School of Social and Political Science

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The quality and breadth of our research has been ranked by Times Higher as second in the UK and first in Scotland, and as third in the UK and first in Scotland according to Research Professional. 

We carry out independent, critical, high-quality research on a variety of social and public policy issues. Our research spans all levels of policymaking, from local and community government here in Edinburgh, to international organisations such as World Health Organization and the European Union.

Research themes

Although we form a distinct subject area within the School of Social & Political Science we are involved in various collaborations across many of the University’s departments and schools. Our principal research themes are:

Our subject area is very proud to currently be the home of one of the leading journals in the field, the Journal of Social Policy, which is edited by our colleagues Dr Jan Eichhorn, Dr Elke Heins, and Dr Jay Wiggan.

Research groups

We host two research groups. Meeting regularly during academic semesters, the groups offer spaces for academic staff and postgraduate researchers to present papers and receive feedback.

Research impact

Given our commitment to addressing the social and public policy challenges confronting society, effective knowledge exchange and research impact are central to our work. 

Many of our colleagues are engaged in knowledge exchange activity in various ways, including giving evidence to parliamentary committees, writing policy briefs with think tanks, giving interviews to journalists, blogging, and working with charities, agencies, and NGOs. Our impact strategy is driven by three pillars of activity, which many of our colleagues are engaged in. They are:

  • Co-production of research. Research benefits from including people from outside the academic community in the process of designing, undertaking, and analysing research. It allows academics to learn from those affected by policy, ensuring that different forms of knowledge, experience, and expertise are used in the research process.

For example, our colleague Dr Claire Houghton has engaged in co-production in her research integrating children’s rights into policy on gender-based violence.

  • Collaboration and partnerships. Much of the work undertaken by colleagues in our subject area involves collaborating and partnering with institutions and organisations outside of the University. We have collaborated with - amongst others - the World Health Organization, the World Bank, the United Nations Development Programme, the Pan-American Health Organization, Public Health England, the former UK Department for International Development, Cancer Research UK, and Bloomberg Philanthropies.

For example: Dr Mark Hellowell has collaborated with the World Bank and the WHO on health systems finance; Professor Jeff Collin, Dr Rob Ralston, and our former colleague Dr Sarah Hill have worked with the Pan-American Health Organization on conflicts of interest in public health; Dr Elke Heins and our former colleague Professor Kat Smith worked with the Samaritans to produce a landmark report on the relationship between inequality and suicidal behaviour.

  • Advisory roles. Formal advisory roles are a way to make important contributions to national policy and practice through proximity to government officials and ministers.

For example: Dr Claire Houghton has advised the Scottish Government on child protection and gender-based violence and the European Institute on Gender Equality on domestic abuse policy; Dr Orian Brook is a member of the ‘college of experts’ appointed by the UK Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport; Dr Jan Eichhorn was a member of the expert panel advising the European Commission's Joint Research Centre on the project Enlightenment 2.0; Dr Elke Heins is currently a policy fellow working with and advising the Welsh Government.

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Research projects

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