Social Sciences at Leeds

Social Sciences Research Strategy (2017-2021)

Maximising the research and innovation potential of the social sciences at Leeds


1. Support Social Science disciplines and scholars in achieving globally recognised excellence in research.

Leeds plays a major role in two significant ongoing HEFCE Catalyst Fund projects in collaboration with the N8 Research Partnership: the N8 Policing Research Partnership (£7.4m from HEFCE and partners – led from Leeds) and the N8 Agri-Food programme (£16m from HEFCE and partners): both have considerable social science impact and knowledge exchange (KE) dimensions. An example of where Leeds’s ability to support interdisciplinary, impactful research has proved successful is the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF). Leeds has the third highest amount of GCRF funding of any UK HEI. Both of the £8m ‘growing research capability’ proposals led from the University of Leeds have significant social science embedded within them.


2. Develop research with wide-ranging and significant cultural, economic, environmental and societal impact at regional, national and international levels.

The LSSI launched the University-funded IAA, in association with the ESRC, in October 2015. During this time 15 calls for applications have been circulated, 120 applications have been submitted and 54 projects awarded. 23 of the projects had regional impact across the Leeds City Region, focussed on issues such as climate change, migration, safe guarding and community participation. A notable outcome was the responsive mode impact fund project, The Future of Public Parks: Building a National Network to Enhance Impact and Developing International Research Opportunities. This project involved a workshop with 20 park managers from Leeds City Council in January 2018 aimed at developing parks policy and practice in the city. Key members of the network organised, contributed to and came together at various events to discuss and promote a research-informed policy debate on the future of the UK’s green spaces, as a direct result the Leeds City Council used the findings to develop parks policy and practice in Leeds.

22 of the projects had national impact, on issues such as Brexit, hate crime, low carbon behaviour and poverty. Notable outcomes include the Knowledge Exchange Fellowship Electronic monitoring in criminal justice: translating research into policy which involved a Leeds academic working within the Ministry of Justice over a 12 month period to observe and provide advice on particular aspects of Electronic Monitoring (EM) policy and operations. As a result, the fellowship provided an opportunity to influence policy and practice of EM and to produce an EM strategy which will provide a road map for the use of Electronic Monitoring for the next 10 years.


3. Promote disciplinary and interdisciplinary research and team building that afford novel and critical insights to contemporary challenges.

An aim of the ESRC IAA is to accelerate a change in research culture and ensure impact planning and engagement is an embedded expectation across social sciences at the University. The IAA will create a number of opportunities to build interdisciplinary teams to address contemporary challenges.

Collaboration Basecamps

The aim of the Basecamps is to create interdisciplinary teams. The programme is designed to introduce researchers to new ways of thinking and working, with the goal of creating long-term shifts in attitude towards collaboration and the development of new cross-disciplinary research collaborations. It aims to develop the competencies required to initiate and

develop interdisciplinary working, KE, entrepreneurial activity and creative thinking, as well as new challenge-led project ideas and research proposals. Each basecamp will consist of a series of three intensive full-day residential workshops. The first two workshops will be held off campus and will be on consecutive days including an overnight stay. The third workshop can be held on or off campus, and can include external partners if applicable.

Innovation Forms

Innovation is key to any institution’s growth model. These forums will bring together business professionals, economists, doctors, engineers and policy-makers. The Innovation Forum will facilitate this multidisciplinary structure by fostering synergy between academia, industry and the public/third sector to accelerate the speed of impact for the benefit of the wider society. Innovation Forums will organised to foster user engagement, enhance enterprise and provide opportunities for generating new research collaborations with well-developed pathways to impact. Each forum will bring key external stakeholders together with social science researchers, focused on a particular theme or topical issue.


4. Maximise the effectiveness of social scientists to attract major national and international investment and grant culture.

The significance and vitality of social science research at Leeds is evidenced by some of the large multi-disciplinary external grants currently held including ESRC awards for the Consumer Data Research Centre (CDRC, part of the Leeds Institute for Data Analytics, LIDA), and the Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy (CCCEP), ESRC/EPSRC iBuild Centre, Nuffield Centre for International Health and Development, and the HEFCE funded N8 Policing Research Partnership.

The relevance of Leeds social science to current societal issues is demonstrated in projects such as Northern Exposure: Race, Nation and Disaffection in “Ordinary” Towns and Cities after Brexit, led by LSSI’s Deputy Director, Professor Adrian Favell. Funding for the social sciences at the University comes from a range of sources including the ESRC, EU (including Horizon 2020, European Research Council and Marie Curie), British Academy, Newton Fund, Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF), Wellcome and Leverhume Trusts, NIHR, UK Government, (inter)national charities and foundations and, increasingly, via social scientists leading bids to other research councils and major funders (AHRC, EPSRC, NERC, MRC, and NIHR, such as a Dr Jen Hendry’s AHRC Early Career Leadership Fellowship on ‘Everyday Challenges to the Rule of Law: The Case of Civil/Criminal Procedural Hybrids’).


5. Foster and secure international collaborative thematic networks and strategic partnerships with similar interdisciplinar centres/institutes of social sciences across the world.

The LSSI is building bilateral international relations with key strategic partners to enhance research collaboration and impact opportunities in diverse regions of the world for social scientists at Leeds. This includes forging relations with the Institute for Social Sciences Research (ISSR) at the University of Queensland and Instituto de Investigaciones Gino Germani at the University of Buenos Aires. The LSSI have recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the University of Buenos Aires and the University of Queensland and secured two International Strategic Partnership Awards to develop these relations. The ESRC Impact Acceleration Account has also dedicated funds to further develop international collaboration to enable social science researchers at all stages of their careers to internationalise their impact.


6. Develop our reputation for advancing skills and methods training through capacity building to equip the next generation of social science leaders to tackle global challenges.

Leeds has  received significant funding from the ESRC for postgraduate researcher (PGR) skills development and training via the White Rose Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP) with York and Sheffield universities and is the lead for the ESRC New Forms of Data Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT). The ESRC Business Boost IAA fund has helped to ensure the work of the Leeds IAA and the White Rose DTP are closely coordinated in building robust relations with industrial partners to enhance impact opportunities via the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF).  The Industrial Strategy Partnership Managers from the respective institutions worked together with external experts to deliver a two and a half day training residential on working in partnership for 37 PhD researchers from the Universities of Bradford, Hull, Leeds, Manchester Metropolitan, Sheffield, Sheffield Hallam and York. As well as taking part in interactive training on topics including commercialising research, business planning and influencing stakeholders, they also worked with eight industry partners to develop strategies to address challenges set by these partners.  Industry partners who attended recognised the value that engaging researchers can bring to the addressing their challenges and the training supported deeper engagement with these partners for our institutions.