ESRC’s investment in research methods
ESRC has invested in research methods development and innovation over a long period of time, most notably through the training and research delivered through the National Centre for Research Methods (NCRM) but also through our:
- centres competition
- data and infrastructure investments
- responsive mode schemes.
We are committed to investing in this area, as demonstrated in our current and new delivery plan scheduled for release in autumn 2022.
Evidence from NCRM’s Changing Research Practices project and an evaluation of social science research funded through the UK Research and Innovation rolling COVID opportunity undertaken by a team led by Professor Irene Hardill (Northumbria University) demonstrates that there has been considerable methodological creativity in social science research during the pandemic.
Many of these methodological adaptations and innovations will offer long-term benefits to the community. It is important to harness these developments and provide an opportunity for researchers to consolidate and refine the methodological good practice that has been developed so they can be utilised more broadly in social science research.
We will shortly be publishing further funding opportunities for research methods-focused research and further information on these opportunities are outlined below. However, please note proposals addressing these challenge areas are not eligible for this highlight notice.
DigitalFootprints accelerator scheme
The DigitalFootprints accelerator scheme will support innovative proof of concept projects that meet challenges in the digital footprints data landscape, providing the foundations and knowledge for a transformational shift in creation, access and use of digital footprint data.
Foundational aspects which could be developed through this opportunity include but are not limited to:
- methodological development
- addressing major challenges around interpretation and status of digital footprints data (for example with regard to representativeness, uncertainty, provenance, bias and understanding of latent or proxy measures, or causal insights) and their strengths or weaknesses in the wider repertoire of social science research methods.
The accelerator scheme is intended to support a range of projects of varying size up. The full economic cost of projects is expected to be up to £500,000. Projects can have a duration of up to 12 months.
Investing in survey data collection methods
The pandemic imposed massive disruption on population survey data collection as studies adapted rapidly to the restrictions on in-home, face-to-face data collection. As a major funder of survey data collection for the research community, ESRC needs to:
- understand the impact of these mode changes on data quality and data collection methods to help inform our future data infrastructure investment decisions
- advance the science in this field more generally.
We are seeking to support a survey data collection methods collaboration to deliver a step-change in methods for collecting population survey data and ensure the UK survey research community can continue to meet the needs of social survey data users in academia, government and beyond.
We intend to announce a funding opportunity in the coming weeks to commission a single collaborative grant. ESRC is planning to contribute up to £3.3 million. More detail on the budget will be provided in the full call specification. The grant can have a duration of up to three years.
We anticipate that this grant will support secondary analysis of existing survey data and supplements to existing surveys or new bespoke data collections to test methodological innovations, as necessary to meet the research objectives.
ESRC research grant
The ESRC research grant invites proposals from eligible individuals and research teams for standard research projects, large-scale surveys and other infrastructure projects and for developments across the breadth of social science methodologies.
The opportunity offers researchers considerable flexibility to focus on any subject area or topic providing that it falls within ESRC’s remit. We particularly encourage ambitious and novel research proposals addressing new concepts and techniques and those with the potential for significant scientific or societal and economic impact.
The full economic cost of projects can range from £350,000 to £1 million. Projects can have a duration of up to five years.
Proposals can be submitted at any time as there are no fixed closing dates.
Je-S guidance for applicants (PDF, 302KB)
ESRC research funding guide
Equality impact assessment (PDF, 240KB)
Embedding methodological development in social science research (2022): frequently asked questions (PDF, 103KB)