Usher Institute

New £10 million hub for behavioural research

A new UK hub for behavioural research has been funded to help tackle societal and economic challenges. 

People walking

Behavioural Research UK (BR-UK) is supported by a £10 million grant from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), and will form the centrepiece of ESRC’s investment in behavioural research.

Understanding human behaviour and how it shapes organisations, communities and societies is fundamental to addressing current and future global challenges.

The five-year funding will support BR-UK to build a behavioural research community to address these challenges, driving interdisciplinary innovation.

Professors Linda Bauld and Susan Michie co-Lead hub

Professor Linda Bauld, Bruce and John Usher Chair of Public Health at The University of Edinburgh’s Usher Institute and Chief Social Policy Advisor to the Scottish Government, will co-lead the Hub along with Professor Susan Michie, Professor of Health Psychology and Director of the Centre for Behavioural Change at University College London.

Leading academics across a range of disciplines from eight universities – Edinburgh, UCL, Cardiff, Manchester, Oxford, Queen's University Belfast, Sheffield and St Andrews – will join forces with partners from government, industry and charities.

These include the Scottish and Welsh Governments, UK Health Security Agency, Public Health Wales, government departments and agencies in Northern Ireland, and organisations covering transport, food security, health protection, communication, entrepreneurship and other areas.

Mobilising behavioural research into policy and practice 

The collaboration will provide leadership to harness, connect and extend the UK’s existing capacity and capability in behavioural research, supporting the mobilisation of research into policy and practice.

BR-UK will support effective future policy-making, service delivery and innovation; including establishing a service to help research users draw on behavioural expertise to address challenges they face, including when environmental, political, health or social shocks occur.

The team have ambitious plans including setting up a fund to support exemplar projects to drive behavioural research advances.

BR-UK will be underpinned by community involvement, equity and social justice, with systems thinking and the importance of context at its core.

The award is part of a larger £18 million investment in behavioural research from the ESRC which will include development and training opportunities for academics and practitioners from a wide range of sectors.

Professor Linda Bauld welcomed this investment from the ESRC.

BR-UK builds on decades of research to understand human behaviour. Covid-19 has reminded us, even more than before, that behaviour is shaped by context. Unless we understand how society is changing in the UK and how people respond to these changes then governments, businesses and organisations will struggle to adapt. Our partnership of academics, policy makers, commercial and voluntary sector organisations across all four nations will work together to accelerate the use of evidence to help address challenges facing us now and in the future.

Professor Linda BauldBruce and John Usher Chair of Public Health, The University of Edinburgh’s Usher Institute and Chief Social Policy Advisor, Scottish Government
UK Research and Innovation Economic and Social Research Council

Further information

Economic and Social Research Council's funding announcement

University College London's BR-UK announcement

UK Research and Innovation's funding call

View Professor Linda Bauld's profile 

View Professor Susan Machie's profile

Read the Civil Service World article 'How expanding the UK’s behavioural research capacity will benefit policymaking'

Behavioural Research UK website

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