Britain’s Academy of Social Sciences has published a professional briefing on the implications of the EU referendum for UK social science, ahead of the vote on the UK’s membership in the EU on June 23.
The paper analyses the relationship between UK social science and the European Union in the context of the debate about the future development of research after the referendum. It concludes that, given the available evidence, compared to other sciences in the UK and to social scientists in other EU member states, over the past two decades UK social scientists may have benefited to a greater extent from the EU funding and capacity building opportunities provided by EU programs.
The paper found that, while UK research council and government funding for the life sciences has been rising consistently since 2000 and has remained relatively constant in engineering and physical sciences, UK government and research council funding for social science has been declining since peaking in 2004 for government funding, and in 2009 for research council funding. In contrast, since 2006, the volume of EU funding for social sciences has been increasing more rapidly than in the life sciences, bringing the ‘EU government’ contribution close to that received from the UK government, and to more than half the amount awarded by UK research councils.
Within the European context, the paper also found that UK universities have benefited not only from the financial resources obtained from the EU, but also from the mobility of staff and students within the EU. Analysis by the Higher Education Statistics Agency for 2013–2014 from REF 2014 data shows that 15 percent of academic staff in UK Higher Education are non-British EU nationals, rising to 16 percent across the social sciences, and higher still for humanities and languages, and for sciences and maths, both with 21 percent. HESA data for the LSE showed that, while the largest ‘nationality group’ of research staff from 2004-2005 was from the UK, by 2014-2015 that had shifted to staff from the EU.
Evidence assembled in the paper confirms that, when compared to researchers in other disciplines in the UK and to social scientists in most other EU member states, UK social scientists have benefited to a greater extent from EU funding and from EU support for capacity building and networking activities. The performance of social scientists has been particularly creditable in obtaining European Research Council grants awarded for research excellence.