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The theme for our 2022 conference is Beyond Hope and Despair: Situating Research in a post-pandemic world. Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, the past couple of years had already provided several challenges for researchers within the social sciences. However, with the emergence of Covid-19, many researchers have had to further scrutinise the ways in which they research and engage with the world around them. Projects have been stopped in their tracks, new projects have sprouted in their place and priorities have been radically reappraised. The pandemic has been the site of fluctuations between despairing at what has been lost and hoping for what could be made anew. In an attempt to move beyond the binaries of dystopian and utopian habits of thinking, associated with the naive, early days of the pandemic, the next Cambridge ESRC DTP conference will aim to critically engage with the role of social science research in a post-pandemic world.

Rationale and programme

The pandemic has provided us with an opportunity to think of innovative research designs. However, these opportunities, whether chosen or enforced, are not without their own challenges. For many of us, the wider social atmosphere in which we have had to conduct our research has also prompted us to focus on, question and shift our priorities and underlined the importance of ensuring that our research helps to develop a world with greater equality and sustainability.

Alongside these considerations, the pandemic has prompted many to question the types of impact social science research can have when societies are faced with numerous co-existing challenges, such as pandemics, injustices, conflicts, and climate catastrophes. Moreover, as issues around justifications for funding and extensions for funding emerge, researchers may have been prompted to critique the conventional interpretations of research impact. We are excited to hear about your work during the pandemic, how you have adapted the ways in which you conduct research, and how you envisage research in the future so that we can make a positive impact, whatever form that impact takes.


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