We have identified three further national priority areas that we will invest in, mobilising social science evidence to address significant social and economic challenges:

  • Climate change
  • Innovation in health and social care
  • Trust and global governance in a turbulent age

These join our four existing national priority areas:

A further area - 'New ways of being in a digital age' - was also identified for further scoping.

We have already announced a number of calls in the four existing areas and more information can be found below along with information on the new areas.

Climate change

Research under this priority will address issues relating to climate governance, risk and communications, as well as research on related topics such as the food-energy-water-environment Nexus and air quality. There are a number of investments planned to encompass a range of research and impact objectives, working with partners across UKRI and beyond. New research will build on past investment related to this area funded by ESRC and cross-council initiatives. We will work with relevant stakeholders including policymakers and businesses to ensure maximum impact from investments.

Learn more about our Climate change research priority.

Innovation in health and social care

This priority will support research to underpin extensive transformations across the health and social care system, sensitive to issues of location and the prevalence of long term conditions. The challenge is one of service delivery: from a health service perspective addressing demand and efficiency; and from an individual's perspective addressing their care and support needs and quality of life. Care delivery research will focus on the development of innovation in service organisation and delivery, taking dementia as a case study and capitalising on past investment and capacity building. Implementation research will engage a range of stakeholders to fill knowledge gaps and deliver social science evidence on how change, such as the uptake of innovative care models or technology, can be implemented in a large, distributed, complex and fragmented health and social care system.

Trust and global governance in a turbulent age

This priority will support international comparative research and utilise a range of research methods to interpret the evolving nature of democratic systems and the causes of this (for example, issues of trust, inequality, global political economy and identity). It will seek to understand changing ideas of liberalism, and the extent to which this underpins shifts in democratic forms. The priority will extend beyond the nation state and also seeks to understand the impact of global governance institutions.

Mental health

Our mental health is influenced by social, economic and environmental factors. We have identified a need to explore the social and environmental contexts, relationships, systems, institutions and transitions that make up everyday life and how they influence, contribute to and impact upon our mental health throughout our lives.

As a first step, we have appointed Louise Arseneault as our mental health leadership fellow, who will undertake a flagship research project as well as provide leadership and a championing role. She will work closely with the ESRC to inform the detailed development of calls.

  • GCRF New social and cultural insights into mental, neurological and substance use disorders in developing countries (now closed)
  • Cross-disciplinary mental health network plus call (now closed)

Learn more about our Mental health research priority.


The supply, accessibility and affordability of housing influences the wider economy, the financial system and the wellbeing of citizens. The quality, tenure, price and location of homes all have implications for other outcomes including shelter, wealth, health and education. We have identified a clear gap in the translation of research to provide robust evidence to inform housing policy and practice across the UK.

In response to these challenges we commissioned a major £6.1 million housing evidence centre in partnership with the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and the AHRC. The successful proposal Collaborative Centre on Housing Evidence (CaCHE) - is a consortium led by Professor Ken Gibb, University of Glasgow and began work in August 2017.


Productivity has a major bearing on sustainable, inclusive economic growth. The UK has experienced a long-term slowing in productivity growth, and, particularly since 2008, a 'productivity puzzle' of exceptionally weak growth when compared to international competitors. The UK's ongoing low levels of productivity especially in comparison with international competitors, is of critical concern and requires affirmative action on the part of both government and business. To aid progress, the UK needs research to help understand and explain the factors affecting productivity levels, and to provide robust evidence to inform the debate, policy and practice.

We commissioned a 'network plus' to provide leadership, bring together knowledge and expertise from across disciplines and support joint working. The network would also contribute to the ESRC’s data strategy for productivity, both through methodological innovation and, importantly, through the exploitation of existing data sources.

Learn more about our Productivity research priority


Long standing criticisms of academic macroeconomics, voiced both from within the economics profession and from the policy community, were given impetus by the perceived failure of macroeconomists to anticipate the 2008 financial crisis and subsequent recession and the apparently limited relevance of mainstream macroeconomic theory to the subsequent policy debate.

As a first stage, we have commissioned a new network, Rebuilding Macroeconomics. This network plus is led by Dr Angus Armstrong at the National Institute of Economic and Social Research and brings together a team of 25 experts from the policy community and the private sector as well as academics from the economics profession and from other disciplines. The network will promote methodological innovation, explore the potential offered by new data sources and associated new research techniques and test these through exploratory studies focused on key policy questions.

New ways of being in a digital age

In 2016 we commissioned an interdisciplinary and multi-institutional research team to undertake a scoping review; encompassing the social, cultural, economic, political, psychological, and other effects of digitalisation. Led by Professor Simeon Yates, University of Liverpool, the successful research team represented 16 universities from across the UK, EU, USA and Singapore and provides expertise from across a range of arts, engineering, social science and sciences fields.

The findings and recommendations will underpin and inform future areas of ESRC interest; including the progression of the ESRC agenda around AI, Automation and Robotics.