UK Human Geography no.1 in the world

The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), the Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers) and Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) are launching the results of a benchmarking review of human geography today.

The ESRC's Chief Executive launched the Panel's report on the International Benchmarking Review of UK Human Geography at the RGS-IBG offices on 4 March 2013. This is the sixth in the series of benchmarking reviews looking into UK social science disciplinary areas.

The aim of the benchmarking reviews is to highlight the standing and contribution of UK social science research in an international context. It also identifies ways of enhancing capacity and helps to promote and shape future research agendas.

A Steering Group was set up to initiate and oversee the Human Geography review. Chaired by Dr Rita Gardner, CBE, RGS-IBG, the group was made up of prominent UK academics, users of human geography research and funders.

The group, in consultation with the UK human geography community, appointed an international panel of leading international experts, chaired by Professor David Ley, University of British Columbia, Canada. The panel made an independent assessment of the UK’s performance in human geography research, made key conclusions from and identified a number of recommendations.

The key conclusions from the report were:

  • UK human geography ranks first in the world. Findings also showed it as an empirically and conceptually innovative, diverse, vibrant discipline that in many areas sets the intellectual agenda
  • The UK publishes more than its share of major disciplinary journals; bibliometric indicators reveal international primacy both in volume and citation impact; and a large number of the seminal publications (books as well as articles) continue to have a UK origin
  • UK human geography is radically interdisciplinary and with the spatial turn in the humanities and social sciences has become an exporter of ideas and faculty to other disciplines
  • There was confidence that research in human geography had substantial impact on policy and practice and would successfully meet the challenges of the current impact agenda

ESRC Chief Executive Paul Boyle said: "I am delighted by the Panel's finding that UK human geography ranks first in the world. However, we will make sure that the Panel’s helpful recommendations for further improvements will be taken seriously and will be used to support the ongoing development of this important disciplinary area."

AHRC Associate Director of Programmes Gary Grubb said: "I welcome the Panel's affirmation of the international standing and leadership of UK historical and cultural geography which is also reflected in their important contributions to AHRC's themes and programmes such as 'Landscape and the Environment' and 'Connected Communities'."

Dr Rita Gardner CBE, Director of the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG), said: "It's such a key subject in helping to understand and address many of the environmental, economic and social challenges the world and the UK faces. At a time when impact is increasingly seen as important, the fact that the Panel highlighted the range, clear strategic intent and effectiveness of engagement between scholars and the users of research in human geography is also especially welcome. We look forward to working with the research councils and the HE community to take forward the five recommendations of the review."

For further information contact:

ESRC Press Office:

Notes for editors

  1. The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) is the UK's largest organisation for funding research on economic and social issues. It supports independent high quality research which has an impact on business, the public sector and the third sector. The ESRC's total budget for 2012/13 is £205 million. At any one time the ESRC supports over 4,000 researchers and postgraduate students in academic institutions and independent research institutes.
  2. The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) funds world-class, independent researchers in a wide range of subjects: ancient history, modern dance, archaeology, digital content, philosophy, English literature, design, the creative and performing arts, and much more. This financial year the AHRC will spend approximately £98 million to fund research and postgraduate training in collaboration with a number of partners. The quality and range of research supported by this investment of public funds not only provides social and cultural benefits but also contributes to the economic success of the UK.
  3. The Royal Geographical Society (with The Institute of British Geographers) is the learned society and professional body for geography. Formed in 1830, its Royal Charter of 1859 is for 'the advancement of geographical science'. Today, it delivers this objective by developing, supporting and promoting geography through research, expeditions and fieldwork, education, and public engagement, while also providing geographical input to policy. As a charity the Society exists for public benefit and its work engages more than three million people per year. It has a thriving Fellowship and membership and offers the professional accreditation 'Chartered Geographer' 
  4. Human geography seeks to
    • Understand and explain the characteristics and differences between localities in terms of cultures, societies and economies
    • Understand the social, cultural and economic processes by which nations, regions, towns, neighbourhoods and communities change, interact and develop
    • Understand the interactions between people, communities and built and natural 'environments', and the value that people place on those environments and landscapes
  5. International Benchmarking Review of UK Human Geography is the sixth in the ESRC's review series and was commissioned in partnership with the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) and the Arts and Humanities Research Council. They are conducted in partnership with the appropriate learned societies that cover the discipline being reviewed, as the remit and recommendations from the review involve the whole academic community
  6. The process was overseen by a Steering Group composed of prominent UK academics, users of Human Geography research and funders. The Steering Group was chaired by the Dr Rita Gardner, CBE, Director of the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG).  
  7. The Steering Group agreed the terms of reference for the review and, in consultation with the UK Human Geography community, appointed an International Panel of leading international experts, chaired by Professor David Ley, University of British Columbia, Canada
  8. The International Panel visited the UK for one week in May 2012 and met with about 150 stakeholders in UK Human Geography
  9. Prior to its UK visit, the Panel was provided with a range of background data including: 
    • Overviews of research trends and outputs since 2000 completed by representatives of the nine Human Geography sub-disciplines
    • Two-page assessments by Heads of UK Geography Departments of strengths, weaknesses, overall health, and future opportunities and challenges to Human Geography in the UK (15 submissions were received)
    • A statistical profile of UK Human Geography: Briefing Document: Statistical Overview and Commentary by Paul Wakeling (2012)
    • Bibliometric Data for the ESRC International Benchmarking Review of Human Geography by Thomson Reuters (2012)
    • A Short Introduction to UK Research Funding Policy by David Mills (2012)
    • Survey of Users of Human Geography Research by Steve Johnson, David Gibbs and Ian Mills (2012).

Sarah Nichols
Email: sarah.nichols@esrc.ac.uk
Telephone 01793 413122

The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)

Tags:

About Us

We are the UK's largest organisation for funding research on economic and social issues. We support independent, high quality research which has an impact on business, the public sector and the third sector. At any one time we support over 4,000 researchers and postgraduate students in academic institutions and independent research institutes. We are a non-departmental public body established by Royal Charter in 1965 and receive most of our funding through the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS). Our research is vigorous and authoritative, as we support independent, high-quality, relevant social science.

Subscribe