Area of investment and support

Area of investment and support: DigitalFootprints

The aim of the DigitalFootprints programme is to coordinate, convene, develop and support thriving interdisciplinary digital footprint data communities, focused on addressing pressing national and international challenges. The programme will be delivered in two phases.

Budget:
A total of £59.3 million between 2022 and 2029
Duration:
Phase one will run from 2022 to 2024. Phase two will run from 2023 to 2029
Partners involved:
Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)

The scope and what we're doing

People’s interactions with the world and each other are increasingly digital. These interactions create Digital Footprints Data (DFD). This data includes:

  • internet and social media
  • geo-spatial
  • commercial and transactional
  • sensor and image.

They can be harnessed to understand and address key research, business and policy questions about our increasingly digital society.

However, DFD cannot currently be used to its full potential. Researchers are limited by a number of challenges including insufficient data access and infrastructure, underdeveloped methodology and theoretical development and opaque ethical procedures.

DigitalFootprints will coordinate, convene, develop and support thriving interdisciplinary DFD communities focused on addressing pressing national and international challenges for the benefit of us all. DigitalFootprints will be delivered in two phases.

Phase one

Launched in April 2022 and set to end in 2024 with funding of £10 million, phase one is comprised of three main components:

  • DFD services enabling access, creation and use of DFD that delivers against national priorities and needs for the social sciences delivered through the:
  • DigitalFootprints Accelerator scheme: supporting innovative proof of concept projects to meet challenges of the DigitalFootprints landscape
  • ESRC strategic advice team providing scientific, strategic and technical advice to support the development and delivery of the DigitalFootprints programme.

Phase two

Scheduled to start in 2023 and end in 2029, phase two is part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI)’s £481 million investment in major research and innovation infrastructure. Phase two will see an investment (subject to business case approval) of £49.3 million from the UKRI Infrastructure Fund.

DigitalFootprints will:

  • work with bodies to design and deliver a unified network of Digital Research Infrastructure supporting sustainable and appropriate access to hundreds of diverse, open-access and linked datasets
  • focus on areas of national and international interest that illustrate and focus DigitalFootprints’ role. This will include supporting and encouraging rapid research to address questions of significant policy and practice interest, where creation, access and use of DFD is critical
  • lead cross-cutting and coordinated data-focused infrastructure programmes to support the creation, access and use of DFD, by:
    • creating long-term strategic partnerships with data owners, developing frameworks for sharing and documenting data, analytics, methods, software and template datasets
    • delivering findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable DFD
    • embedding active and meaningful citizen centred involvement and engagement throughout DigitalFootprints
    • providing leadership and strategy, positioning DigitalFootprints as a world-leading programme for the creation, access and use of DFD
    • supporting programmes of methodological and theoretical development
    • engaging in outreach, promotion and policy engagement at a strategic level, working across government and the wider landscape to influence relevant regulation, policy and strategy
    • establishing an ‘Ethics and Legal Hub’ providing community-level support
    • establishing hands-on training and relationship-building activities across all career stages
    • establishing mechanisms of bi-directional knowledge transfer to other areas of UKRI investment.

Future Data Services

DigitalFootprints will inform and be informed by the Future Data Services programme, ensuring ESRC establishes the next generation of data services beyond 2024.

Opportunities, support and resources available

Funding opportunities

Supported by the ESRC DigitalFootprints strategic advisory team, from 2022 to 2024 ESRC will be running a series of engagement activities to help shape key aspects of the programme. For example, around:

  • digital research infrastructure requirements for phase two
  • requirements for the delivery of capacity building at the intersection between social science and Digital Footprints Data
  • areas of national and international interest that illustrate and focus DigitalFootprints’ role, including identifying partnership opportunities with relevant programmes of activity across and beyond UK Research and Innovation
  • legislative and policy interventions required to support the development and delivery of DigitalFootprints.

If you are interested in getting involved, please get in contact with the ESRC DigitalFootprints team.

Who to contact

Ask a question about this programme

DigitalFootprints team

Email: digitalfootprints@ukri.org

Governance, management and panels

The DigitalFootprints governance, management and advisory structure is comprised of three main DigitalFootprint bodies:

  • programme board (governance)
  • strategic advisory group (strategic advice)
  • management group (management, collaboration and coordination).

The DigitalFootprints governance, management and advisory framework provides an overview of the roles, responsibilities and membership of each group within DigitalFootprints.

Last updated: 17 October 2022

This is the integrated website of the seven research councils, Research England and Innovate UK.
Let us know if you have feedback or would like to help us test new developments.