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Two new research incubator themes, ‘Big data and human development’ and ‘Europe Unbound: geopolitics, economics and communication' were launched today. The aim of the incubators is to build on Oxford’s multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary strengths and strengthen the Division's collaborative research capacity in order to encourage the development of new, cutting-edge research.

Designed to spark strategic partnerships, the research incubators will provide a community, resources and the physical environments essential to foster exploration. Each theme is comprised of a multidisciplinary team from three or more departments within the Division of Social Sciences and will include researchers at all career stages.

Funded as part of the implementation of the divisional research strategy through the OUP John Fell Fund, the division will invest £50,000 per theme over two years for an innovative programme of research that could set new research agenda for the next decade.

The ‘Big data and human development’, research theme aims to investigate the potential uses of big data for advancing human development and addressing equity gaps. Led by Professor Mark Graham, the programme will establish a cross disciplinary and global network to map what data sources and techniques exist for harnessing new digital data and address persistent concerns regarding human development, inequity, exclusion and participation.

Commenting on the theme, Professor Graham said: “Development organisations deal with some of the world’s most pressing issues; but often have to do so in the contexts of scarce or incomplete data. Therefore, as we enter what many are calling a ‘data revolution’, it will become ever more important to focus our research attention on what sorts of questions different sorts of big data will, and will not, allow us to answer.”

The ‘Europe Unbound: geopolitics, economics and communication’ theme is led by Professor Jan Zielonka. The incubator will first try to understand how three unbounding revolutions – the fall of the Berlin Wall, the single market project and the advent of the internet – have evolved and interacted. The theme will then try to identify the implications of these unbounding revolutions, distinguish the winners and losers resulting from the unbounding, if the unbounding has changed the ways power is exercised and how it has done so.  Finally the network will test some tentative hypothesis regarding the geographies of power in Europe generated by the unbounding.

Professor Zielonka said: “Europe is transforming at a rapid pace and we continue to search for new paradigms that can explain the emerging complex setting and help us addressing the new challenges. This programme will analyse some of the most important developments of the past three decades: geopolitical restructuring, internationalisation of economic transactions, and the Internet Revolution. An understanding of their cumulative impact on societies, states, and European institutions can only be garnered by studying these challenges in tandem by a truly interdisciplinary team.”

Sarah Whatmore, Academic Champion for Public Engagement with Research and Professor of Environment and Public Policy, added: “I’m keen to see how our first two incubator themes develop into fertile researcher networks, broker new exciting research collaborations and enable these two research leaders to set new fascinating research agenda.”

Professors  Zielonka and Graham are interested in hearing from others who are keen to learn more about their themes. Please contact sharron.pleydell-pearce@socsci.ox.ac.uk  with details of your research so we can facilitate this

For researchers interested in initiating new research themes, the 2016 call is open, visit: www.socsci.ox.ac.uk/services/research-and-impact/incubator-themes for further information.