Transforming Social Science

Professor Michael Woods

Professor Michael Woods

26 March 2014

Professor Michael Woods appointed as Professor for Transformative Social Science

Showing commitment to an Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Award to nurture social science research which can be truly ‘transformative’, Aberystwyth University has created a new high level post.

Professor Michael Woods from the Department of Geography and Earth Sciences has been appointed as Professor for Transformative Social Science.

This innovative post will lead a two year programme which focuses on the ESRC’s three strategic priority areas and aims to nurture transformations in theory, methods and knowledge exchange.

Commenting on his appointment, Professor Woods said; “This is an exciting opportunity not only to develop research that transforms social science knowledge and methods, but also to ensure that our research has a real impact in transforming society for the better”.

Through championing novel and interdisciplinary research, the Professor of Transformative Social Science will lead a programme of activities engaging fellow academics, members of the local community together with policy makers and practitioners.

Using innovative approaches, proposed activities include a series of workshops with policy-makers and practitioners to ‘co-produce’ knowledge and to explore the three main ESRC priorities.

Furthermore, through working with individuals from the creative disciplines, the aim is to develop and test the effectiveness of novel forms of knowledge exchange with local communities - for example using film, poetry, art and performance to convey ideas about fairness, sustainability and changing behaviours.

As part of his role, Professor Woods will explore the possibilities of publishing on different aspects of the activities undertaken, as well as ensuring the longer-term legacy of the programme; most clearly in relation to promoting transformative follow-up research bids in the social sciences, targeted primarily at the ESRC.

Professor Michael Woods joined Aberystwyth University in 1996 and was Director of the Institute of Geography and Earth Sciences for 6 years. His research focuses on rural change and development and on political geography.

Professor Woods has led research projects for the ESRC, Arts and Humanities Research Council, European Framework Programme 7 and the Welsh Government.

He is currently principal investigator for a European Research Council Advanced Grant, GLOBAL-RURAL, exploring globalization in rural contexts, and is also Co-Director of the Wales Institute of Social and Economic Research, Data and Methods (WISERD), which aims to build social science research capacity in universities in Wales.

Commenting on the appointment, Pro-Vice Chancellor Professor Chris Thomas said; “The wealth of experience which Professor Woods brings to this role makes him an excellent champion for encouraging transformative research across the Social Sciences at Aberystwyth. 

“The creation of this new post reflects the commitment of Aberystwyth University to carrying out research with impact through building on existing successes in this field.”

The Professor of Transformative Social Science will promote and encourage further transformative research within the social sciences at Aberystwyth University.

This post will provide academic leadership for the programme of activities undertaken as part of a £50k Institutional Award received from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) to nurture transformative social science.

The programme will focus on the ESRC’s three strategic priority areas: Economic Performance and Sustainable Growth; Influencing Behaviour and Informing Interventions; and A Vibrant and Fair Society.

Transformative research is broadly defined by the Research Council as “involving pioneering theoretical and methodological innovation, the novel application of theory and methods in new contexts, and/or research based on the engagement of unusual disciplinary and interdisciplinary perspectives”.