Over the next four years we will invest in areas of national priority, mobilising social science evidence to address significant social and economic challenges. Our initial priority areas for investment across all areas of our portfolio are:

We have already announced a number of calls in these areas.

Mental health

Our mental health is influenced by social, economic and environmental factors. We have identified a need to explore the social and environmental contexts, relationships, systems, institutions and transitions that make up everyday life and how they influence, contribute to and impact upon our mental health throughout our lives.

As a first step, we have appointed Louise Arseneault as the mental health leadership fellow, who will undertake a flagship research project as well as provide leadership and a championing role. She will work closely with the ESRC to inform the detailed development of future calls.

Housing

The supply, accessibility and affordability of housing influences the wider economy, the financial system and the wellbeing of citizens. The quality, tenure, price and location of homes all have implications for other outcomes including shelter, wealth, health and education. We have identified a clear gap in the translation of research to provide robust evidence to inform housing policy and practice across the UK.

The call closed for an evidence centre on housing in October 2016, and this is expected to be announced in spring 2017.

Productivity

Productivity has a major bearing on sustainable, inclusive economic growth. The UK has experienced a long-term slowing in productivity growth, and, particularly since 2008, a 'productivity puzzle' of exceptionally weak growth when compared to international competitors. The UK's ongoing low levels of productivity especially in comparison with international competitors, is of critical concern and requires affirmative action on the part of both government and business. To aid progress, the UK needs research to help understand and explain the factors affecting productivity levels, and to provide robust evidence to inform the debate, policy and practice.

The ESRC is in the final stages of commissioning a 'network plus' to provide leadership, bring together knowledge and expertise from across disciplines and support joint working. The network would also contribute to the ESRC’s data strategy for productivity, both through methodological innovation and, importantly, through the exploitation of existing data sources.  

Macroeconomy

Long standing criticisms of academic macroeconomics, voiced both from within the economics profession and from the policy community, were given impetus by the perceived failure of macroeconomists to anticipate the 2008 financial crisis and subsequent recession and the apparently limited relevance of mainstream macroeconomic theory to the subsequent policy debate.

As a first stage, we will commission a 'network plus' to bring together representatives from the policy community and the private sector as well as academics from the economics profession and from other disciplines. It will promote methodological innovation, explore the potential offered by new data sources and associated new research techniques and test these through exploratory studies focused on key policy questions.

New ways of being in a digital age

The presence of digital technology mediates our perceptions, behaviours and practices across these different domains and thereby influences our ways of living, learning, sharing, engaging, and seeing the world around us. This raises a number of fundamental questions about our ways of being in a digital age, the risks and opportunities associated with digital living, and our understanding of the individual, community, and society.

We will be running a series of workshops throughout 2016-17 aimed at facilitating cross-disciplinary dialogues, helping to define research questions and build research groups.