Research and Impact Strategy 2023 - 2028

A strategy for today

Grounded in Oxford’s long tradition of independent scholarship and academic freedom, Oxford social sciences deliver world-leading research that challenges current ideas and theories and explores new ways of understanding and benefitting society. The global reach and economic and societal impact of our research places us at the heart of many of the world’s issues and debates. The Times Higher Education (THE) University Rankings continue to place the University of Oxford in the top three in the world for Social Sciences, awarding first place in 2022, 2019, and 2018, and we are proud of the Division being a world-leading centre of research and education in the social sciences. 

Our new Research and Impact Strategy endeavours to support our research, impact, and engagement over the next five years. 

Our Aim

Our overall strategic aim is to maintain the division’s world-leading status in terms of research and impact by demonstrating the value of social science research in addressing global challenges, and enhancing and diversifying research funding through supporting departments with information, resources, advocacy, and activities.

Five objectives

To achieve this, we will support our departments and units to build a cohesive, diversified, and well-funded social science research community by pursuing five objectives to:


1. Nurture, and help diversify funding for, strategic research activities



2. Strengthen engagement and innovation with external partners to enhance research impact



3. Support researcher career pathways across the spectrum from postgraduates to senior academics



4. Advance integrity, ethics, and openness in research and impact



5. Support departments with strategic research and impact planning



Our commitment

A divisional-level research strategy is helpful for developing a sense of coherence and common purpose between the activities of our constituent departments, and for conveying to the outside world what Oxford social sciences can offer. Not only does it provide prioritisation and guidance for the divisional research, impact, and engagement team in planning their activities, it complements departmental research strategies and contributes to the overall University strategic plan.

Over the next five years, we will endeavour to support our researchers to achieve their research goals. As part of the strategy development, we worked with researchers across the Division to pinpoint areas of development and change. To make sure that the strategy moves from words and aspirations to actions and improvements, we will ensure that the five pillars of activity are monitored and evaluated against KPIs with regular reporting.

The strategy acts to summarise our efforts, especially after the hiatus caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, to:

  • Support the full breadth and depth of excellent social science research
  • Address equality, diversity, and inclusion issues
  • Nurture our researchers
  • Encourage significant interdisciplinary research initiatives
  • Ensure our research has meaningful impact at local, national, and global scales 

Discover more about social sciences at Oxford

Research, Impact and Engagement

World-leading Research

Grounded in Oxford’s tradition of independent scholarship and academic freedom, Oxford Social Sciences:

  • deliver world-leading research;
  • challenge current ideas;
  • develop innovative theories and methods;
  • explore new ways of understanding and benefitting global society and the economy; and
  • engage and collaborate with policymakers, practitioners, and the private and third sectors.

Depth and Breadth

We are distinctive in depth and breadth, with one of the largest grouping of social scientists in the UK and an annual research income that now exceeds £59m. Supplemented by a large cohort of graduate research students, our academic and research staff are spread across a range of 15 discipline-focused and interdisciplinary departments.

Challenge-Driven Research

Our research continues to develop rapidly in response to problem-focused challenges that the world faces, aligning with funders’ priorities. Our depth and breadth mean that we are well-placed to help address many of these challenges, working hand-in-hand with other scientific and technology-based disciplines to respond to opportunities.


Innovation through the Social Sciences

Oxford’s Social Sciences researchers are well-placed to respond to the growing emphasis on ‘innovation and Impact’ and to maximise the benefits of research to society and the economy.

We believe ‘Innovation’ should be broadly defined; not understood exclusively from a Science, Technology, Engineering, Medicine and Maths (STEMM) perspective or seen as a means of income generation from new inventions and technologies.

Oxford Social Sciences and Innovation

Our social scientists take pioneering approaches and use innovative methodologies to develop ground-breaking research enriching and informing society to create global contexts in which policy and technological innovations can flourish, ensuring a fertile environment for public debate.

Crucially we engage with, and extend, the Innovation agenda through four distinct routes:

  1. Entrepreneurship: Promoting entrepreneurship to develop new, and strengthen existing, SMEs, social enterprises and smaller scale organisations. Enabling students, staff, and individuals outside the University to develop entrepreneurial skills and capability.
  1. Organisational innovation: Transforming organisations and their strategies, policies and structures to improve corporate/ organisational governance and Corporate Social Responsibility. Enabling them to manage risk (environmental and actuarial) and improve management, accounting, and investment techniques.
  1. Innovation in public policymaking: Promoting new thinking and innovation in global public policymaking, improving regulation of financial systems and delivery of efficient public services (and cost savings) at a State and international level.
  1. Professional/ practitioner innovation: Working with practitioner communities (eg. policing, social work and welfare, health service, policymaking, local government, education, etc.) to provide transformative tools based on cutting-edge research to advance and improve their practice.

View our Research and Impact Strategy resources

Read Research and Impact Strategy Report

View PowerPoint slide deck


For further queries on our Research and Impact Strategy, please contact Sam Sneddon.