The Forge - A Social Science Researcher Network for Transport, Travel and Mobilities

Lead Research Organisation: University of Leeds
Department Name: Institute for Transport Studies


The Forge social science researcher network for transport and travel aims to link social scientists from a range of backgrounds undertaking research on or relevant to transport, travel and mobility. The project will achieve these aims through two main routes:
1) Running three Summer Schools in 2011-2013 with subsidised attendance for 40 research students and early career researchers.
2) Establishing a network or research students and early career researchers which will promote knowledge sharing, interaction, publication development and career growth

The Summer Schools will act as a key focal point for the activities of the network. The network will be managed through a website where researchers can set up profiles and find researchers with common interests. Participants will also be able to apply for small quantities of funding to pay for travel and workshop costs for meetings on specific topics which will be open to network members.

The network and Summer School meets a major research capacity building need identified by the Economic and Social Research Council and the UK Department for Transport. Much greater integration of perspectives from the social sciences is required to the study of the major problems posed by the growth in transport and travel demand, a field which has traditionally been dominated by engineering a physical science approaches. The network offers the potential to develop new perspectives and to better integrate techniques from these different traditions.

Planned Impact

The novel combination of a summer school and related research network has already proved to be an attractive and generative format for interdisciplinary exchange. The proposal to continue this a arrangement for a further three years provides:

1) A chance to explore substantive and critical topics relating to transport, travel and mobility from a range of social scientific perspectives
2) An important addition to the range of opportunities for early researcher/PhD student career development, including experience of management and policy interaction
3) A means of integrating 'transport' researchers - often isolated in areas of 'applied' research into wider communities of social science/social theory.
4) An opportunity to test the value of the 'Summer School + network' as a method of interdisciplinary capacity building
5) A means of capitalising on the energy and enthusiasm already established

The activities to date have suggested a huge latent demand for this type of research career development activity and have indicated the importance of such investment for the ESRC and the research community at large. There is scope, over the period of the proposed grant to involve early career policy makers and practitioners in the network and to create a much needed forum for inter-institutional as well as inter-disciplinary exchange. We will seek to do this through facilitating attendance for such participants at the summer school and by running specific topics and events to promote exchange between groups.

Whilst we see the main beneficiaries being the UK social science research community, the Summer Schools and network events involve significant policy engagement and exchange and we will seek to maximise these opportunities to help offset the cutbacks in central government training and outreach budgets that are being experienced.


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Description The primary output from The Forge was a multi-disciplinary network of social science researchers. The network currently stands at 166 members and we have engaged with over 100 early career and PhD researchers directly through the summer schools and workshops.

The Forge has also supported the development of a longer-term collaboration in promoting social science collaborations around mobility, buildings and energy through the DEMAND Centre ( led by Professor Shove. Within DEMAND a further two Summer Schools will be run (2014 and 2016) which continue to enrich the quality of social science training available within the UK, and which build on our success in developing new ideas at the interface of transport/mobility/social science/social theory.

The value of the training events was assessed through participant evaluation. Overall the participants rated the events as highly interesting (averaging over 4 out of 5) and very useful (averaging 4 out of 5). These can be considered excellent results as the Summer Schools were hosting participants from multiple academic/disciplinary backgrounds and various nationalities, which represents a great challenge regarding how to promote activities that are useful and of interest for this highly heterogeneous group. Some examples of the qualitative feedback which reinforce this include:

"Very good Summer School!" (Summer School 2012)
"Without doubt the best PhD school I have participated in." (Summer School 2012)
"Excellent Summer School - well worth the £120 I paid out of my own pocket." (Summer School 2013)
Exploitation Route The training will be informing the research careers of many of the participants.
Sectors Transport

Description The Forge is a network of social science researchers interested in novel ways of conceptualising and analysing transport and travel. Its key objectives are to: • integrate transport researchers - often isolated in areas of applied research - in wider communities of social science/social theory. • promote substantive and critical discussion around topics relating to transport, travel and mobility from a range of social scientific perspectives. • develop a self-sustaining network of researchers in transport, travel and mobilities research that will provide a step-change in the research capacity of the community. The network provides a means for research students, researchers and early career policy makers to meet, collaborate, publish and exchange ideas and has developed to 166 members over the three year period. Members of the network have set up profiles and can search for colleagues with common interests. The Forge has also provided small quantities of funding to allow participants to set up and support meetings and workshops on 'history of mobility systems', 'disused infrastructures' and 'well-being'. The annual Summer School has been a focal point for the network and its activities. These events were open to research students from all areas of social science. Over the three years 101 people from 39 higher education institutes in the UK and13 other countries participated in PhD and early career research training focussed on 'Crises', 'Time, Travel and Everyday Life' and 'The Dynamics of Mobility'.
First Year Of Impact 2011
Sector Transport
Impact Types Societal