Research Strategy

Research Strategy of the Department of Social Sciences

Research Aims: The primary aim of the research strategies of the Department of Social Sciences and the Children and Young People Research Group and Power, Conflict and Justice Research Group is to ensure the engagement of staff in cutting edge research, the production of high quality, nationally and internationally esteemed publications and to impact positively on communities, stakeholders and society beyond academia.

This is paralleled by two other core goals. First, to promote research that will generate and disseminate social knowledge designed to have a significant and positive social, economic and cultural impact in terms of policy and practice for socially marginalised and excluded groups and communities. Second, to increase the number of PhD students and create a context to ensure the successful completion of their theses.

Research Culture: The development and growth of a dynamic research culture is a key goal for the strategic planning of the Social Sciences. Research is central to our activities, reflected in its mainstreaming in departmental decision-making processes. The Social Sciences has two dedicated Research Coordinators to provide support and advice, along with senior researcher colleagues. Research is central to planning within the department. and also underpins curriculum design, management and delivery, with research-led teaching at the core of our programmes; particularly at all levels. The research culture of the department is enhanced by the organisation of seminar and public lecture series and via meetings of the research centres/groups.

The promotion of a vibrant research culture is also encouraged through the organisation of specific events and activities. The Department of Social Sciences organises an annual Public Lecture Series. For example, in 2011-2012 a series hosted by the ‘Power, Conflict and Justice Research Group’, on the theme of ‘(In) Security, Surveillance and the State’ included both academic (Dr Mark Devenney, University of Brighton; Dr Steve Hewitt, University of Birmingham) and non-academic speakers (including Liz Fekete, Director of the Institute for Race Relations and the Independent columnist, media commentator and author Owen Jones and John Finucane, son of human rights lawyer Pat Finucane) exploring a range of contemporary issues, from the ‘far right and islamophobia’ to the ‘representation of young people in the wake of the 2011 riots’ and ‘collusion in Northern Ireland’. The Public Lecture Series invited members of the general public as well as staff and students across the University and attracted audiences of up to 200 people. For staff, the series provided an opportunity to discuss real world insights and issues and encouraged engagement with social policy-relevant debates within and beyond academia. Evidenced in the extent of our research collaborations and contributions, staff are encouraged to develop external networks, contacts and activities, and to reflect these back via collaboration and dissemination, with colleagues internally.

The Department also run an annual Research Seminar Series, organised within the Department of Social Sciences. For example, a Series hosted in 2012-2013, entitled ‘Research with Children and Young People’ included monthly events where presentations were given by both invited academics undertaking cutting edge internationally-recognised research (including contributors from the University of Massachusetts, MA USA, the Australian Catholic University, Brisbane and Deakin University, Australia) and early career researchers from within the department itself. The Seminar environment provided an opportunity for colleagues to benefit from the insights of experienced visiting speakers and early career researchers to explore their work and future research directions in-depth, through discussion and dialogue, with colleagues.

Individual Planning and Self-Reflection is also central to the development of staff research profiles and activity and Research Support is provided in a range of guises, including appraisal and review processes to allow for the identification of support needs and to inform resource decision-making, including, staff deployment, administrative and other responsibilities and access to research leave and funding. A mentorship system ensures that all new staff, and early career researchers in particular, are allocated to, and mentored individually by, senior research active academics (Readers and Professors).The departmental systems of research support is oriented toward the support in preparation of external funding bids, production of outputs, development of research projects and delivering papers at international conferences, and is enhanced by university-wide research support policies and facilities.

Research Management, Leadership and Planning: Leadership within departments is provided by HoDs, supported by the research coordinators along with senior research members of the staff team (professors, readers). Research leadership within the centres/groups is provided by research coordinators. Department research planning forms part of the overall annual department strategic plans, discussed with senior management at bi-annual monitoring meetings, including the Faculty Associate Dean for Research, Head of the Research Support Office (RSO) and the Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Academic Affairs. Department plans are also discussed at Faculty Research Committee and the University Research Committee (at which in both cases the department is represented by the research coordinator).