Aberystwyth University: Transforming Social Science


Tomos Nolan

SHOWING commitment to an Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Award to nurture social science research, Aberystwyth University has created a new high level post. Professor Michael Woods from the Department of Geography and Earth Sciences has been appointed as Professor for Transformative Social Science.

The new position will be to lead a two year programme focussing on the ESRC’s three strategic priority areas, and aims to nurture transformations in theory, methods and knowledge exchange. Talking about his appointment, Professor Woods said, “This is an exciting opportunity not only to develop research that transforms social science knowledge and methods, but also to ensure that our research has a real impact in transforming society for the better.”

Through novel and interdisciplinary research, the position will lead a programme of activities engaging fellow academics, members of the local community, together with policy makers and practitioners. Proposed activities include workshops with policy-makers and practitioners in order to explore the three main ESRC priorities. By working with creative disciplines, the aim is to develop and test the effectiveness of different forms of engaging with local communities; for example using film, poetry, art and performance to convey ideas about fairness, sustainability and changing behaviours.

As part of his role, Professor Woods will explore the possibility of publishing on different aspects of the activities undertaken, as well as ensuring the longer-term legacy of the programme; most clearly in relation to promoting transformative follow-up research bids in the social sciences, targeted primarily at the ESRC.

Professor Michael Woods joined Aberystwyth University in 1996 and was Director of the Institute of Geography and Earth Sciences for 6 years. His research focuses on rural change and development and on political geography.  He has previously led research projects for the ESRC, Arts and Humanities Research Council, European Framework Programme 7 and the Welsh Government. He is currently principal investigator for a European Research Council Advanced Grant, GLOBAL-RURAL, exploring globalization in rural contexts, and is also Co-Director of the Wales Institute of Social and Economic Research, Data and Methods (WISERD), which aims to build social science research capacity in universities in Wales.

Commenting on the appointment, Pro-Vice Chancellor Professor Chris Thomas said:

“The wealth of experience which Professor Woods brings to this role makes him an excellent champion for encouraging transformative research across the Social Sciences at Aberystwyth. The creation of this new post reflects the commitment of Aberystwyth University to carrying out research with impact through building on existing successes in this field.”