The Economic and Social Research Council this week announced nine areas including the economy, the environment and the global market, that will form the backbone of its research for the next ten years.
Ronald Amann, council chief executive, said that the programmes have been identified after "extensive and vigorous" consultation with the user community. They will build on existing work and support cutting-edge research by sociologists and economists. "I would like to see a fusion of opportunities based on inclusiveness - we want to find a place for all leading research by the social science community."
One of the themes, globalisation, regions and emerging markets, will challenge researchers to help improve understanding of the increasing globalisation of economic, political, social and cultural processes and their impact on international trade and security.
Research in governance and regulation will aim to assist in establishing forms of governance and a regulatory framework to balance economic incentives with the protection of the wider public interest. The ESRC says that this research will involve improving understanding of how relationships between central government, local government and the regions are changing and of the regulatory bodies within an international and comparative context. Other research programmes include economic performance and development; human communication and social shaping of technology and lifespan, lifestyles and health.
Professor Amann stressed that the ESRC's "proactive" funding of research will not be affected by the thematic priorities: "The research grants competition will not play any part in our decision-making in funding work under themes. It will remain absolutely separate."
He envisages that around two-thirds of the council's research budget will be directed towards funding work that falls under the themes, while the rest will be used for responsive mode funding.
The themes will have a duration of up to ten years but will be reviewed annually by the council. These reviews will be complemented by consultation with academics and users every two years.