very strong Knowledge Exchange Framework outcomes.

“Our activities in Economics and Social Sciences have been particularly influential and diverse, spanning policy interventions, helping people interact better with technology and achieving improved population health outcomes. The IAA is an important and welcome mechanism for allowing us to continue to support people undertaking these critical activities. I look forward to the impact we will achieve as a result of this award.”

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. I look forward to seeing how these investments maximise the impact of social science research.”

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