Faculty of Social Sciences: research brochure

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Read about our world class research, making a difference. #SustainableGrowth #InclusiveSociety #Wellbeing #DigitalSociety #InnovativeMethods


  • 1World class research, making a difference.

    Faculty of Social Sciences.World class research, making a difference.

  • Contents

    Sustainable Growth.


    Wellbeing & theLife Course.


    Inclusive Society.


    Digital Society.


    Innovative Methods & Training.



    Research Centres

  • 3World class research, making a difference.

    An introduction to the Faculty.The Faculty of Social Sciences is comprised of thirteen Departments, including both classical social science disciplines and specialist fields of social scientific study that are distinctive to Sheffield.

    We have a longstanding reputation for delivering world class research. Consistently over the last twenty years our departments have been ranked at the very top in UK research assessments. The work of our academics is highly cited; the Faculty of Social Sciences is currently ranked in the top ten for citations amongst the UK leading research intensive universities. The impact of our research is exemplary and is recognised by national research council prizes and international awards.

    We have an ambitious interdisciplinary research agenda. Our researchers are working together to make a difference to the society we live in. We are working extensively with non-academic organisations and joining forces with a network of international partners. Our research addresses the major challenges facing society and our ideas are leading academic debates internationally and shaping policy and practice across the globe. We are also developing innovative new research methods and our work is at the leading edge in the co-production of knowledge and in exploring the potential of big data.

    We are incredibly proud of what we have achieved to date and we are excited about our ever more ambitious research agenda. We hope you enjoy reading about our research strengths and successes in Sustainable Growth; Inclusive Society; Wellbeing and the Life Course; Digital Society; Innovative Methods; and Training and Skills over the pages that follow.

    Professor Gill Valentine Pro-Vice-Chancellor Social Sciences

  • 4Faculty of Social Sciences



    Photo credit: Lee Yiu Tung / Shutterstock.com

  • We are working together to tackle the key global challenges balancing economic growth with protecting the environment and social justice.


  • 6Faculty of Social Sciences

    LEADING THE DEBATE IN THE SUSTAINABLE RECOVERY Climate change. Financial crisis. The shift of global commercial power. These developments pose tougher and more complex political and economic challenges than the world has ever known. An intense debate in academic, business, journalistic and political circles suggests that traditional models of political economy may be ineffective in the face of these struggles.

    The Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute (SPERI) brings together leading international researchers, policymakers, journalists and opinion formers to develop new ways of thinking about these issues. Using the unique insights generated by this interdisciplinary approach, SPERI has become an international focus for debate, discussion and policy development.

    Launched in 2012 by The Right Honourable Ed Miliband MP, SPERI has continued to host an exciting programme of events, with two following annual lectures given by Robert Peston and George Monbiot (pictured right). It has an active online presence with a popular blog and publishes a series of papers and policy briefings digitally.

    One such paper, co-authored by SPERIs directors, Professors Colin Hay and Tony Payne, sets out the case for a new model of Civic Capitalism as a possible alternative to the failed anglo-liberal growth model of recent times. Professor Payne noted:

    We want SPERI to be absolutely at the forefront of the urgent process of advancing new ideas about how we can manage political economies differently in a world of great uncertainty and we have in this paper tried to lead from the front by proposing nothing less than a new model of post-crash capitalism!

    The paper was published as a book by Polity Press in March 2015.

    : sheffield.ac.uk/speri : speri@sheffield.ac.uk : @sperishefuni : /sperishefuni

    Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute

    The Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute (SPERI) brings together leading international researchers, policymakers, journalists and opinion formers.

  • 7World class research, making a difference.

  • 8Faculty of Social Sciences

    Political Economy in focus:

    UNCOVERING THE HIDDEN ECONOMYThe informal economy may be hidden, but it definitely exists. Traditionally, the informal economy has been seen as something exploitative and damaging to both individuals and the economy. Research led by Professor Colin Williams (Sheffield University Management School), has challenged these assumptions and helped to shape and implement European policy and legislation. Working with three private sector partners, Regioplan, Rockwool and TNS, the research covered some 33 countries and showed that embracing and harnessing undeclared work can bring benefits to the economy, business and citizenship. His research has contributed to the creation of the UK Hidden Economy Expert Group which seeks to coordinate discussion and strategy across government departments.

