Developing social science leadership capability is one of ESRC’s strategic priorities. The funding landscape is going through a period of rapid change and we want to support social scientists to take advantage of the opportunities that are now available to them. There is a clear shift toward larger collaborative and challenge-orientated projects that reach across traditional disciplinary and professional boundaries and are often international in scope.

About ‘Fit for the Future’ 

The ‘Fit for the Future’ project was announced in 2018 in the light of this rapid change and recognises that this creates a specific leadership challenge for the social sciences. Designing, leading and delivering, and simply working within large, complex ‘team-science’ projects demand skills that have often not been required or incentivised within the social sciences. This leadership challenge has implications for how the social sciences think about researcher development more generally; how it nurtures and sustains intellectual curiosity and creativity throughout the full professional journey; how it cultivates and rewards ambassadors for the social sciences and how it might combine a fresh approach to talent management and building research leadership capacity with UKRI commitments in relation to inclusion, diversity and equality.
Led by Professor Matthew Flinders from the University of Sheffield, this project aims to design an ambitious and agile new research leadership and talent management strategy. This strategy will seek to achieve institutional and cultural change, placing the social sciences at the forefront of professional excellence within UKRI and within the international scientific community more broadly. 

Get engaged

Respond to the evidence review

The ESRC is delighted to publish the evidence review (PDF, 1.2Mb) completed by the project team. The ESRC wants to work collaboratively to respond to this and seeks input from researchers at all career stages, staff working in ROs to develop research capability, senior university leadership teams together with other organisations interested in building leadership capacity to inform the next stages in development. We particularly welcome responses to questions raised within the consultation paper (PDF, 133Kb) which accompanies the review. 

Participate in institutional visits

In addition, Professor Flinders is undertaking the following institutional visits to promote debate and discussion:

  • Tuesday 3 September 2019 MORNING - University of Bristol
  • Tuesday 3 September 2019 AFTERNOON - Cardiff University
  • Wednesday 4 September 2019 MORNING - Loughborough University
  • Wednesday 4 September 2019 AFTERNOON - University of Leicester
  • Thursday 5 September 2019 MORNING - University of Liverpool
  • Tuesday 10 September 2019 MORNING - Kings College, London
  • Tuesday 10 September 2019 AFTERNOON - Institute for Fiscal Studies
  • Wednesday 11 September 2019 AFTERNOON - Edinburgh University
  • Thursday 12 September 2019 MORNING - Scottish Crucible
  • Monday 16 September 2019 ALL DAY - Vitae Annual Conference
  • Wednesday 25 September 2019 AFTERNOON - University of Leeds

These events will provide you with valuable information about the project and how you can help shape it. If you are interested in attending any of these visits, please contact

Further information

If you have any questions, please email Professor Flinders: