NEWS10 November 2023

ESRC to boost UK behavioural research with £17m investment

Behavioural science News Public Sector

UK – The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) is to invest £17m in expanding the UK’s behavioural research capacity, as it looks to address social challenges by researching human behaviour.

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The ESRC, which is funded by the government, will invest £10m to set up Behavioural Research UK (BR-UK), a new hub to connect diverse stakeholders and drive innovation.

The body, which provides funding and support for research and raining in the social sciences, will also invest £7 million to establish a Centre for Doctoral Training and Research Excellence (CENTRE-UB).

The new entities will work closely with policymakers and the industry to ensure they can use the most up-to-date evidence to help their decision-making.

ESRC executive chair Stian Westlake said: "Successfully addressing society’s challenges requires a deep understanding of how and why people, organisations and groups behave the way they do.

“Ranging from how individuals live, work and make critical life choices, to behaviours that enable or hamper innovation and productivity across communities, businesses and the economy.

“Behavioural research was critical to the UK’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and our ambition is to build on that legacy.

“ESRC’s new investments will boost the country’s capacity. Together they will generate insights and foster the research skills necessary to facilitate and inform evidence-based decision making by policymakers, industry and civil society.”

The BR-UK will be made up of representatives from academia, government and business.

It will be led by professor Linda Bauld, the University of Edinburgh, and professor Susan Michie of UCL.

Its aims include strengthening relationships between academic and wider stakeholders in the public and private sector and facilitating evidence-based decision-making through research that meets the needs of policymakers, industry, and civil society.

The CENTRE-UB will be headed up by professor Jessica Woodhams, the University of Birmingham with local, national and international partners from across the public and private sector.

It will be tasked with, amongst other things, developing a cohort of early career researchers able to pursue a career in applied behavioural research within and outside of academia.