ESRC announce successful awards for Transformative Research Call

Published: 2 October 2018

The University of Glasgow is among 13 new projects to share £2.6 million of funding from the Economic and Social Research Council announced today.

The University of Glasgow is among 13 new projects to share £2.6 million of funding from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) announced today.

Funded under the Transformative Research Call, these projects will run for up to 24 months from September 2018.

Through these projects, the ESRC is supporting transformative research ideas at the frontiers of social science, enabling research that challenges conventional thinking, that involves the novel application of theory and methods, that could lead to a paradigm shift in its field, and that has the potential to make a substantial contribution towards social science.

The research council sought research that might yield results that would radically change accepted thinking in the social sciences or lead to paradigm shifts: these are ideas that help make the UK one of the world’s most innovative economies.

These projects cover diverse issues, such as human rights, chronic disease, sustainable development of cities and the prevention of child abuse.

The University of Glasgow project is by Professor Neil Rollings, Professor of Economic and Business History, and Professor Mark Tranmer, Professor Quantitative Social Sciences, both at the School of Social & Political Sciences at the University of Glasgow.

The Glasgow project “Quantitative network analysis of appointment diaries” hopes to use historical diaries as a source of information presently largely ignored into a key research tool for understanding individuals’ career development and the networks within organisations.

The Glasgow project look at three areas - the appointment diaries of Margaret Thatcher (covering 1962-90), those of Harold Wilson (covering 1958-60 and 1966-88) and the private office diaries of ministers and permanent secretaries in the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) 1986-93.

The first two cases provide long series of diaries which allow a clear understanding of career development on their paths to being Prime Minister and thereafter. The third case, which includes Lord Young, Francis Maude, John Redwood, Neil Hamilton and Alan Clark, provides a consistent set of diaries for a group of individuals allowing a more collective form of biography of the department. This can also be linked to the records of Margaret Thatcher and will illustrate the nature of political relationships within the government and with wider society, in particular, with business. In addition to creating a novel form of biography, the research will inform a range of debates about the Thatcher governments, the role of Prime Minister, the everyday life of ministers and the networks in which they operate from a unique perspective.

Professor Rollings said: “Mark Tranmer and I are delighted to have been successful in such a competitive call for proposals from the ESRC. We are delighted to have the opportunity to undertake this transformative and novel research project, which applies quantitative social science methods to historical sources which, to date, have been little used, namely appointment diaries. The appointment diaries to be analysed are those of Margaret Thatcher, Harold Wilson and ministers and senior civil servants at the Department of Trade and Industry 1986-93 but it is hoped that it can be applied successfully to other forms of appointment diaries.”

Professor Jennifer Rubin, Executive Chair of ESRC said: “We are delighted that these 13 applicants have secured backing for their genuinely transformative research projects. The insights from these standout projects will challenge conventional thinking, and push the boundaries of a range of social science disciplines and topic areas. By working at the frontiers of social science these projects have the potential to have significant instrumental and conceptual impacts across academia, economics, and society.”

The full list of awards are availabe on ESRC website here

The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) is part of UK Research and Innovation, a non-departmental public body funded by a grant-in-aid from the UK government. For more information visit

The ESRC is the UK’s largest funder of research on the social and economic questions facing us today. It supports the development and training of the UK’s future social scientists and also funds major studies that provide the infrastructure for research. ESRC-funded research informs policymakers and practitioners and helps make businesses, voluntary bodies and other organisations more effective.

First published: 2 October 2018

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