Who funds social work research?
In the light of what has been said above it is not surprising that
the largest funder of social sciences research in the UK are the Higher
Education Funding Councils (HEFC). These are government bodies
(with separate offices for England,
and Northern Ireland)
who are responsible for funding universities. They fund research in
a variety of ways:
- By paying the salaries of academic staff who are expected to undertake
research as part of their overall contract. Staff in social work
departments may want to work in collaboration with agency staff and
users in order
to carry out research. In many areas there are committees of staff
from social work organisations and higher education institutions which
to discuss research priorities and activities.
- By making a direct payment to university departments for research
activity. A periodic review (the Research Assessment Exercise) of
research in universities is undertaken (see Hero
website). Each university department is graded on the outcome
of their research over a specific period. The higher the overall grade
given to the university, the greater its financial reward. This money
is then available to support the research activities of the departments.
Mike Fisher has provided an excellent account of this process for
social work in Bob Broad's edited collection The
Politics of Social Work Research. An overview report of the 2001
RAE related to social work research provides useful information (see
list of reports at http://www.hero.ac.uk/rae/overview/)
funding learning and teaching initiatives, which relate to all
subjects including social work departments can bid.
The Economic and Social
Research Council (ESRC) funds research specifically in the social
sciences. It does so by funding a range of activities within thematic
priorities (such as social stability and exclusion) including:
- Research Centres, Groups (e.g. Centre on Migration, Policy and Society
(COMPAS) at the University of Oxford)
- Research Programmes
- Research Resource and Facility Projects
- Priority Networks
- Research Grant Projects
- Students under the category of Social Policy, Social Work and Health
Studies to undertake research leading to the award of a PhD.
In recent years the ESRC has placed emphasis on ‘user' involvement
in research. This usually refers to partnership with agencies or organisations,
but social work academics have also been pressing the ESRC to recognise
service user perspectives in research.
of Health is also a major source of funding for research in health
and social care. The DoH has supported the former Centre
for Evidence Based Research in Social Services (CEBSS) at the University
of Exeter. In 2003 CEBSS joined the Peninsula Medical School (Institute
of Health and Social Care). Initially with 16 Social Services Departments
as member authorities, CEBSS expanded to include Worcestershire, Coventry
and the Family Welfare Association (London). It's resources have now
been taken over by research
Social Service Departments often commission research from universities
or other research organisations or individuals, or make small sums of
money available for staff to undertake research (often assisted by their
own Research and Information units).
Charities and voluntary organisations
There are many charities and voluntary organisations that fund research
in social sciences but fewer who give specific funding to social work
and social care. Some, for example the Leverhulme
Trust, explicitly exclude social work saying that it is not research
but social action. Generally there are not large sums of money available
for social work and social care research but a major source of charitable
funding is the Joseph
Rowntree Foundation (JRF) whicho have both priority themes and support
more general applications for funding. JRF insist on user involvement
research in the widest sense. Other social science based charities include
the Nuffield Foundation
and the King's
Fund (although this has a health focus), while charities such as
and Rethink will
support research which focuses on improving practice.
The European Union (EU) supports research mainly through the Commission.
The application process to its programmes is complex. Often monies have
to be raised to match the funding provided by the Commission.