Our Delivery Plan sets out our ambition to extend the investment we make to develop the skills and knowledge needed for social scientists to undertake high quality, impactful data-driven research. We want to ensure social scientists have the skills and capacity to fully exploit the increasing volume of large and complex data available for research purposes and maximise the value of our investment in data and infrastructure. Our existing evidence base demonstrates that further investment is needed to build capability to undertake data-driven research in the social sciences. However, the recommendations made to us are generally at a high level and focus on separate areas of activity or data. Further detail is needed for us to build a more holistic view from which we can make targeted, evidence-based interventions in the short to medium term. It is vital that any additional investment is informed by an up to date and holistic understanding of current and future skills needs, the extent to which they are being met by current investment (by ESRC/UKRI and other funders) and where there are gaps.

As a first step, we have appointed Technopolis to lead a piece of work to scope the specific capacity building needs in the social sciences to support data-driven research; and identify where additional investment is needed. The outcomes of this work will:

  • provide an up-to-date and holistic scoping of the skills needed to undertake data-driven research in the social sciences
  • identify where additional investment is needed this could be through specific conventional training or career pathway interventions (for example: a sabbatical or fellowship opportunities) 
  • how ESRC can add value in this area.

The work will need to take a whole career perspective reflecting on the skills requirements and opportunities to build capacity at different stages of the research career such as PhD, early, mid and senior.

It must also consider:

  • The skills and knowledge required to exploit a range of different types of data including cohort/survey, biosocial, administrative and new and emerging forms of data.
  • The needs of both qualitative and quantitative researchers
  • The breadth of social science disciplines
  • The implications for training in other areas for example: research design skills.

The project is expected to be completed early 2022.