Interdisciplinary environmental social science leadership team

Project: Research council

Project Details


It is critically important to provide social science insights to support the transition to a sustainable and biodiverse environment and a net zero society. We are in a biodiversity crisis, with profound implications for humanity and nonhuman nature. Severe cuts in greenhouse gas emissions are urgently needed to restrict global temperature increases. This multi-faceted crisis, alongside disruptions such as COVID-19, demands the skills, insights and leadership of social scientists in relation to research, policy-making and action. However, environmental solutions are often framed as technological or ecological fixes, underestimating social dimensions of policy and practice interventions. Social science research is rarely agile and responsive to societal needs in very short time frames, and there is an urgent need for stronger community organisation and coordination. We need to increase the accessibility, agility and use of social science, as well as to further develop the skills necessary to contribute to interdisciplinary research, enabling the co-production of knowledge and action.

Advancing Capacity for Climate and Environment Social Science (ACCESS) is a team of world-leading social science and interdisciplinary experts led by the Universities of Exeter and Surrey with the Universities of Bath, Leeds & Sussex and the Natural Environment Social Research Network (Natural Resources Wales, NatureScot, Natural England, Environment Agency and Forest Research). The ACCESS core team is complemented by a wider network of expertise drawn from academic and stakeholder partners across UK devolved nations and internationally: Strathclyde University, Queens University Belfast, Cardiff University, Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, Manchester University, Plymouth Marine Laboratory, University of Sydney and stakeholder partners including the Welsh Government, Scottish and Southern Energy, the Chartered Institute of Water and Environmental Management, National Trust, Academy for Social Sciences, Community Energy England, Winchester Science Centre and Devon and Surrey County Councils.

ACCESS is structured around three cross-cutting themes (Co-production; Equality, Diversity and Inclusion; Sustainability and Net Zero) that underpin four work packages:

1. Map, assess and learn from the past experiences of social scientists in climate and environment training, research, policy and practice; to develop and test new resources to impact interdisciplinary education, research and knowledge mobilisation, catalysing change in policy culture, institutions, businesses and civil society (Work Package (WP)1);
2. Empower environmental social scientists at different learning and career stages by providing training and capacity building, including masterclasses, placements, mentoring and collegiate networks to enhance leadership and knowledge exchange skills (WP2);
3. Innovate by creating new ideas and testing new approaches; scope future transformative social science and enable rapid and timely deployment of social science capacity in response to key events or emergencies (WP3);
4. Champion and coordinate environmental social scientists across the UK and internationally by providing an accessible knowledge/data hub and innovative public engagement tracker; building new networks, enabling coordination and collaboration; supporting policy and decision-making (WP4).
ACCESS' depth and breadth of expertise coupled with the range of innovative resources produced will deliver transformational leadership and coordination of environmental social science. ACCESS will become the key trusted source of environmental social science for UK governmental and non-governmental agencies, business and civil society. In so doing, ACCESS will ensure that social science insights become more visible, valued and used by non-social science academics and stakeholders, supporting the transition to a sustainable and biodiverse environment and a low carbon society.
Effective start/end date1/02/2231/01/27


  • Economic and Social Research Council

RCUK Research Areas

  • Economics
  • Human Geography
  • Psychology
  • Science And Technology Studies
  • Sociology


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