    : c.c.williams@sheffield.ac.uk


    By 2050, the worlds population will be more than 9 billion and around 70 per cent of those people will live in cities. With this in mind, the Urban Institute, a new joint initiative between world-class researchers in the Faculties of Engineering and Social Sciences, has developed an innovative and ambitious interdisciplinary research programme which responds to the distinctive challenges and opportunities of 21st-century urbanism and seeks to reshape urban futures.

    The Institute, directed by Professors Craig Watkins and Martin Mayfield, recognises that cities are shaped by the interplay between technological innovation, individual and collective behaviour, institutions and governance. Although the issues surrounding cities are examined by disciplines such as engineering, architecture and planning, traditionally these issues have been studied in isolation.

    The Urban Institute seeks to offer a holistic, socio-technical perspective on urban challenges. The Institute is committed to working with public and private sector partners to design and develop research-based solutions to the major societal challenges faced by our cities. Challenges include: sustainable urban growth, urban governance, smart cities, critical urban infrastructure, resilient design and buildings, and urban systems modelling.

    : sheffield.ac.uk/urbaninstitute : urbaninstitute@sheffield.ac.uk

    Urban Institute

    Traditionally, the informal economy has been seen as something exploitative and damaging to both individuals and the economy.

  • World class research, making a difference.


    Sustainable cities in focus:

    KEEPING OUR CITIES GREENA worldwide television audience of billions witnessed the flowering of the Olympic Park during London 2012, and 5 million people visited the Olympic Games and the Paralympics, enjoying the 80,000 square metres of colourful meadows. These were the work of Professors Nigel Dunnett and James Hitchmough the leading exponents of perennial meadows in the UK.

    After a decade of research, Professors Dunnett and Hitchmough from the Department of Landscape have developed radically new types of designed urban plant communities which support a rich native biodiversity, lower atmospheric carbon, and contribute to storm-water infiltration into soils, reducing urban flooding. These communities are simple to maintain, cost-effective, and highly attractive. Their research has been put in to practice by government agencies, local authorities and by the public, most notably at the Olympic Park, which was the largest and most high-profile landscape architecture project in the world.

    Created from former industrial land in east London, the 250 acre Olympic Park is the largest new urban park to be developed in the UK for 150 years. The legacy of the Olympic Park has been far-reaching, demonstrating the great value of urban parks and city greening, and introducing a worldwide audience to the urban planting approaches developed at Sheffield.

    : n.dunnett@sheffield.ac.uk : j.d.hitchmough@sheffield.ac.uk

  • 10

    Faculty of Social Sciences

    The world is rapidly approaching, if not already exceeding its resource capacity and is at risk of crossing planetary boundaries. Looking at each problem in isolation has proved ineffective and there is a growing need and recognition that these problems require nexus thinking. The Faculty has developed cross-cutting initiatives that speak to major environmental challenges.

    Understanding the food, energy, environment nexus

    Photo credit: Shaun Bloodworth

  • 11

    World class research, making a difference.

    Food security in focus:

    THE CONANX GROUP Research at Sheffield has helped to shed light on consumer anxieties about food, from the global scale of international food markets, to the domestic scale of individual households.

    Research by the Consumer Culture in an Age of Anxiety (CONANX) group, has shown that changes in food and farming, the globalization of supply chains, agricultural intensification, retail concentration and technological change have all led to increased consumer anxieties about food safety and security. Consequently, CONANX has developed new ways of thinking about food supply chains and consumer anxieties, with tangible benefits in terms of food safety and public health. By working with Government agencies such as the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and the Food Standards Agency (FSA), this research has shaped public policy. It has also enhanced academic and public understanding, influenced commercial practice for a leading UK food retailer and encouraged healthy eating via museum exhibitions, an educational website and changes to school curricula. CONANX includes Sheffield academics Dr Megan Blake, Dr Angela Meah and Dr Matthew Watson, and is led by Peter Jackson (Professor of Geography).

