AHRC-ESRC joint statement

Overlaps and interfaces

Many cutting edge research challenges cross over between the arts and humanities on the one hand and the social sciences on the other. There are a series of interfaces, and many areas of overlap between the two. These areas of overlap and interface offer considerable opportunities for both the arts and humanities and social sciences. Moreover, disciplines and areas of study are continually evolving, as researchers identify new questions and approaches. Some of the most important research questions and the most innovative approaches arise at the interface between established disciplines.

The AHRC and the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) share responsibility for the support of research in a number of areas. Neither the AHRC nor the ESRC wishes to draw tight and exclusive boundaries between their respective subject areas, even if that were possible. Rather, both bodies wish to be as open and inclusive as possible in defining and interpreting their respective subject domains.

Specific areas where the AHRC and ESRC share responsibilities can be found in the Joint subject areas section of the Research Funding Guide.

Research applications

With regard to research applications, the two Councils wish to ensure that no application falls into a gap between the two Councils or is subject to doubly-difficult assessment hurdles. Both Councils, therefore, will support work that includes elements that might plausibly have been supported by the other body.

In the case of those research applications that address research questions substantially within both Councils' remits, the two Councils will use peer reviewers from both communities and for larger awards agree an appropriate balance of co-funding. Since both the AHRC and the ESRC will fund research projects in areas of overlap between the arts and humanities and the social sciences, applicants should not artificially seek to focus their proposals in one area or the other.

Postgraduate funding

The two Councils' approach to postgraduate funding reflects the specific training needs of the arts and humanities and the social sciences. Co-funding of studentships is not available, other than within a specific joint initiative between the Councils. The Councils are, however, pleased to commit to providing effective guidance to postgraduate applicants on the appropriate Council for their work.

Making an application

In order to assist applicants in deciding to which body they should direct their applications, the AHRC and the ESRC have developed guidance relating to various overlap areas of study, as set out below. Both bodies are happy to provide personal advice to potential applicants on these issues. There is also regular consultation between the two Councils on these matters, as there is with other Councils within the framework of RCUK.

Jointly-funded initiatives

In selected areas of research on the interface between the arts and humanities and the social sciences, the AHRC and the ESRC will develop jointly-funded initiatives with researchers to provide new opportunities for challenging and exciting research. In this way, both bodies hope to foster and support high-quality work that transcends and brings together the interests of researchers in the arts and humanities and the social sciences.

Recent examples include the Cultures of Consumption, Religion and Society, and Language-based Area Studies initiatives.