From piracy to gender stereotyping: university invites people to engage with social science

Piracy and policing, gastronomy and gender stereotyping will be among the topics up for discussion during a week-long festival this November.

Academics and students from the University of Plymouth are working with organisations across the city as Plymouth hosts events as part of the annual Economic and Social Research Council Festival of Social Science for the third time.

Taking place at venues across Plymouth and beyond, the festival will aim to raise the profile of the social sciences through a series of interesting and interactive events.

And this year, the breadth of events on offer is greater than ever, with exhibitions, entrepreneurship challenges, outdoor learning opportunities and much more.

This year’s festival is taking place from November 5-12 and the theme in Plymouth is Pirates, Entrepreneurs and Visionaries: Social Sciences in the 21st Century.

Professor Nikolaos Tzokas, Executive Dean of the Faculty of Business at the University of Plymouth, said: “The Festival of Social Science is an opportunity to showcase and increase awareness of the wide-ranging research we conduct across the social sciences. It is also a chance for us to promote wider engagement between academics and the public, to demonstrate how our work can have an impact on everyone’s daily lives. This festival features everything from business to criminology, education to health, history, law and much more, and I hope it will be an enriching experience for all involved.”

The University signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the ESRC in 2015 that saw the city become one of 11 regional festival centres.

That agreement sees it delivering a diverse programme of events which support the festival’s aims and objectives, which include encouraging social science researchers to engage with non-academic audiences, increasing awareness of the contribution social science research makes to wellbeing and the economy, and making teachers and young people more aware of their work.

The full list of events taking place in Plymouth as part of the 2016 ESRC Festival of Social Science is as follows:

  • Let’s Like Social Science – Roland Levinsky Building, University of Plymouth, Tuesday 1 to Friday 18 November: The 'ilikesocialsciences' project aims to raise awareness of the social sciences to the general public through an interactive social media day on the Wednesday 2 November. With support from the ESRC and The University of Plymouth, the Vertical Plus social media team are hosting a three stage project, which asks social sciences advocates to talk about how their experience of social sciences has influenced or changed their perspective about themselves and the world around them. Project results will be displayed in an 18-day exhibition;
  • Treasure Chest 500 – Rolle Building, University of Plymouth, Tuesday 8 November: A project that will task pupils (Year 10 upwards) from schools across the South West with transforming 500 units of unwanted product into something that could be sold or traded, creating impact while also demonstrating a sustainable approach to using physical resources and respecting the natural environment (Invitation Only);
  • Spotlight on Crime – University of St Mark and St John, Wednesday 9 November: The Social Science team at the University of St Mark & St John have a broad range of experiences in fields of criminology, broadcasting and performance. This event will draw on these experiences to engage young people (Year 9) to look at and investigate crime from a variety of angles and perspectives, including; psychology and crime, crime on a global field, the media, conflict resolution, mental health, the arts and science (Invitation Only);
  • Policing Piracy 1 – Sherwell Centre, University of Plymouth, Wednesday 9 November: The focus of this seminar will be on the international policing of and responses to modern day piracy and ship hijacking including Somalian and Malay pirates in the Gulf and Indian Ocean (Booking Necessary);
  • Policing Piracy 2 – Sherwell Centre, University of Plymouth, Wednesday 9 November: The second of two witness seminars that will explore issues relating to the policing and prosecution of smuggling and profiteering in the South West through the recollections of those closely involved (Booking Necessary);
  • The Real Game of Thrones – Marine Academy Plymouth (MAP), Thursday 10 November: Led by academics from the Plymouth Business School and Plymouth Graduate School of Management, this half day interactive workshop will explore current social science research about the negative impact of gender stereotypes on sixth form girls and their career choices. It will be aimed at the sixth form girls of the Marine Academy Plymouth (Invitation Only);
  • Awaken the Spirit of Discovery in Science Outside! – Forest & Beach, Kingsbridge, Friday 11 November: Being staged by academics from the University’s Plymouth Institute of Education, many of whom were involved in the hugely successful Natural Connections Demonstration Project, this is a day for primary school teachers and outdoor learning providers to discover brilliant ways to teach science outside and achieve other important outcomes for children from Foundation Stage to Year 6 (Invitation Only);
  • Plymouth's Great Food Vision(aries) – Hamoaze House, Mount Wise, Friday 11 November: An interactive workshop, delivered by the Faculty of Health and Human Sciences at The University of Plymouth in partnership with Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery, aiming to bring together and inspire a range of stakeholders (and services users) to become catalysts for food culture change (Invitation Only);
  • Piracy and Plymouth: Privateering, Profiting and Policing – Sherwell United Reformed Church, Saturday 12 November: Pirates and piracy hold an enduring fascination but who were the real life Jack Sparrows and Ann Bonnys - thieving criminals or entrepreneurial privateers? This event from the University’s School of Law, Criminology and Government will feature mixed-media presentations and hands-on activities will showcase the stories of piracy and smuggling through the ages, across the globe and in the South West (No Booking Necessary). 
The ESRC is the UK’s largest funder of UK social science research, and celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2015. Its annual Festival of Social Science aims to promote and increase awareness of social sciences and ESRC’s research, and to increase awareness of the contributions the social sciences make to the wellbeing and the economy of the UK society.

About the ESRC Festival of Social Science 

(extract from the ESRC* website)

The ESRC Festival of Social Science offers a fascinating insight into some of the country's leading social science research and how it influences our social, economic and political lives - both now and in the future.

You may be surprised at just how relevant the festival's events are to society today. Social science research makes a difference. Discover how it shapes public policy and contributes to making the economy more competitive, as well as giving people a better understanding of 21st century society. From big ideas to the most detailed observations, social science affects us all everyday - at work, in school, when raising children, within our communities, and even at the national level.


Everyone - from schoolchildren to politicians - can take part in and hear about social science research in the festival's many engaging events.

This celebration of the social sciences takes place across the UK - via public debates, conferences, workshops, interactive seminars, film screenings, virtual exhibitions and much more. 2016 is the 14th year that ESRC has held the Festival of Social Science and each year the festival grows from strength to strength.

Visit the ESRC Festival of Social Science website for more information about the festival.

* ESRC - Economic and Social Research Council.