The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), formerly the Social Science Research Council (SSRC), is part of
UK Research and Innovation UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) is a non-departmental public body of the Government of the United Kingdom that directs research and innovation funding, funded through the science budget of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial St ...
(UKRI). UKRI is a non-departmental public body (NDPB) funded by the UK government. ESRC provides funding and support for research and training in the
social sciences Social science is one of the branches of science, devoted to the study of societies and the relationships among individuals within those societies. The term was formerly used to refer to the field of sociology, the original "science of soc ...
. It is the UK's largest organisation for funding research on economic and social issues.


The ESRC was founded in 1965 as the ''Social Science Research Council'' (SSRC - not to be confused with the
Social Science Research Council The Social Science Research Council (SSRC) is a US-based, independent, international nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing research in the social sciences and related disciplines. Established in Manhattan in 1923, it today maintains a he ...
in the United States). The establishment of a state funding body for the social sciences in the United Kingdom, had been under discussion since the
Second World War World War II or the Second World War, often abbreviated as WWII or WW2, was a world war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. It involved the vast majority of the world's countries—including all of the great powers—forming two opposing ...
; however, it was not until the 1964 election of Prime Minister
Harold Wilson James Harold Wilson, Baron Wilson of Rievaulx, (11 March 1916 – 24 May 1995) was a British politician who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom twice, from October 1964 to June 1970, and again from March 1974 to April 1976. He ...
that the political climate for the creation of the SSRC became sufficiently favourable. The first chief executive of the SSRC was Michael Young (later Baron Young of Dartington). Subsequent holders of the post have included Michael Posner, later Secretary General of the
European Science Foundation The European Science Foundation (ESF) is an association of 11 member organizations devoted to scientific research in 8 European countries. ESF is an independent, non-governmental, non-profit organisation that promotes the highest quality scienc ...

Change of name

Following the election of Prime Minister
Margaret Thatcher Margaret Hilda Thatcher, Baroness Thatcher (; 13 October 19258 April 2013) was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1979 to 1990 and Leader of the Conservative Party from 1975 to 1990. She was the first female British prime ...
in the 1979 general election, the Government expressed reservations about the value of research in the social sciences, and the extent to which it should be publicly funded. In 1981, the Education Secretary Sir Keith Joseph asked Lord Rothschild to lead a review into the future of the SSRC. It was ultimately decided (due in no small part to the efforts of Michael Posner, chief executive of the SSRC at the time) that the Council should remain, but that its remit should be expanded beyond the social sciences, to include more 'empirical' research and research of 'more public concern'. To reflect this, in 1983 the SSRC was renamed the Economic and Social Research Council.


The ESRC's mission, according to its website, is to: * promote and support, by any means, high-quality research and related postgraduate training on social and economic issues * develop and support the national data infrastructure that underpins high-quality research * advance knowledge and provide trained social scientists who meet the needs of users and beneficiaries, thereby contributing to the economic competitiveness of the UK, the effectiveness of public services and policy, and the quality of life * communicate clearly and promote public understanding of social science.


The ESRC is based at Polaris House in
Swindon Swindon () is a town and unitary authority with borough status in Wiltshire, England. As of the 2021 Census, the population of Swindon was 201,669, making it the largest town in the county. The Swindon unitary authority area had a populatio ...
, which is also the location of the head offices of several other councils of UK Research and Innovation: AHRC,
BBSRC Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), part of UK Research and Innovation, is a non-departmental public body (NDPB), and is the largest UK public funder of non-medical bioscience. It predominantly funds scientific res ...
EPSRC The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) is a British Research Council that provides government funding for grants to undertake research and postgraduate degrees in engineering and the physical sciences, mainly to univer ...
, Innovate UK, MRC, NERC and STFC, as well as the
UK Space Agency The United Kingdom Space Agency (UKSA) is an executive agency of the Government of the United Kingdom, responsible for the United Kingdom's civil space programme. It was established on 1 April 2010 to replace the British National Space Centr ...
. At any one time ESRC supports over 4,000 researchers and postgraduate students in academic institutions and independent research institutes.

Notable people

Chairman: * 1965 to 1968: Michael Young * 1979 to 1983: Michael Posner Chief Executive: * 2010 to 2014:
Paul Boyle Paul Joseph Boyle, (born 16 November 1964) is a British geographer, academic, and academic administrator. He was the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Leicester between 2014 and 2019. He had been Professor of Human Geography at the Universi ...
* 2014 to 2017: Jane Elliott Executive Chair: * 2017 to 2020: Jennifer Rubin

Recently funded projects

The ESRC funded two projects at the
Centre for the Study of the Legacies of British Slave-ownership The Centre for the Study of the Legacies of British Slavery, formerly the Centre for the Study of the Legacies of British Slave-ownership, is a research centre of University College, London (UCL) which focuses on revealing the impact of Britis ...
: from 2009 to 2012, the ''Legacies of British Slave-ownership'' project, and from 2013 to 2015 the ''Structure and significance of British Caribbean slave-ownership 1763-1833'' project (co-funded by the
Arts and Humanities Research Council The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), formerly Arts and Humanities Research Board (AHRB), is a British research council, established in 1998, supporting research and postgraduate study in the arts and humanities. History The Arts a ...
). This work has been used to build the publicly available Legacies of British Slave-ownership database.


External links

ESRC website

UK Research and Innovation

ESRC YouTube channel
{{authority control Education in the United Kingdom Research councils Government agencies established in 1965 Organisations based in Swindon Economic research institutes Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Non-departmental public bodies of the United Kingdom government 1965 establishments in the United Kingdom Social research Members of the International Science Council