How ESRC supports collaboration


Working with policymakers

We engage with parliamentarians and policymakers across the UK to demonstrate how economics and social science are relevant and important to society, policy and public services. Our current activities are outlined below.

Thematic Research Leads

The Parliamentary Thematic Research Leads (TRLs) are researchers embedded part-time in the UK Parliament, working alongside parliamentary staff in select committees, libraries and the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology.

The network of TRLs work to support and enhance the use of research evidence and expertise in Parliament, in both the House of Commons and House of Lords. Each TRL leads on a specific policy area or research discipline expertise that can apply across several policy areas.

Thematic Research Leads provide:

  • strategic support for the production and delivery of research evidence for Parliament
  • activities to support the development of a research and innovation landscape that facilitates and encourages knowledge exchange between Parliament and the research community
  • sharing of insights with UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and its research councils, to enable increased policy impact of UKRI investments and to share insights from Parliament back to UKRI
  • input in the Thematic Research Leads network to identify common opportunities or issues and develop strategic responses, share information, learning, insights and best practice

Knowledge Exchange Managers

Knowledge Exchange Managers work in the Northern Ireland Assembly, the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Parliament to encourage knowledge exchange between researchers and the devolved legislatures. The manager is hosted by a research organisation which holds an ESRC Impact Acceleration Account.

The Knowledge Exchange Managers build stronger links between the research organisations in their devolved nation and the devolved legislature. The aim is to increase understanding and capability among researchers to engage with the devolved legislatures, and to ensure that a more diverse range of research is used.

Local Policy Innovation Partnerships

The Local Policy Innovation Partnerships (LPIPs) programme has been designed to support local and national policymakers in reducing regional disparities in the UK. It builds cross-sector partnerships to address policy challenges that matter to local people and communities.

After a two-phase competitive process, four Phase 2 partnerships launched in 2024 to harness the power of research and innovation in addressing local challenges. The partnerships bring together devolved governments, local authorities, local businesses and local communities.

At the heart of the LPIP programme is the Strategic Coordination Hub led by the University of Birmingham. The hub aims to increase our understanding of how to work to address challenges in ways that are targeted to the specific needs of different places. It will provide a coordination role for the LPIPs and share data, evidence, learning and best practice with stakeholders.

The programme is co-funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, the Arts and Humanities Research Council, Innovate UK and UKRI’s Creating Opportunities Improving Outcomes strategic theme. It aims to improve outcomes for people and places across the UK by identifying solutions that promote economic and social prosperity.

LPIP Phase 2 partnerships include:

  • EPIC Futures NI (led by Ulster University): Economic and Social Partnering for Inclusive Innovation and Collaboration (EPIC) will support Norther Ireland stakeholders and communities to collaborate on policy and programmes which support ‘hidden unemployed’ groups within the economically inactive
  • Yorkshire Policy Innovation Partnership (led by University of Leeds): this partnership will work with 12 Yorkshire universities, all Yorkshire and Humber Councils, and a community panel to empower low-income, marginalised and isolated communities to confront challenges from climate change, widening inequality and ‘left-behind’ issues
  • Cymru Wledig LPIP Rural Wales (led by Aberystwyth University): the partnership will work with communities across rural Wales to explore innovative solutions to major rural challenges such as building a regenerative economy, supporting net zero transition, and empowering Welsh communities and culture
  • Stirling LPIP (led by University of Stirling): the LPIP works across the Forth River Basin, bringing together over 80 partners to explore how water resources in Scotland can promote better outcomes for economy, society and the environment

Policy fellowships

The policy fellowships programme has been designed to address high-priority policy areas by embedding some of the UK’s brightest researchers into the heart of government, to help inform and shape effective public policy and its implementation.

Fellows are seconded from academia into central government, devolved administrations and research organisations (such as What Works Centres) to improve the flow of evidence, insights and talent. Researchers and policymakers collaborate and build relationships that are rich, deep and sustainable.

The policy fellowships complement the exchange of knowledge, insights and evidence. The growing alumni will provide an ever-stronger connection between academia and policy to significantly increase the science and research capabilities of government.

A pilot policy fellowship opportunity was delivered in 2021 with 22 academics working across government departments. The UKRI policy fellowships opportunity 2023 doubled the scale of the programme with research aligned with the UKRI five strategic themes, plus data and evaluation.

Actionable Insights seminar series

This seminar series is creating opportunities for future collaborations by breaking down barriers that can make academic research seem inaccessible to policymakers and the civil service.

Actionable Insights was formed in response to discussions with policymakers and analysts who spoke about the need for insights that they could act on, rather than reports, research findings or methodological explanations. ESRC partnered with the Government Social Research Profession and the Policy Profession units to deliver the Actionable Insights programme.

Each seminar aims to address cross-cutting policy priorities by giving ESRC-funded researchers the opportunity to speak directly to policy professionals and analysts. These are priorities which cut across departmental boundaries and require coordinated efforts to address effectively.

Collectively, these seminars have allowed researchers to connect with thousands of civil and public servants across 80 UK departments, agencies and public bodies as well as the devolved administrations.

The programme enables the sharing of valuable insights, promotes evidence-based decision-making, and continues to foster a deeper understanding of how social science research can inform and shape policy at all levels.

What Works

ESRC is a major partner in the What Works Network, led by the Cabinet Office. It aims to enable decision-makers in public services to access independent, high-quality, accessible evidence syntheses across a broad range of social policy areas.

The What Works Network has provided start-up funding to four of the current What Works Centres. Since 2013, ESRC has invested more than £13 million in What Works Centres, raising the credibility and profile of the initiative with academics and policymakers.

ESRC is committed to continuing to support the network. Our current investments include:

  • Wales Centre for Public Policy
  • What Works Centre for Local Economic Growth
  • piloting new ways of collaboration between academia and the network by funding six What Works Innovation Fellowships as part of the UKRI Policy Fellowships 2023

ESRC is also working with government and international partners to expand investments that support a ‘What Works Global’ approach.

All-Party Parliamentary Group for Social Science and Policy

All-Party Parliamentary Groups (APPGs) are informal cross-party groups that are run by MPs and Lords, and which can involve individuals and organisations from outside parliament.

The APPG for Social Science and Policy brings together parliamentarians and social scientists to demonstrate the relevance and value of social science research. ESRC supports the APPG by funding the group’s secretariat.

The APPG meets between six and eight times per year at Westminster to debate a range of topical social science issues, and demonstrate their importance to society and policy.

The audience at the meetings is invite-only. It is typically made up of MPs, lords, their research staff, civil servants and policymakers.

The All-Party Group for Social Science and Policy website has more details about the group, details of recent events and contact details for the secretariat.

APPG contact

Brittany Davis, Social Science and Policy APPG secretariat


Telephone: 020 8798 0397

Ask us a question about working with policymakers

For more information about our work with policymakers please contact the team at

Last updated: 14 June 2024

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