New SSD Interdisciplinary Hubs to foster institutional and international collaborations

Three researchers from the Social Sciences Division have each been awarded £30,000 to launch SSD Interdisciplinary Hubs

The new hubs, led by Dr Anna Wilson (OSGA), Professor Petra Schleiter and Professor Andrea Ruggeri (DPIR), will bring together and catalyse interdisciplinary communities in their subject areas from across the University and beyond. Through a wide range of activities, including workshops, seminar series, and symposia, the Hubs will draw together researchers from across the University of Oxford as well as external partners and collaborators, combining expertise from diverse fields and strengthening researchers’ preparedness to apply for significant future external research funding.

Professor Heather Viles

Commenting on the awards, Professor Heather Viles, Associate Head (Research) of the Social Sciences Division, said, ‘We're delighted to be able to support these new Interdisciplinary Hubs, which will foster vibrant and diverse collaborations across academic disciplines, international borders, and with external industry and policy partners. I’m excited to see them advance interdisciplinary research in these important areas and to strength applications for their future funding.’

The SSD Interdisciplinary Hub initiative has been funded through the John Fell OUP Research Fund.


The SSD Interdisciplinary Hubs:

The Oxford Constitution Hub – led by Prof Petra Schleiter (DPIR)

Launched in November 2021, the Oxford Constitution Hub, led by Professor Petra Schleiter and co-investigator Professor Nicholas Barber, will catalyse and communicate Oxford’s global constitutional expertise in politics, law, government, and history at a time of unprecedented constitutional challenges and turbulence around the world. ‘We were absolutely delighted to receive the award,’ says Professor Schleiter.

‘The Constitution Hub musters the exceptional breadth and depth of Oxford’s expertise in the study of constitutions across multiple disciplines to analyse the challenges to democratic constitutionalism from globalisation, populism, environmental degradation, inequality, democratic decay and authoritarian backsliding.

‘Until now, Oxford's expertise has been dispersed across a range of Faculties and Institutions’, Professor Schleiter explains. ‘The Oxford Constitution Hub will provide a forum within which these strengths will be combined, and through which Oxford's academics will engage with policy-makers and the wider public.’

‘We are excited to take part in this project, which will build on and enhance Oxford's existing capacities in this area and will enable us to showcase our research.’

The International Multimodal Communication Collaboration Hub – led by Dr Anna Wilson (OSGA)

Dr Wilson’s project, the International Multimodal Communications Collaboration Hub, launched in autumn 2021, will serve to catalyse interdisciplinary research on mass media.

Multimodal analysis, Dr Wilson explains, is the ‘combined analysis of at least two of either the verbal, sound, or visual aspects of human communication. It is increasingly relevant to researchers from a wide range of social sciences and humanities disciplines as well as the "hard sciences", because more complete understanding of human communication helps us to answer a long list of research questions to which humans and communication are central.’

Dr Wilson says, ‘My co-investigators and I were thrilled to learn that our IMCC Hub project had been awarded this funding. This comes as recognition that our truly interdisciplinary research programme is much needed by both society and the academic world, and is also a testament to years of hard work and collaboration with our partners.’

The Hub will build upon the foundations laid by the International Multimodal Communication Centre (IMCC) – a research programme hosted by Oxford School of Global and Area Studies (OSGA) in partnership with the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL), and connecting researchers in OSGA, Oxford Internet Institute (OII), Department of Engineering Science, Faculty of Linguistics, and Oxford Text Archive (OTA).

Dr Wilson says, ‘This IMCC Hub provides the resources and structure to capitalise on the work we've done in bringing new collaborators on board and formalising existing collaborations. We are networking and running pilots in preparation for a large funding application, which will focus on multimodal depictions of futures in media disinformation, as disinformation is one of the greatest challenges of the 21st century. Addressing this challenge requires bringing together scholars from across several disciplines, as well as the resources to fuse disciplinary knowledge on content and context, and continuing IMCC’s partnership with the DSTL.’

‘The IMCC Hub project will help us make a meaningful step forward on the road of international interdisciplinary research, which is much needed for society and for the broader academic community.’

The Oxford Peace and Security Hub - led by Dr Andrea Ruggeri (DPIR)

Professor Andrea Ruggeri’s project, the Oxford Peace and Security Hub aims to provide a platform for an international community of researchers and practitioners to connect, learn from each other, and collaborate in preventing or mitigating conflict, and shaping a more secure future.

‘I am delighted that the Social Science Division is supporting a hub that aims to further connect scholars in Oxford and in other institutions doing research on conflict, peace and security,’ says Professor Ruggeri.

‘Contemporary policymaking relies increasingly on the ability of government officials to source vital information and reliable evidence as they address threats such as civil wars, terrorism, and cyber-attacks. In this challenging environment, rigorous, evidence-based academic research competes in an arena crowded with alternative sources of information, and against the backdrop of increasing public and political distrust of scientific expertise. Researchers studying war and peace also need to make sense of a complex and interconnected international system, and therefore large collaborations and interdisciplinarity really are the only viable long-term strategies.’

Professor Ruggeri explains, ‘Although the University of Oxford is rich in global experts on war and on peace, the new Oxford Conflict, Peace and Security Hub will now provide a valuable network to organise, facilitate and incentivise collaboration and knowledge exchanges between those scholars working on peace, conflict, and security.’

‘Embracing scholars from across Oxford’s research community and beyond, the Hub will enable them to connect, learn from each other, and to collaborate in preventing or mitigating conflict, and shaping a more secure future. Longer-term, we also hope to institutionalise this Hub and create a research centre that facilitates and encourage creative and ground-breaking research on conflict, peace and security.’