Research and Knowledge Exchange

CAHSS Research Themes

We support research collaborations across Schools, mobilising expertise across disciplines to produce new insights and address major societal challenges. This involves identifying and mapping our research strengths; aligning these to emerging challenges and funder priorities; and building skills and capacity across career stages in these areas.

CAHSS Research Themes

The University’s Research Themes build cross-College capacity to develop major bids, in a small number of priority areas that align with funder priorities. Research Themes within our College showcase the breadth and key research strengths across our 11 Schools, and foster exciting collaborations across disciplines and topics.

Our 9 broad, interdisciplinary themes aim to foster new collaborations and partnerships across industry, policy and practice, as we position ourselves to lead major new projects. The major areas of expertise, and anticipated directions, for each theme are summarised below. 

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 for our College and for the University, including through the development of Edinburgh Futures Institute and the Centre for Data, Culture and Society (CDCS), 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.


Our 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. Our research in this area addresses the city both locally (in Edinburgh), and internationally, particularly in relation to infrastructure, sustainability and design in the Global South. Established in 2019 as a research theme within EFI in collaboration with colleagues in Informatics, Engineering and Geosciences, we have benefited from engagement 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 the Edinburgh Climate Change Institute (ECCI). Supported by IASH, the Environmental Humanities Network brings cultural and creative perspectives to bear on the issue. This is a rapidly evolving area, with new initiatives on energy, climate change and sustainability emerging across the University.

Cultural Heritage

Our RKE in this area exploits our location in Edinburgh and our strong links with national museums and galleries, heritage, planning and conservation organisations, and creative industry. This theme brings together researchers from across multiple Schools, and the network on Digital Cultural Heritage, to explore issues including: heritage justice, ranging from access to heritage to decolonisation and 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. Beyond the University, we are collaborating with the Una Europa consortium of universities, with whom we are committed to establishing a joint PhD and new research opportunities in Cultural Heritage.

Health & Well-being

We have a unique interdisciplinary strength in this area, which brings together researchers from across the arts, humanities and social sciences, in collaboration with the College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine (CMVM). Our research explores issues of mental health and well-being, health inequalities, public health and health governance, alongside an increasing focus on One Health and zoonotics. Through IASH, we have also supported cutting-edge initiatives in the medical humanities. We aim to strengthen engagement with a range of partners, and marshal our expertise to explore how internal University services can best promote staff and student health and well-being.

Identities & Inequalities

Research in this area explores how social and cultural identities intersect with issues of inequality, justice and social exclusion. Collaboration straddles all of our Schools, encompassing research on socio-economic inequality, welfare, labour markets, educational and health inequalities, crime and justice, and global inequalities and justice; and engages key cross-university initiatives, supported by IASH and CAHSS including GenderED and RACE.ED and the Disability Research Group. Research on racial inequality will be supported by a major new IASH initiative on Decoloniality. A recent mapping of research in this theme will inform University-level developments on embedding anti-racist and wider equality and diversity principles into research.

Childhood & Youth

 Research into childhood and youth brings together a range of disciplines from developmental psychology to big data analysis, from the historical study of attitudes to child abuse to sports education. Much of our activity focuses on large scale, externally-funded groupings and partnerships, including the Childhood and Youth research group based in the Moray House School of Education and Sport, Data for Childhood in EFI, Physical Activity for Health (MHSES), and the cross-School Centre for Research on Families and Relationships. Partners include UNICEF and the UN, as well as government, health, and educational agencies. A recent detailed mapping of this area is leading to new cross school symposia sharing best practice relating to the ethics of Childhood research, partnerships, and opportunities.

Governance & Democracy

CAHSS has particular strengths in international and global governance, governance in an international development context (the global academies), EU and multilevel governance (the Europa Institute, the Centre on Constitutional Change, What Works Scotland), as well as research on the role of science and knowledge in policy (SKAPE) and digital and data innovation in governance (EFI). Research 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; the UK/EU and constitutional change; and the role of science, technology and expertise in governance.

Work & Economy

This theme 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, including issues of equality, mobility and ageing in the workplace, 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.