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Areas of Research

Each of the Research Councils funds research within a broad set of subject disciplines, and in collaboration with other Councils and partners.

Detailed information about the areas of research each Council supports can be found on their individual websites. Those wishing to apply for research funding should address specific questions to the relevant Research Council. A brief summary of the areas of research each Council funds is outlined below.

Each of the Research Councils has a scientific vision or strategic plan which sets out the Councils overarching research aspirations and priorities. These can be accessed at:

Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC)
Biotechnology & Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)
Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)
Economic & Social Research Council (ESRC)
Medical Research Council (MRC)
Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)
Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC)

These research strategies are developed through extensive consultation with the academic community, and with a wide range of users and stakeholders including relevant Government Departments, industry, the wider public sector and also the public itself.

The Research Councils support a great deal of cross-/multi-/inter-/trans-/ disciplinary research, which benefits from drawing together insights and approaches from a number of established research disciplines. Further information on how the Research Councils support cross discipline research is available here.

Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)

The AHRC supports research across a wide subject domains including:

  • history (ancient, medieval and modern);
  • classics;
  • archaeology;
  • modern languages and linguistics;
  • English language and literature;
  • the visual arts and media;
  • librarianship, information and museum studies;
  • philosophy, law, religious studies;
  • music and creative and performing arts.

Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)

BBSRC funds research in the biosciences, in areas including:

  • Genomics, stem cell biology, and bio-nanotechnology, that provide a basis for new technologies in healthcare, food safety, plant and livestock breeding, and bio-processing;
  • Whole organism biology relevant to the understanding of diet and health, ageing, animal health and welfare, infectious diseases and immunity, and crop productivity;
  • Biological populations and systems that underpin agricultural sustainability, biodiversity and novel bio-based and renewable processes for energy and manufacturing.

Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)

EPSRC supports fundamental research in the physical sciences through to more applied topics in engineering and technology. This includes research in the following areas:

  • mathematics;
  • chemistry;
  • physics;
  • materials science;
  • engineering;
  • computer science, including high performance computing;
  • energy research;
  • research into the built environment;
  • information and communications technology;
  • research into innovative manufacturing.

Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)

ESRC funds social science and economic research across a wide of disciplines encompassing:

  • sociology;
  • economics;
  • anthropology;
  • political science;
  • area or regionally based research and geography;
  • international relations;
  • cultural and media studies;
  • law and linguistics;
  • Psychology.

Medical Research Council (MRC)

The MRC’s remit covers the full range of medical research from studies of molecules to the implementation of research findings into clinical practice. This includes such topics as:

  • the use of animals in research;
  • antibiotic resistance;
  • brain sciences;
  • genomics and proteomics;
  • health of the public;
  • intensive care;
  • patient safety research;
  • stem cell research.

Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)

NERC funds environmental research, survey and observation work across a wide spectrum of disciplines, including:

  • the geo- and earth sciences, hydrology, soil science, atmospheric research and oceanography;
  • biological and microbiological research on animal and plant biodiversity, population dynamics and ecology;
  • climate change research;
  • environmental chemistry and physics;
  • satellite based Earth observation;
  • polar research;
  • management of land and natural resources.

Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC)

Amongst others, STFC's areas of research include:

  • astronomy;
  • computational science;
  • energy;
  • nuclear physics;
  • particle physics;
  • space science.

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