The Economic and Social Research Council has today announced more than £10 million of new funding for innovative multidisciplinary research in the fields of economics and social science.

Brexit, social care, consumer behaviour and microdata are among the many issues that researchers will tackle over the next five years.

The projects will strengthen ESRC’s portfolio of high quality research on important issues facing society and the grants involve collaborations between institutions across the UK. Because the grants are long-term they will provide researchers with the opportunity to make an impact on social policy and public understanding.

Professor Jane Elliott, ESRC Chief Executive, said: "Society faces real challenges in the coming years. Not only are we entering extensive negotiations on Brexit but we also need to address the pressures on our health and social care systems, and continued inequalities across the UK. These projects are all directly relevant to the challenges ahead and demonstrate the important contribution that social science can make to society and the individuals within it."

The five successful projects are:

  • Advancing Microdata Models and Methods

    Funding for research at the ESRC Centre for Microdata Methods and Practice will see Professor Andrew Chesher and his team at the Institute for Fiscal Studies grapple with analysing people’s behaviour and the influences on it, using microdata.

    Professor Chesher said: "The availability, scope, and scale of microdata is growing fast - as is the computing technology to process it. Many weighty public sector policy decisions and private sector decisions on pricing, investment and strategy are based on the results of analysis of microdata."
  • Network for Integrated Behavioural Science: The Science of Consumer Behaviour

    Research led by Professor Chris Starmer of the University of Nottingham will draw on economics, psychology and broader behavioural science to advance our understanding of consumer behaviour and how companies structure environments for customers.

    Professor Starmer said: "This work will enhance the consumer environment for citizens by influencing policy formulation and consumer market regulation in the UK. The project will increase the research capacity of UK universities in behavioural science."
  • Between two unions: The Constitutional Future of the Islands after Brexit

    Professor Michael Keating will lead a team at the University of Aberdeen to examine institutional change in real time, looking at how Brexit will impact on constitutional dynamics in the UK.

    Professor Keating said: "The project examines changing constitutional relationships across the UK and Ireland in the context of Brexit. We are witnessing a real-time experiment in constitution-making under conditions of uncertainty."
  • Sustainable Care: Connecting people and systems

    Professor Sue Yeandle of the University of Sheffield will investigate how social care arrangements, currently deemed to be 'in crisis', can be made sustainable. The new programme will focus on the care needs of adults living at home with chronic health problems or disabilities and seek to find sustainable solutions which can deliver wellbeing outcomes and address problems with the system.

    Professor Yeandle said: "Our programme will fill knowledge gaps, contribute new theoretical ideas and data analyses, and provide useful, accurate evidence to inform care planning, provision and experience. It will develop and critically engage with policy and theoretical debates about all aspects of social care."
  • Analysing Multi-Dimensional and Multi-Scale Inequalities in Scottish Society

    Professor Susan McVie of the University of Edinburgh will look at the causes and consequences of social inequality in Scotland with a view to developing the research needed to tackle such inequality.

    Professor McVie said: "Our goal in this project is to achieve a step change in the quality and usefulness of the evidence base in Scotland by developing world-leading advances in how the multi-dimensional nature of inequality is understood. Working closely with policy makers at local and national level, we aim to support, guide and inform government policies to achieving a genuine reduction in social inequalities."

The ESRC Large Grants competition invited proposals from eligible individuals and research teams to take forward an ambitious research agenda with the potential to make significant economic or societal impact. Proposals were assessed through peer review and panel meetings.
ESRC's expectations are that large grant recipients:

  • undertake a programme of ambitious research
  • show strong commitment for the career development of researchers (particularly at early-career stage)
  • make significant contributions to scientific, economic or social impact
  • involve potential users of research
  • take advantage of international collaborative and/or comparative opportunities.

If you have any questions or would like further information about the scheme please email