Eight established research centres have been awarded a total of £6.9 million to continue their work under a new funding model designed to secure the long term sustainability of social science research excellence in the UK.
In December 2017 the first 'transition review' took place for existing research centres coming to the end of their five year grant. The review approved continued funding for the following ESRC research centres to undertake pioneering social science research:
- Social, Technological and Environmental Pathways to Sustainability Centre (STEPS)
- Centre on Dynamics of Ethnicity (CoDE)
- Centre For Macroeconomics: Working towards a stable and sustainable growth path
- Systemic Risk Centre
- Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy (CCCEP)
- International Centre for Life Course Studies in Society and Health: Centre Mid-Term Review Proposal (ICLS)
- ESRC Centre for Corpus Approaches to Social Science (CASS)
- Centre for Population Change (CPC)
ESRC is today announcing that each of these centres will receive 'transition funding' typically equating to 45% of the full economic costs of their original five-year grant funding. For the first time, this will be co-funded with contributions from ESRC (20%) and their host research organisation (25%).
Professor Jennifer Rubin, ESRC’s Chief Executive and Executive Chair Designate, 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."
Dame Minouche Shafik, Director of LSE, said: "We welcome this on-going support which will help to set our leading research centres on a more sustainable footing, while further strengthening the School's already close partnership with the ESRC. These centres are an excellent example of how social sciences can help tackle the world's most pressing challenges - with outstanding research which directly informs policy makers."
The new centres' transition funding policy marks a step-change in the way ESRC supports its centres. 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.
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 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 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 to become more self-sustaining.