ESRC invests £13 million in six ambitious and novel projects

A busy zebra crossing

Six new research projects will address a range of pressing regional, national and international issues, generating real impacts that will benefit communities.

The Economic and Social Research Council’s (ESRC) £12.1 million investment includes projects that are:

  • exploring how the UK’s health and justice systems could be improved to reduce the harm, stigma and inequality experienced by minority groups
  • transforming our understanding of economic inequalities within, and between, the UK’s ethnic minority groups
  • researching how to build resilience to floods and heat for mothers and children in tropical countries
  • examining the impact of multilingualism on conflict generation in Africa and how it might be used to resolve those conflicts

Addressing global issues

ESRC Executive Chair Stian Westlake said:

These large-scale projects bring together world class researchers to address important, global issues that affect some of the world’s most vulnerable people.

The projects are a great example of how the ideas and inspiration of social science researchers can help shape our thinking on long-term societal challenges.

ESRC large grants are designed to:

  • undertake a programme of ambitious and novel research
  • show strong commitment for the career development of researchers (particularly at early-career stage)
  • make significant contributions to scientific and economic or social impact
  • include a clear strategy for creating impact that improves outcomes for individuals, society and the economy
  • drive interdisciplinary research within and beyond the social sciences
  • take advantage of international collaborative

In addition to the £12.1 million from ESRC, the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) is contributing £500,000 to a project on flood and heat resilience.

Further information

The projects

Economic opportunities across racial and ethnic groups in the UK

Led by Professor Imran Rasul at the Institute for Fiscal Studies

This work aims to transform understanding of economic inequalities within, and between, the UK’s ethnic minority groups.

Insights will be provided for policymakers on the importance of factors at different life stages. It will establish new, authoritative and policy relevant evidence.

The project will consider inequalities across five interlinked areas, namely:

  • identity
  • education
  • experiences of the criminal justice system
  • employment
  • wealth

The team is led by the Institute for Fiscal Studies, with expertise from London School of Economics and Political Science.

Justice in Earth observation for conservation

Led by Dr Rose Pritchard and Dr Tim Foster at The University of Manchester

Decisions about biodiversity conservation are increasingly being shaped by Earth observation data. These data are gained from technologies such as satellites and drones.

Earth observation data driven decision making is raising justice issues and risks for people living in areas managed for conservation.

This research project will transform understanding of the social risks and benefits of increased use of Earth observation in conservation. The team will develop solutions with relevant stakeholders, including affected residents, data analysts, and conservation managers.

The project will compare experiences across four conservation areas:

  • The Peak District (UK)
  • Albufera Natural Park (Spain)
  • Maya Biosphere Reserve (Guatemala)
  • Mount Kenya Landscape (Kenya)

The team is led by The University of Manchester, in partnership with research colleagues based in the UK, US, Spain, Guatemala, and Kenya. This project includes expertise from:

  • The University of Edinburgh
  • George Mason University
  • Universidad de San Carlos de Guatemala
  • Universitat Autonòma de Barcelona

Multilingualism, conflict and conflict resolution in Africa: challenges and opportunities of linguistic practice and policy

Led by Professor Kristian Gleditsch at the University of Essex

Existing research into conflict areas has tended to focus on factors such as ethnic diversity, with little attention paid to the impact of individuals speaking more than one language in a linguistically diverse area.

This grant aims to provide the first comparative, large scale analysis of the practice of multilingualism in shaping violent conflict and conflict resolution in Africa.

The team is led by linguists and political scientists at the University of Essex, with expertise from the Overseas Development Institute and local collaborators in Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mozambique, Nigeria and Uganda.

Building resilience to floods and heat in the maternal and child health system in Brazil and Zambia

Led by Dr Josephine Borghi at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

This grant will explore the health system that provides services to mothers and children, and what makes the system both vulnerable and resilient to floods and heat.

This is of particular importance in low and middle-income countries where health systems are especially vulnerable to the effects of climate change due to limited resources and greater exposure to climate hazards.

The team will boost understanding of how floods and heat affect the delivery of maternal and child healthcare, and how the health system can be strengthened to build resilience.

The research is being carried out in:

  • Brazil
  • Zambia

This project was co-funded by ESRC and AHRC through a highlight notice on resilience to crises. The team is led by London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, with expertise from:

  • University of Zambia
  • University of Brasilia
  • Fiocruz (Oswaldo Cruz Foundation)
  • Federal University of Grande Dourados
  • International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis
  • Lund University

Disentangling involvement in, and the impact of, integrated health and criminal justice systems: a north of England research consortium

Led by Dr Stephanie Scott at Newcastle University

This grant will evaluate health and care inequalities experienced by marginalised and minoritised communities within the criminal justice system in England and Wales.

The team will explore how health and justice systems could be improved to reduce the harm, stigma and inequality experienced by these communities by bringing together a health and justice research consortium.

The evidence generated by this project will be co-developed with and for policymakers, practitioners and the public.

The team is led by Newcastle University, with expertise from:

  • Durham University
  • The University of Manchester
  • Northumbria University

Developing corpus approaches to safeguarding and family justice system research

Led by Professor Lauren Devine at Lancaster University

This large grant will create resources and tools to help understand and improve the experience of children and families involved in family justice system processes. This includes the challenges of online safeguarding and a comparison of global safeguarding models.

The project is the first to apply corpus linguistics (discovering patterns of authentic language use) to these contemporary safeguarding issues.

The project’s focus is on areas of safeguarding and the family justice system where vulnerable children and families can face inequalities or become disproportionately involved in safeguarding processes.

The team will establish a multi-site Centre of Excellence led by Lancaster University with sites at Aston University and Birmingham City University.

The CLASS Centre (Centre for Corpus Linguistic Approaches to Safeguarding Studies) will establish a multi-site lab led from Lancaster with hubs at Aston and Birmingham City University.

The team is led by Lancaster University with expertise from Aston University and Birmingham City University.

Top image:  Credit: vm, E+ via Getty Images

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