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Enjoy the 2020 Festival of Social Science from your sofa – online programme revealed

  • Free online events from podcasts, audio plays, and digital exhibitions, to online artworks, show and tell sessions and interactive mapping will be hosted by Warwick researchers next month as part of the 2020 ESRC Festival of Social Science
  • The annual festival is going online this year so that Coventry and Warwickshire residents can enjoy the events without worrying about social distancing
  • The UK-wide festival aims to share the latest economic and social science research with the public through entertaining and engaging events.
  • The University of Warwick is hosting 17 events from 7 – 15 November 2020.

Residents of Coventry and Warwickshire are being invited to take part in the 2020 ESRC Festival of Social Science from the comfort and safety of their homes.


The University of Warwick has unveiled a fully-online programme of events for the popular festival, which has gone digital this year in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Virtual festival-goers will be able to attend the premiere of a new play exploring the mental health impact of fatherhood; access a new podcast series on philosophy and mental health; hear about the impact of the coronavirus crisis on employment and the local economy; help map the fight for votes for women; or hear about new revelations about cryptography and spying during the Cold War.

The 17 online events are part of the UK-wide ESRC Festival of Social Science, taking place from 7 – 15 November 2020.

Organised with support from the Economic and Social Research Council, the Festival aims to show how social science research helps explain people’s behaviour and the world around us, how research can influence our social, economic and political lives, and to inspire more people to pursue a career in research in the future.

Professor Jackie Hodgson, Deputy Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research) at the University of Warwick, said:

“The Festival of Social Science is a great opportunity for us to bring our research into the community, giving people the chance to hear about, and to discuss, work that impacts all aspects of our lives. Social science is about building better futures – be that economic security, health and well-being, reducing inequalities or improving our environment – and so it is relevant to every one of us.”

Professor Matthew Nudds, Chair of the Faculty of Social Science at the University of Warwick, said:

“By taking our Festival of Social Science programme online we hope that we’ll be able to share our research with even more local residents – and perhaps a few Warwick alumni and friends in other parts of the UK or even overseas.

“These virtual festival events give us a wonderful opportunity to connect with the local community and, we hope, prompt discussions on important issues like mental health, inequalities in health care, the impact of the pandemic on how we see ourselves, and the future of work and our local economy.”

Pre-event registration is encouraged but not compulsory. Full programme:

