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About the Festival of Social Science

The Festival of Social Science is an annual celebration of research and knowledge about humans and society. It’s an opportunity for anyone to explore topics relating to social science – from health and wellbeing to crime, equality, education and identity – through events run by researchers from UK universities. There’s no cost to attend, and most are open to everyone, though some are aimed at specific groups.

There are over 400 events across the UK, delivered by 34 universities. They’ll be running throughout November in a mixture of online, in-person and hybrid formats, and will include talks, performances, exhibitions, participatory events and panel debates. For most events you can book yourself a place in advance online – follow the booking link from the event listing.

COP26 Climate change conference

A key theme for the 2021 festival is the environment. We’ve timed the festival to tie in with the COP26 UN climate change conference and our events cover a range of topics such as our relationship with the natural environment and how we can change our behaviour to reduce carbon emissions.

The festival is led and funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) , which supports research and training in social science subjects.

What is social science?

The term social science covers a broad range of subjects relating to society, communities and people, including economics, psychology, sociology, management and business studies, law, economic and social history, politics and human geography, among others.

The events shaping our world – from Brexit and the pandemic to geopolitical tensions and civic protests – reveal how social science is more key to understanding the world than ever. From big ideas to the most detailed observations, social science affects us all every day – at work, in school, when raising children, within our communities, from the personal and local, to the national and global level. Our broad range of subjects are working to help our understanding of these complex areas.

You can find a full list of social science subjects on the ESRC website.

How can I find events on a specific social science subject?

If you’d like to find Festival events relating to a particular social science subject you can use the ‘subject’ filter to identify these. You might find this useful if you already have an interest in a particular subject or are considering studying it and would like a taster. You can also search by topic (eg ‘health and wellbeing’ or ‘equality’) to show relevant events across different subject areas, and by practical matters such as location.

How long has the festival been running?

The Festival of Social Science began in 2002 as Social Science Week, with around 25 events. It has run annually since then, growing in size, breadth and coverage, and plays a key role in our commitment to connect the researchers we fund with new audiences.