Research- Strategy

Research, Impact and Engagement

World-leading Research

Grounded in Oxford’s tradition of independent scholarship and academic freedom, Oxford Social Sciences:

  • deliver world-leading research;
  • challenge current ideas;
  • develop innovative theories and methods;
  • explore new ways of understanding and benefitting global society and the economy; and
  • engage and collaborate with policymakers, practitioners, the private and third sectors.

Depth and Breadth

We are distinctive in depth and breadth, with the largest grouping of social scientists in the UK and an annual research income that now exceeds £50m. Supplemented by a large cohort of graduate research students, our academic and research staff are spread across a range of 14 discipline-focused and interdisciplinary departments.

Challenge-Driven Research

Our research continues to develop rapidly in response to the changing funding environment, in which specific problem-focused challenges now have increasing prominence.

Our depth and breadth mean that we are well-placed to help address many of these challenges, working hand-in-hand with other scientific and technology-based disciplines to respond to opportunities, such as the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) and Industry Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF).

Strategic Approach

To enable us to respond more effectively to these challenges and effect greater real-world influence globally, Oxford Social Sciences have developed:


Strategic Research, Impact and Engagement Aims

Oxford Social Sciences’ Division remains highly committed to supporting the outstanding scholarship and research of individual academics, disciplines and departments. However, the shifting funding landscape places a growing focus on challenge-driven research and demands an agile and flexible response. We must incentivise researchers to work collaboratively in large scale interdisciplinary, multi-institutional teams to address these challenges and optimise the impact of their research.

Overarching Objectives

The division’s overarching objectives are therefore: 

  1. To maintain Oxford’s position as a world leader in social sciences research, attracting the best researchers and creating a stimulating and supportive environment.
  2. To increase the influence of Oxford social sciences research in addressing key societal challenges, strengthening our engagement with external partners and better communicating our research strengths and impacts.

Strategic Aims

To achieve these objectives, we will focus on Six Strategic Aims:

  1. To influence the research agenda of major national and European funding bodies and research policy-makers.
  2. To strengthen Oxford’s collaborative research capacity both as a source of innovation and a means of improving the quality and success of large grant applications.
  3. To diversify funding sources in support of all forms of research activity, including the identification of research development priorities.
  4. To extend the impact and influence of Oxford’s social sciences research beyond academic communities through more effective engagement and communication.
  5. To train and support early career researchers to become the next generation of research leaders.
  6. To support departments in strengthening their strategic research planning.

Further information

  • The full strategy document can be found here (accessible to University members only). For further information please contact: Sam Sneddon.
  • Our funded Incubator Themes can be found on the incubator themes webpage and information about the current highlight notice for incubators, funded by the John Fell Fund, can be found on our Fell Fund webpages.
  • Details of our GCRF Seminar Series, led by Professor Chris Adam, can be found here.
  • Our Position Paper on Innovation through the Social Sciences' can be found here (accessible to University members only).
  • Details of the recent Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund Workshop: Opportunities for Social Sciences and Humanities (March 2019) can be found here.
Innovation through the Social Sciences

Oxford’s Social Sciences researchers are well-placed to respond to the growing emphasis on ‘innovation and Impact’ and to maximise the benefits of research to society and the economy.

We believe ‘Innovation’ should be broadly defined; not understood exclusively from a Science, Technology, Engineering, Medicine and Maths (STEMM) perspective or seen as a means of income generation from new inventions and technologies.

Oxford Social Sciences and Innovation

Our social scientists take pioneering approaches and use innovative methodologies to develop ground-breaking research enriching and informing society to create global contexts in which policy and technological innovations can flourish, ensuring a fertile environment for public debate.

Crucially we engage with, and extend, the Innovation agenda through four distinct routes:

  1. Entrepreneurship: Promoting entrepreneurship to develop new, and strengthen existing, SMEs, social enterprises and smaller scale organisations. Enabling students, staff, and individuals outside the University to develop entrepreneurial skills and capability.
  1. Organisational innovation: Transforming organisations and their strategies, policies and structures to improve corporate/ organisational governance and Corporate Social Responsibility. Enabling them to manage risk (environmental and actuarial) and improve management, accounting, and investment techniques.
  1. Innovation in public policymaking: Promoting new thinking and innovation in global public policymaking, improving regulation of financial systems and delivery of efficient public services (and cost savings) at a State and international level.
  1. Professional/ practitioner innovation: Working with practitioner communities (eg. policing, social work and welfare, health service, policymaking, local government, education, etc.) to provide transformative tools based on cutting-edge research to advance and improve their practice.

The full Innovation Position document can be found here

Research Strengths

Reflecting these funder-driven challenges and our existing breadth and depth, we have critical mass in a number of areas, such as:

  • aid, poverty and development;
  • big data;
  • conflict, humanitarian action, justice and crime;
  • environment, climate change and resource management;
  • urban living and future cities;
  • global economic performance and management;
  • governance;
  • migration, population and health.


For further queries on our Research Strategy, please contact Sam Sneddon.