The nuclear option

andy-stirlingAndy Stirling, professor of science and technology policy at the University of Sussex and co-director of the ESRC-funded STEPS Centre (Social, Technological and Environmental Pathways to Sustainability), argues that social science can play a vital role in unpicking policy arguments to challenge the real reasons behind nuclear energy decisions

Social science can play many useful roles in controversies over science and technology. The tricky bit is that what counts as ‘useful’ in any policy debate will often depend on the perspective. After all, it is inherent to democracy that different values and interests yield contrasting conclusions. This is especially so in controversies like the current one bubbling away around intense UK Government commitments to nuclear power. Continue reading

Grammar lessons

Last year the government set out proposals to expand the number of grammar schools across England representing a significant shift in the education system. Such a change means costs and benefits, and there would be winners and losers writes Luke Sibieta, Programme Director of the Education and Skills sector at the Institute for Fiscal Studies.

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It does appear that those who attend grammar schools do, on average, somewhat better than similar children in the comprehensive system.

Grammar schools may thus be a way of improving the performance of very bright pupils. On the other hand, those in selective areas who don’t get into grammar schools do worse than they would in a comprehensive system. And as children from poorer families are significantly less likely to attend grammar schools, the expansion of grammar schools in the current form would seem more likely to reduce than increase social mobility. Continue reading

Why are the social sciences so important in tackling climate change?

James O’Toole is coordinator of the End Use Energy Demand Centres. Here he looks at why researchers across all academic disciplines have a key part to play in addressing greenhouse gas emissions.

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Scientist stereotypes?

In the public consciousness, climate change science tends to focus on natural scientists (chemists, physicists, biologists etc). Whether they are developing more energy efficient technologies, mapping weather patterns or testing the air for emissions, the perception is of lab coats, goggles and technical equipment. Continue reading

The supply and demand of funding grants

Alex Hulkes is Strategic Lead for Insights at the ESRC. Here he highlights some of the key points of a recent analysis of ESRC’s demand management policy which was published today.

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In November I wrote a blog which focused on grant success rates. While they’re an interesting topic in their own right, it’s worth remembering that they are derived from two underlying figures which are arguably more important: the supply of funding and the volume of demand for that supply. Continue reading

Your top 10 ESRC blogs from 2016

2016 has certainly been a busy, and memorable year for many different reasons!
As the year comes to an end, we reflect on what’s been and gone.
Here Simon Wesson, ESRC press officer, picks out our most read blogs to give you another chance to read them if you missed out.

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Working in the communications team for the ESRC is a hugely varied role, mainly down to the vast array of topics that the social sciences represent.
This is no better represented than by looking at the variety of our blog content, which has covered everything from research on big data and biosocial, to economics and the environment. Continue reading