What is the role of the state in distributing research money? How do ‘arm’s-length’ funding agencies relate to public policy and business? This original study looks at the main social science funding agency in the UK, which was established 50 years ago. It examines how funding decisions are related to power. The ‘critical’ and ‘policy’ aspects of successful research bids are discussed. Walker asks the tricky question, why has social science research not achieved a more salient role in state policy formation and management strategy: is the funding agency responsible? Insightful, engrossing and highly original, the book will be required reading for anyone who has written or will write a Social Science research bid and, more widely, for students of power, knowledge and culture.

The ESRC Today

The ESRC Today


The ESRC is an arm’s-length body, part of a notoriously disconnected Whitehall machine. During 2015 we learnt that its very existence remains contentious. UK social science lacks coherence and voice and the ESRC’s responsibilities for it are limited, despite its role as supporter of postgraduate training and provider of data infrastructure. Its own place in the state’s knowledge apparatus is uncertain: commissioning knowledge but not owning it.

When its 50th year began, the ESRC was sitting securely, apparently, in the thick of the state’s knowledge production apparatus. That phrase is outlandish. Apparatus implies there is some joined-up mechanism; in fact there is no central oversight or even recognition of such a thing as ‘state knowledge’, including knowledge about economy and ...

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