Research and Knowledge Exchange

CAHSS Research Themes

In 2019, following an extensive mapping and consultation exercise, CAHSS adopted 9 broad, interdisciplinary themes which capture key research strengths across our 11 Schools

CAHSS Research Themes

We have now begun to scope priority areas and initiatives within each theme: 

Data & Digital

CAHSS has been at the forefront of innovative methods in digital humanities and social data science. Recognising the transformative effects of big data, data analytics and digitisation across all areas of life, this is an area of major investment by the University and College, including through the development of EFI and the Centre for Data, Culture and Society, in the broader context of the Edinburgh and South East City Deal. We have already seen impressive success in funding, including in the areas of administrative data, fintech and creative informatics. The ubiquity of digital and data-driven research means that these approaches also contribute significantly to all of the other themes.


CAHSS research brings together a range of disciplines to support the development of smart, sustainable and inclusive cities. We combine architecture and design with a focus on well-being and inclusion, sustainability and energy use, and the deployment of urban analytics and modelling; and our research in this area addresses the city both locally in Edinburgh, and internationally, global south. We work closely with colleagues in Informatics, Engineering and Geosciences, and in collaboration with Glasgow University (through a joint PhD Fellowship scheme) and Heriot Watt University (through the Edinburgh Strategic Alliance).

Energy & Sustainability

Our research explores issues around design and governance of energy systems and infrastructures across the world, including in lower income settings, as well as legal, economic and political dimensions of reducing climate emissions, and climate change activism. Research in this thematic area is led by the cross-College Energy@Ed network, which incorporates expertise from social science, business, law and architecture, as well as through close collaboration with ECCI. This is a rapidly evolving area, with new initiatives on energy, climate change and sustainability emerging across the university, as well as opportunities opened up by strategic alliances such as Una Europa.

Cultural Heritage

Work on this theme brings together researchers from ECA, HCA, Law, LLC, Divinity, MHSES, SSPS and Business to explore issues around heritage justice ranging from access to heritage to restitution; heritage and the (urban) periphery, both locally in Edinburgh and further afield; and critical approaches to the uses of the digital in heritage practices enlightenments. Research in this area exploits our location in Edinburgh and our strong links with Museums, heritage, planning and conservation organisations, and creative industry. Beyond the University, we are collaborating  with the Una Europa Consortium, with whom we are committed to establishing a joint Phd in Cultural Heritage.

Health & Well-being

Our College has unique interdisciplinary strength in this area, which brings together researchers from across CAHSS, in collaboration with CMVM, to explore issues of mental health and well-being, health inequalities, public health and health governance, as well as an increasing focus on One Health and zoonotics. A particular growth area is global mental health, an area in which we are developing cross-College group. We aim to strengthen engagement with a range of partners – including exploring how the University services can best promote staff and student health and well-being.

Identities & Inequalities

Research in this area explores the intersections of social and cultural identities with issues of justice and inequalities. Research straddles almost all of our disciplines and Schools, and engages key cross-university initiatives including genderED and RACE.ED and the Disability Research Group. A key focus of debate collaboration within this theme is the concept of intersectionality, which offers a nexus for discussion about different forms of identity and inequality, but can also be problematised in different ways across disciplines.

Childhood & Youth

Research into childhood and youth is spread across disciplines from developmental psychology to big data analysis, from the historical study of attitudes to child abuse to sports education. Activity has tended to focus around large scale, externally-funded groupings and partnerships, including the Childhood and Youth Research Group, based, but not exclusive to MHSES, the Data for Children Collaborative and the Physical Activity for Health  Research Centre. Partners include UNICEF and the UN, as well as government, health, and educational agencies.

Governance & Democracy

CAHSS has particular strengths in international and global governance, governance in an international development context, and EU and multilevel governance. Key centres and institutes in this area include the Global Development Academy, the Global Justice Academy, the Europa Institute, and the Centre on Constitutional Change). Research in this area addresses a number of urgent global challenges, including in relation to trade, development and global inequalities; international organizations and global governance; populism and the crisis of democracy; and the UK/EU and constitutional change. 

Work & Economy

CAHSS research explores economies in their broadest sense, encompassing economic, legal, historical, cultural and social studies of finance, labour, productivity and markets. A particular focus is on employment and labour markets, where our work intersects with the theme on Identities and Inequalities. We have also seen a significant expansion of research on the role of data driven innovation in both the creative and financial sectors, including through the AHRC Creative Informatics project, and the new Strength in Places project on innovation in financial services.