Top 10 ESRC blogs from 2017

Mark Gardner (ESRC)Mark Gardner, ESRC Press Manager and co-editor of the ESRC blog, picks out our most read blogs of 2017.

It remains a delight and a privilege for us to publish regular blogs written by members of the ESRC community. This year, you’ve shared your research, expertise, opinion, criticism, and hopes. This blog has featured posts from a variety of interesting and celebrated contributors,  giving us an insight into current themes in economic and social research. We’ve also featured posts from our very own staff to try to shed some light on what we’re doing and how.

In 2018 we will keep improving our blog and engaging with you – our readers.

In that spirit, let us refresh your glass once more with our most popular blogs from 2017.

10. Tackling the social costs of mental ill health

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Gordon Harold is the Andrew and Virginia Rudd Professor of Child and Adolescent Mental Health in the School of Psychology at the University of Sussex. In 2017 the government published the Improving Lives: Helping Workless Families policy paper, which aimed to improve outcomes for children who grow up in workless families. A core emphasis of the report was on ESRC-funded research showing that children who experience acrimonious conflict between parents are at risk for multiple poor outcomes, including reduced mental health. In this blog, Gordon highlighted the role of social science in improving mental health research and the outcomes this can have on society.

“It is more important than ever that accurate intervention targets for policy are highlighted, if the escalating rates of mental health problems and associated impacts on society are to be realistically (and sustainably) addressed.”

9. Seeing and doing the social science in the Industrial Strategy

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A call to action for social scientists. This blog asks us to articulate what social science researchers bring to the Industrial Strategy and the businesses it is intended to support. By Tim Vorley, Professor of Entrepreneurship and Associate Dean for Engagement, Impact and Innovation at Sheffield University Management School and Melanie Knetsch, ESRC’s Strategic Lead on Interdisciplinarity and Impact.

“The new Industrial Strategy is, therefore, not just a game changer in political terms, but in changing the dynamic between the social sciences and business.”

8. Data research at science festivals: engaging the public

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Data science is a cornerstone of social science research. It can help us to see how communities develop and to understand their needs. That said, it’s not always easy to engage the public in this field and stand out in the crowd at science festivals. Here, Dr Silvia Lanati, Communications, Public Engagement and Events Manager for the Administrative Data Research Centre for England, gave some tips on using creativity to engage the public at science festivals.

“Surrounded by engineers, chemists and biologists, competition can be really tough. Their research is often fascinating ‘by nature’ …This is why creativity is the key element that helps us to inject that ‘X factor’ to make data science research stand out.”

7. Social science research can address the challenges mental health poses for our society

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Professor Louise Arseneault is playing a vital role championing the role of the social sciences within mental health research. In this blog, she wrote about her role as the ESRC Mental Health Leadership Fellow and the issues that matter most to her.

“In the three years of my appointment, I endeavour to listen to people’s concerns and ideas about mental health and to learn what researchers, policymakers and mental health professionals are doing to address those concerns.”

6. The supply and demand of funding grants

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This blog explored how we at ESRC manage the demand for grants, and highlighted a few key points from an analysis of ESRC’s demand management policy. By Alex Hulkes, Strategic Lead for Insights at the ESRC.

“If success rates matter, and few would argue that they don’t, then it’s important that demand is managed effectively to avoid a mismatch with the supply of funding.”

5. Supporting the next generation

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In 2017 Professor Jane Elliott stood down as our chief executive to take on the role as Professor of Sociology at the University of Exeter. Before leaving she penned this blog, about the steps that ESRC had taken over her tenure to improve the support we provide for individuals in the early stages of their career.

“A key priority for ESRC is to support the development of the next generation of social scientists.”

4. How dogma trumps evidence in the practice of prescribing antibiotics

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In this blog, Professor Helen Lambert wrote about antibiotics and why patients are still being advised to ‘compete the course’. She asked: Is it justifiable to give advice which isn’t backed by scientific evidence and may do more harm than good simply because we don’t know what else to tell people?

“Doctors worry that if not advised to ‘complete the course’, patients will stop taking antibiotics when they feel better.”

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

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

“While the natural sciences can tell us what is happening and develop technology to address the problems, social scientists such as economists, political scientists, psychologists and sociologists are crucial to influencing major changes.”

2. Finding the right chemistry for a good proposal

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At number two is our own Alex Hulkes again, highlighting analysis which demonstrated what elements could make a successful proposal for ESRC funding.

“To be fundable, a proposal needs a good idea and good presentation or explanation of it.”

1. Engaging with policymakers – some tips to help you on your journey

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Rob Davies is Public Affairs Manager for CLOSER, the UK longitudinal studies consortium funded by the ESRC and Medical Research Council (MRC). Based on his two decades of experience in communications, public affairs and stakeholder management, Rob shared some practical advice and tips for engaging with policymakers in this blog, which was our most popular in 2017.

“Be mindful of the language you use and remember that policymakers tend to look for actionable advice so “more research is needed” is not a helpful answer when a decision needs to be made!”

There it is. We hope you’ve enjoyed reading these as much as we enjoyed working with the authors to bring them to you.

Best wishes for the festive season and have a happy New Year.

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