  •  7 and 8 Nov: Global challenges require global collaboration Some of the biggest challenges we currently face, especially those involving the environment and sustainability, require action on a global scale. How can we cooperate and coordinate across nations? How can social sciences help improve patterns of human interactions and behaviour that are adversely affecting the environment? These questions will be explored by international researchers from various disciplines in a series of events over the weekend.
  •  7 Nov: Women’s suffrage and me - mapping women’s activism in local communities.Mapping Women's Suffrage is a community project mapping as many early twentieth-century British women's suffrage activists as possible on to an interactive map. The series of events will launch with a live webinar focusing on researching the suffrage past of your family or neighbourhood.
  • 7 Nov and 12 Nov: Cracking – an audio play on fathers’ mental health, followed by a panel discussion.Cracking is a new play inspired by the lived experience of couples who’ve been through postnatal illness. Audiences will have online access to the episodes during the Festival, beginning with a listen-remotely-together debut of episode 1, and then join a live panel discussion on father’s perinatal mental health and the culture(s) that surround it later in the week.
  •  9 Nov: Rescuing a ‘sick’ labour market – the economic impacts of Covid-19How fast will economic activity rebound and have some types of work suffered a permanent reduction? To what extent will remote working practices continue? In this webinar, we will report on new research using 'real-time' data that looks at the economic impacts of the Covid-19 crisis in the UK.
  • 10 Nov: What matters more for recovery – innovation or entrepreneurship? Prof Stephen Roper (University of Warwick) and Prof Mark Hart (Aston University) ask what will matter most as the economy seeks to recover from the COVID-19 crisis - will recovery depend more strongly on entrepreneurship and new firms? Or, will it be innovation which drives new growth and productivity. Join this lively debate and take part in the discussion.
  • 11 Nov: Deprescribing psychotropic medicines in people with intellectual disabilities.This event will explore some of the issues around deprescribing - stopping and reducing medicines - and how health care professionals can consult and make joint decisions with service users.
  • 11 Nov: I:DNA onlineI:DNA is an immersive art installation, developed directly from the research of social scientist Professor Felicity Boardman (WMS) through a collaboration with STAMP Theatre and Media Productions (CIC). It explores the social and ethical implications of genomic medicine from the perspectives of people with genetic conditions, using their own words. This special online edition of the work will include video interviews, a pre-recorded video presentation, a live Q&A with Prof Boardman and STAMP, and a digital game.
  • 12 Nov: After Bletchley Park – global tech and trusted devices in Cold War espionage This panel discussion, chaired by Professor Richard Aldrich, will draw on new documents released in Europe and the USA revealing how the United States, Germany, Switzerland and Sweden co-operated to allow eavesdropping on supposedly secure encryption machines used during the Cold War. The talk will be historical, but will inform current debates over trusted devices, supply chain security and 5G.
  •  7 Nov: Mental Health and Philosophy - The Disquieted Life Podcast Series. ‘Disquieted Life’ is a British Academy funded podcast series exploring ideas about philosophy and mental health. The podcasts will be freely available online at the start of the festival. Episodes feature conversations on mental health with leading thinkers from the worlds of philosophy, literature and the arts. Later in the week, a workshop will engage with young people, who will be invited to share their views and questions on the themes raised in the podcasts. Their reflections will be posted to the podcast webpage at the end of the week.
  • 13 Nov: Seeing through other eyes - the enduring value of town and city twinning Coventry is twinned with 26 towns and cities around the world. This illustrated talk will explore the city’s history of twinning with a particular interest in the educational value of twinning. The talk is built around objects including a tablecloth signed by women in Coventry as a fund raiser for the besieged people of Stalingrad in the Second World War; the Stalingrad Madonna that hangs in the city cathedral; and a cover of a programme for a pantomime put on by Coventry students in Jinan in the 1980s.
  • 13 Nov: Coventry Creates – Artistic and academic collaborations in a City of Culture In response to the global pandemic, Coventry and Warwick universities joined together to launch 'Coventry Creates' - a project inviting the local arts and cultural sector to respond to 17 pieces of research, showcasing the resulting artworks through an online digital exhibition. This panel discussion, chaired by Professor Jackie Hodgson, will explore how these collaborations worked, the benefits to those involved and the lessons learned for closer collaboration between universities and their local communities.
  • 14 Nov: A tale of 2 global pandemics – Covid-19 and race/racism Thisinteractive and participatory workshop will explore how people’s identities have been affected over the last 11 months, discussing topics including race, family, LGBTQ identity, health and wellbeing, isolation, identity and support networks. Participants will be invited to present an object that symbolises their experience under lockdown, related to Covid 19 and race/racism.
  • 14 Nov: Women’s suffrage and me - mapping women’s activism in local communities. This final webinar, featuring women’s activist and writer Helen Pankhurst, will consider the legacy of the suffrage movement; its resonance for contemporary activism such as #MeToo and Black Lives Matter; and how an understanding of a community’s suffrage past might lead to re-interpretations of established local histories.

Professor Jennifer Rubin, ESRC Executive Chair, said:

“This year, with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 Festival of Social Science will be a digital-first event featuring exciting and innovative events run by our 34 partners.

“Many economic and social researchers value the opportunity to share how their work helps us to better understand people, businesses, institutions, communities and wider social phenomena, and to inform decisions that can affect millions of lives. We hope these events raise awareness about how research can improve outcomes across society, inspiring some young people to pursue a career in research, and others to draw on research to understand people and the world around us."

Full details of each event and booking information can be found at:

28 October 2020

The ESRC Festival of Social Science (FoSS) is an annual celebration of the social sciences and a key element of ESRC’s commitment to promote awareness of UK social science research to new audiences. This year ESRC is taking a new approach to the festival – it will be a digital-first event, to be held from 7-15 November 2020 and will feature exciting and creative events run by our 34 partners.

2020 will be the 18th Festival of Social Science. Predominantly virtual events, held across the UK, will allow everyone, from school children to politicians, to take part in and hear about social science research at the festival's many engaging events. For more information please visit:


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