Economic and Social Research Council

Economic and Social Research Council

The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) is one of the seven Research Councils in the United Kingdom. It is state-funded (via the Department of Trade and Industry's Office of Science and Innovation), and provides funding and support for research and training work in social and economic issues.

The ESRC is based at Polaris House in Swindon, which is also the location of the head offices of four other UK Research Councils and RCUK.

The mission of the ESRC

The ESRC's mission, according to its Web site, is:cite web|url=|title=Mission|publisher=ESRC|accessdate=2008-09-08]

* To promote and support, by any means, high-quality basic, strategic and applied research and related postgraduate training in the social sciences;
* To advance knowledge and provide trained social scientists who meet the needs of users and beneficiaries, thereby contributing to the economic competitiveness of the United Kingdom, the effectiveness of public services and policy, and the quality of life;
* To provide advice on, and disseminate, knowledge; and promote public understanding of the social sciences.

Brief history

The ESRC was founded in 1965 as the Social Science Research Council (SSRC - not to be confused with the Social Science Research Council in the United States). The establishment of a state funding body for the social sciences in the United Kingdom, had been under discussion since the Second World War [cite web |title=The Origins of the ESRC |publisher=ESRC |date=March 2001 |url= |accessdate = 2007-04-12] ; however, it was not until the 1964 election of Prime Minister Harold Wilson that the political climate for the creation of the SSRC became sufficiently favourable.

The first chief executive of the SSRC was Michael Young (later Baron Young of Dartington). Subsequent holders of the post have included Michael Posner, later Secretary General of the European Science Foundation. The current Chief Executive of the ESRC is Professor Ian Diamond.

Change of name

Following the election of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in the 1979 general election, the Government expressed reservations about the value of research in the social sciences, and the extent to which it should be publicly funded. In 1981, the Education Secretary Sir Keith Joseph asked Lord Rothschild to lead a review into the future of the SSRC.

It was ultimately decided (due in no small part to the efforts of Michael Posner, chief executive of the SSRC at the time) that the Council should remain, but that its remit should be expanded beyond the social sciences, to include more 'empirical' research and research of 'more public concern'. To reflect this, in 1983 the SSRC was renamed the Economic and Social Research Council [cite web |title=1965-2004: Forty* years of social science research |publisher=ESRC |date=March 2001 |url= |accessdate = 2007-04-12] .

Governance and management

The ESRC is managed by the ESRC Council, which consists of the Chair (Lord Turner), Chief Executive (Professor Ian Diamond) and representatives from academia, government and industry. The Council approves the ESRC's policies, strategy, budgets and major funding. [cite web|url=|title=ESRC council|publisher=ESRC|accessdate=2008-09-08]

Boards and committees

The ESRC is also guided by four boards and four committees:

* Training and Development Board - provision of awards (or studentships) for postgraduate students
* Research Grants Board - responsible for managing the Research Grants Scheme, Research Seminars Competition and research fellowships
* Research Resources Board - responsible for developing essential resources such as data, research methods and information technology; also managing Resource Centres and Resource Programmes
* Strategic Research Board - responsible for over fifty research centres, groups, priority networks and programmes
* Audit Committee - responsible for ensuring the overall effectiveness of systems of internal control across ESRC
* Communication and Information Committee - responsible for advising and informing on Council’s behalf the ESRC’s communications, knowledge transfer and information activities
* International Advisory Committee - to provide guidance to the Chief Executive and Council on international policy, and the international and comparative content of ESRC-funded research
* Research Evaluation Committee - responsible for advising Council on the successful achievement of its corporate strategy through a combination of evaluation of policy, and research centres, programmes and projects


External links

* [ ESRC website]
* [ Research Councils UK]

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