    A related research project Food, Convenience and Sustainability (FOCAS), also led by Professor Jackson, examines the contested category of convenience food and considers its significance for environmental sustainability and public health. Looking at four European case studies of processed baby-food, supermarket ready-meals, canteen food and food-box schemes, the project seeks to understand the different stocks of knowledge that consumers use when making food-related choices and the extent to which these create barriers and opportunities for healthier, more sustainable modes of consumption.

    : sheffield.ac.uk/conanx and sheffield.ac.uk/focas : p.a.jackson@sheffield.ac.uk

    Photo credit: People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

  • 12

    Faculty of Social Sciences

    Climate change in focus:

    PREDICTING ENVIRONMENTAL CHANGEThe melting of the two remaining ice sheets, caused by global warming, could drastically affect sea levels. Academics in the newly formed group Ice and ClimatE Research at Sheffield (ICERS), led by Professor Grant Bigg in the Department of Geography, are using innovative methods to understand and predict the interaction between the ice sheets and climate change.

    Professor Chris Clark is focusing on the former British-Irish Ice Sheet, measuring how rapidly ice retreated across the continental shelf and using this knowledge to improve numerical ice sheet models that will be used to predict changes in our existing ice sheets. This research is the product of a five-year project BRITICE-CHRONO, funded to the value of 3.75 million by the National Environment Research Council (NERC). The project involves over 40 researchers from eight universities, plus the British Geological Survey, British Antarctic Survey, NERCs radiocarbon facility and Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre.

    : britice-chrono.org : c.clark@sheffield.ac.uk

    The Greenland ice sheet is one of two ice sheets left on our planet. Professor Edward Hannas research on the Greenland ice sheet mass balance is both pioneering and influential. He uses climatic and glaciological data sets and models, to estimate the present day surface mass balance of the Greenland ice sheet and its contribution to global sea-level change. The project is in collaboration with partners in America (including NASA), Belgium, Denmark and Wales. Professor Edward Hanna was a contributing author on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis', which lays out the current state of scientific knowledge relevant to climate change.

    : sheffield.ac.uk/geography/research/groups/climate : e.hanna@sheffield.ac.uk

    REDUCING CARBON EMISSIONS Professor Lenny Koh, of Sheffield University Management School, is a leading authority in the supply chain field and is utilising her expertise to reduce carbon emissions. Her research and work on the Supply Chain Environmental Analysis Tool (SCEnAT) aims to help companies cut their carbon emissions by creating a database of carbon usage. The tool arms businesses with ways to reduce their carbon emissions and costs by providing interventions and offering guidance and support. This project has helped to shape supply chain strategy and policy at a local, national and international level by both businesses and policy makers. Nick Tovey, Chairman of the Sheffield City Region LEP Low Carbon Sector, said:

    We estimate that the total impact from this research and contribution to the supply chain growth and improvement, along with Professor Kohs extensive work on the skills agenda, could be worth many millions of pounds to the overall local and national economy.

    : s.c.l.koh@sheffield.ac.uk

  • 13

    World class research, making a difference.

    Helping to improve the wellbeing of people at all stages in the life cycle.

    Wellbeing &the Life Course.#wellbeing

  • 14

    Faculty of Social Sciences


    How does one person decide whether to invest in a pension, to attend a university, or start a new job? How do these decisions affect the finances and wellbeing of their family? If whole sectors of society take similar decisions, how does this impact on trends in economics, health and social cohesion across a nation? The Institute for Economic Analysis of Decision Making (InstEAD), directed by Professors Sarah Brown and Jenny Roberts, aims to facilitate research which deepens our understanding of the behaviour and decision-making of individuals and households.

    Using a transdisciplinary approach that combines expertise from behavioural, health and labour economics with economic psychology, InstEAD gener...


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