Major ESRC investment for humanities and social science researchers

Dr Michael Donnelly and Dr Katie Maras from the Departments of Education and Psychology have been recognised as Future Research Leaders by the ESRC.

Dr Michael Donnelly and Dr Katie Maras from the Departments of Education and Psychology have been recognised as Future Research Leaders by the ESRC.

Researchers in psychology and education, based at the University, have been recognised as Future Research Leaders by the Economic & Social Research Council (ESRC) having been awarded major funding to further important research projects.

Dr Katie Maras from the Department of Psychology and Dr Michael Donnelly from the Department of Education have both been successful in securing ESRC funding for two – three year projects in the highly competitive process.

Supporting adults with autism

Dr Maras will receive the ESRC award to develop her work supporting adults with autism. Her previous projects have looked at the support and provisions available for people with autism within the criminal justice system.

The new funding will enable her to expand her research into developing support for the challenges people with autism spectrum disorder face in other important real life contexts, in particular for job interviews and medical consultations. Worth nearly £300,000, her project will run up until 2018.

Commenting on the funding, she said: “I’m thrilled to receive this award. People with autism are often disadvantaged in employment, healthcare and police interviews because their impairments in social and cognitive processes - such as memory and communication - can affect their ability to relay relevant and important information. This research aims to elucidate the difficulties that people with autism have in reporting information in these contexts, and to develop a method of interviewing to support them.”

Understanding the complexities of social mobility

Dr Michael Donnelly will use the funding to develop fresh insights about the complex relationships between spatial and social (im)mobilities in the UK. Dr Donnelly is particularly interested in understanding more about the under-researched area of how geography affects social mobility for young people attending university.

During the three-year project, he will work with colleagues in the Centre for Analysis of Social Policy, the Institute for Policy Research (IPR) and the University of Bristol’s School of Geographical Sciences, in order to improve understanding of how people’s movements (or non-movements) to study, and specifically their choice of geographical location, might be important in terms of their future trajectories and transitions to the labour market.

The project is worth nearly £300,000 and runs from 2016 to 2019. It also involves close collaboration with an expert panel of policy-makers and civil society organisations.

He added: “I’m delighted to receive this award. Social mobility is high on the political agenda in the UK, with widening participation in higher education seen as crucial to achieving a fairer society.  Whilst some progress has been made here, social mobility remains weak, suggesting a more complex picture about how inequalities are (re)produced.

"Building on my earlier work, this study aims to bring geography into the debate, to explore the significance of place and locality at this crucial transition point in young people’s lives.”

The ESRC Future Research Leaders Award is designed to give early career researchers support to hone their skills and research and a platform from which to become leaders in their field.

The fact that two researchers from the Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences at the University have been successful in this bid is highly significant, explained Professor Ian Butler, Dean of the Faculty: “Katie and Michael are leading the way in their respective areas and I look forward to learning more about their research as it progresses. To have not just one, but two researchers from the Faculty recognised by the ESRC in this way is a fantastic achievement.”

Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Jonathan Knight added: “The ESRC Future Research Leader funding for Michael and Katie is great news both for them as researchers and for the University more generally. I look forward to seeing how their important projects develop over the next few years.”

To find out more about Michael and Katie's projects see:

If you found this interesting you might also enjoy reading:

For media enquiries:

Andy Dunne
University Press Office
44(0)7966 341357