From education to employment

Part Two of Vijay Pattni’s Interview with ESRC Editor Cormac Connolly

In the first instalment of his piece on the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Vijay Pattni looked at the origins of the ESRC and the supporting systems that help it to succeed. In this report, he turns his attention to the programmes that the ESRC supports and looks at issues of integrity and honesty.


However, a brief glance at the statistics would leave you in no doubt as to the research capabilities harnessed through the ESRC alone. With an assemblage of over 2500 researchers from various academic institutions and policy research institutes, and supporting more than 2000 postgraduate students, the ESRC has built an enviable international reputation which seeks to produce “world class social scientists”.

And it wishes to maintain this level of integrity and credibility through its rigorous research methodology. Accordingly, all research awards are competed openly and will be continually assessed through a transparent peer system, on the outset and as an evaluation on completion.

This stringent procedure ensures that the material they produce lives up to the standard of their originals, fit to bear the Royal Charter. Following this exhaustive phase, the material is still subject to investigation by multi-disciplinary teams and other councils, using datasets from acclaimed international sources.

Backing the Research Horse

Yet this modus operandi does not come without serious clout. Throughout the period 2004-2005, the Council spent an estimated £77 million on research projects alone, with a not-insignificant £32 million being put towards postgraduate training. “Our research is rigorous and authoritative because we support independent, high quality and relevant social science.”

Indeed, Cormac Connolly concurs: “The ERSC is the largest funding body for social themes!” And his own themes? “In terms of the future, I have ideas with regards to the usability of the site. I would like to do a very big drive to encourage users to register with the site, create profiles and generally use the enhanced functionality of the site. These include email alerts.”

E Mail Alerts for the Alert?

This utility is currently idling by unnecessarily. “There are 30 million pages served and therefore lots of people hitting the site. However, they are not utilising the features behind it. For example, if you were an FE student searching for a certain issue, then you could be constantly updated via email when a new research item is added. There is definitely a big drive to do that.”

However, even though the site can boast the “intelligent” search software, there is still work to be done. “We are piggybacking off a load of developments. We understand that there are question marks about the way people search content on our website. Something called the “google” factor; i.e., making the search engine more user friendly and intuitive. We are looking to meet the open access initiative standard.”

“ESRC Society Today is the corporate communication vehicle for all the things that are us as an organisation. Come and use the site!”

Many thanks to Cormac Connolly for his time.

Vijay Pattni

Read the first instalment of Vijay’s look at the ESRC right here!

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