ESRC funds research and training in social and economic issues. We are an independent organisation, established by Royal Charter, but receive most of our funding through the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. Our planned expenditure for 2009/10 is £204 million, which funds over 2,500 researchers in academic institutions and policy research institutes throughout the UK. We also support more than 2,000 postgraduate students.
The ESRC began in 1965 as the Social Science Research Council, comprising social science committees covering 14 disciplines ranging from anthropology to statistics. In 1983 the council was restructured under the new name of Economic and Social Research Council, focusing on six research areas: economic affairs, education and human development, environment and planning, government and law, industry and employment, and social affairs (more ESRC history).
The international reputation that the council has both for providing high-quality research issues of importance to business, the public sector and government, and for our commitment to training world-class social scientists. Nearly two-thirds of our budget is allocated to research and just under one-third to postgraduate training.
The quality of life and economic well-being of the UK and its citizens are just two of the many, policy-relevant issues addressed by our research and training activities. Comparative and international perspectives are strongly encouraged. For example, UK economic performance is increasingly dependent on the global economy, and economic distribution - both within and between countries and regions - is a major issue for social science research.
The senior decision making body is the ESRC Council. It includes members of the business, voluntary and public sectors, as well as the academic community. The Chief Executive of ESRC, supported by four main directorates, based in ESRC's Swindon headquarters, is responsible for the implementation of Council's policies and decisions, and for the overall management of ESRC.