This call has now closed. Read our report for a summary of the evidence we received and our proposed next steps.

ESRC is gathering evidence on where we need to build knowledge and skills to improve the UK's social science capability and capacity. The focus is on strategically important knowledge and skills required to ensure the world-leading status of UK social science research and the continued competitiveness of the UK economy.

This is a timely action as we start the transition to UK Research and Innovation and consider how we support research talent more broadly, especially at the disciplinary interfaces.

This call for evidence will run between September and October 2017 and the inputs used to inform discussions about the actions ESRC might take to address priority needs, and used as context to inform a range of ESRC activities.


The UK social sciences is a varied, vibrant and vital part of the UK economy and society. It relies on highly skilled people who, through their understanding and innovation:

  • create the world-leading status of UK social science research 
  • ensure the UK remains a partner of choice for world-class research 
  • contribute to the economic competitiveness of the UK, the effectiveness of public services and policy, and the quality of life.

The ESRC plays a central role in supporting and investing in highly skilled people via our general policy and funding, and directly through specific skills interventions, supporting the next generation of social scientists and increasing the UKs capacity and capability in the social sciences. In recent years specific skills interventions have included Doctoral Training Partnerships, Centres for Doctoral Training, Internships, Fellowships, New Investigator schemes, and the National Centre for Research Methods which supports methodological innovation and training.

Scope of call for evidence

This call is looking for evidence of the need for high-level social sciences knowledge and skills, including interdisciplinary or those where disciplines intersect. 

Although academia is the sector where most postgraduates find employment, the knowledge and skills acquired through social science studies are used in many types of employment. For this reason, the scope is not limited to academia or restricted to the traditional 'researcher' or principal investigator; it includes the high-level social science knowledge and skills required in the whole research team, and all specialist staff that support and deliver social science research.

Undergraduate level and earlier knowledge and skills are out of scope. All other career stages are within scope, from PhD students to senior academics/professionals and from early to late stage careers. 

The call for evidence will help identify and consider the different models of interventions beyond the more commonly-funded ‘training’ approaches.

What is a strategically important knowledge or skill?

This call  for evidence is focused on indentifying knowledge and skills that are both strategically important and that require ESRC intervention to improve the UK’s social science capability or capacity

Strategic importance: strategically important knowledge and skills are recognised by their contribution to mobilising social science evidence to address significant social and economic challenges. And determined through evidence from end-users or beneficiaries, or through being integral to existing priorities such as those identified in the ESRC Strategy and Priorities, Industrial Strategy Green Paper, or Global Challenges Research Fund.

Capacity refers to the number of available individuals with the identified knowledge/skill.

Capability refers to the ability or power to do or understand something, eg methodology, macro-economics or quantitative social science.

There are three broad reasons why knowledge and skills might require intervention:

  1. Future demand: new and emerging knowledge and skills areas where demand is increasing in existing or new roles. Digital, data and emerging interdisciplinary expertise and other new ways of working are often considered within this category. 
  2. Vulnerable area: where existing expertise might disappear. There is a decreasing number of individuals with expertise in a particular area, with or without adequate succession planning as reflected through age profiles, diversity, or current numbers. 
  3. Unfilled demand: knowledge and skills are in demand but positions are frequently vacant, challenging to fill, or where there is a reliance on recruiting from outside the UK. There are a number of reasons this might occur: there may be a lack of training/talented individuals; recruitment and retention problems; uncertain or limited career paths; lack of interest in the area, lack of clarity about career opportunities; or the costs of training may be too high. 

Knowledge and skills that require further intervention but are not recognised for their contribution to addressing significant social and economic challenges are out of scope of this call for evidence.

How to submit evidence

Evidence can be submitted to ESRC using the online form below.

While anyone may submit an evidence form, we would encourage groups/organisations to make a consolidated submission.

All submissions must include reference to supporting information, eg reports, reviews, publications, feedback, data etc. Supporting information constitutes an important component of the call for evidence; knowledge and skills needs that are not appropriately evidenced are likely to be discounted.

Evidence not submitted to this call may not be identified by ESRC so any relevant evidence should be provided.

The call will be open until 31 October 2017. Early submissions would be welcome.

Responses to the call for evidence will be seen by ESRC staff and our advisory panels.