The ESRC Festival of Social Science is an annual celebration of the social sciences. The 2020 Festival will take place from 7-15 November.

The events shaping our world – from Brexit and coronavirus to geopolitical tensions and civic protests – reveal how social science is more key to understanding the world than ever. From big ideas to the most detailed observations, social science affects us all everyday – at work, in school, when raising children, within our communities, from the personal and local, to the national and global level.

Our Festival of Social Science offers a fascinating insight into some of the country's leading social science research and how it influences our social, economic and political lives - both now and in the future. Discover how it shapes public policy and contributes to making the economy more competitive, as well as giving people a better understanding of 21st-century society.

2020 will be the eighteenth Festival of Social Science and each year the Festival has gone from strength to strength. This year, our celebration of the social sciences will be taking place across the UK via predominantly virtual events, and everyone – from school children to politicians – can take part in and hear about social science research at the Festival's many engaging events.

The festival began life in 2002 as Social Science Week - a collection of around 25 events, mainly seminars aimed towards an academic audience. Over the years Social Science Week has grown to a much larger and more inclusive national festival of activities, aimed at policymakers, business, the public and young people. It is a key element of our commitment to promote awareness of UK social science research to new audiences.

In light of the current circumstances surrounding COVID-19, this year ESRC will not be inviting applications to sponsor events. You may, however, check whether you can apply for sponsorship via your university or Impact Acceleration Account (IAA).

Our Festival partners this year are listed below. 

2020 Festival partners

  • University of Bristol, IAA
  • University of Cambridge, IAA
  • Cardiff University, IAA
  • University of Essex, IAA
  • University of Exeter, IAA
  • Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), IAA
  • Kings College London, IAA
  • National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR), IAA
  • University of Oxford, IAA
  • University of Southampton, IAA
  • University of Surrey, IAA
  • University of Sussex, IAA
  • University of Birmingham, IAA
  • University of Leicester, IAA
  • University of Nottingham, IAA
  • University of Warwick, IAA
  • Durham University, IAA
  • Newcastle University, IAA
  • University of Manchester, IAA
  • University of York, IAA
  • University of Sheffield, IAA
  • University of Edinburgh, IAA
  • University of Glasgow, IAA
  • University of Leeds, IAA
  • Lancaster University, IAA
  • Queen's University Belfast, IAA
  • University of Aberdeen
  • Bangor University
  • Bournemouth University
  • Manchester Metropolitan University
  • University of Plymouth
  • University of Salford
  • Sheffield Hallam University
  • Ulster University

Purpose of the Festival

The Festival is designed to promote and increase awareness of social science and ESRC-funded research, enable social scientists to engage with non-academics and increase awareness of the contributions the social sciences make to the wellbeing and the economy of UK society. Events which are aimed primarily at academic audiences are not eligible to be part of the Festival or to receive sponsorship.

Each year the Festival:

  • offers a week of activities celebrating the diversity of ESRC-funded and social science research
  • has a geographical spread of activities across the UK
  • continues to increase the number events focused on engaging the public and young people with social science research
  • includes events targeted at businesses, policymakers and the third sector.

Aims of the Festival

The aims of the Festival are:

  • encourage, support and create opportunities for social science researchers to engage with non-academic audiences
  • promote and increase awareness of the social sciences and ESRC-funded research
  • promote and increase awareness of the contribution social science makes to the wellbeing and the economy of society in the UK
  • enable the public to engage with social science research
  • engage with teachers and young people and to raise their awareness of the social sciences

Previous Festivals

Our evaluation reports highlight the breadth of activities, events and audiences that our previous Festivals have achieved.