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School of the Humanities and Social Sciences

Underside of a bright green leaf and its network of capillaries

HSS Research Framework

Researchers in the School of the Humanities and Social Sciences tackle some of the world’s most complex social, cultural and economic questions, exploring how people behave, influence, interpret and quantify the world around them.

Our research stretches across the globe and its histories, embracing diverse viewpoints from a wide range of disciplines using differing methodologies, from highly quantitative analysis of ‘big data’ to ethnography and the analysis of the material culture and interpretation of past societies.

This breadth enables us to deliver an ambitious portfolio of exciting undergraduate and postgraduate programmes, building creatively on our internationally-excellent research. You can find out more about research in the humanities and social sciences at the University of Cambridge by visiting our Departmental and Faculty websites.

To enhance opportunities for collaborative research, foster connections between researchers across disciplines, and offer improved avenues of communication, six new major Research Themes are being invested in by the School as part of the Humanities and Social Sciences Research Framework.

Arising organically and academic-driven, these themes encompass cutting-edge research and embrace impactful and imaginative new directions to address many of the world’s great questions. They include deep comparative work around global inequalities, exploring the concept of transformation, understanding historical legacies and transitions, analysing the intersection of conflict and ecosystems, investigating colonial natures, and the roles of technology in understanding phenomena.

The themes will continue to develop and we welcome your involvement in this exciting new initiative.

About the Research Framework

The School of the Humanities and Social Sciences is establishing a suite of broad thematic groups designed to promote the School’s diverse research activity. This initiative aims to foster closer connections between researchers and across disciplines, offer improved avenues of communication and strengthen the environment for collaborative research.

Resulting from an initial consultation and a series of focus groups, six themes have emerged under the following working titles:

  1. Area studies, global inequality and economic development
  2. Understanding social, culture and economic transformation
  3. Conflict, conservation, environmental policy and climate justice
  4. Technology, knowledge and human development
  5. Legacies of the past/historical transitions
  6. Healthy lives

In addition to these, Public Policy continues to be a priority for the School's research activity in a way that cross-cuts these themes. The Bennett Institute of Public Policy is convening this area, developing and encouraging links with researchers across the School and beyond. 

The Consortium for the Global South (led by the Centre of African Studies, Centre of Development Studies, Centre of Latin American Studies, the Centre for Gender Studies and Centre of South Asian Studies), in promoting the interdisciplinary study of the Global South within and also outside the University, also cross-cuts the Framework themes and is an important strand to the School's increasing international research portfolio.

The Cambridge Heritage Research Centre (CHRC) based at the McDonald Institute of Archaeology brings together researchers from several disciplines and external partners, providing critical intersections with the Framework themes to understand how diverse institutions, political movements and communities recognise their identities, attribute value, contest rights claims and realise their political and economic strategies.

Also emerging strongly across the Framework themes is dialogue concerning the University's Legacies of Enslavement initiative. Humanities and social science researchers can contribute to and enable further productive and essential conversation and action around this. 

The School also maintains very close links with the University’s Interdisciplinary Research Centres and Strategic Research Initiatives and Networks, which aims to maximise interdisciplinary collaboration across School boundaries.

While not exhaustive, this list of activities begins to highlight how existing networks in which HSS research features prominently speak to the deliberately capacious working titles of the Framework themes. The Framework provides another way to frame existing activities, explore connections between research agendas, present future directions and open up conversations.

For more information, please contact Dr Andrea Salter, AHSS REF Manager and Research Facilitator.