ESRC International Benchmarking Review of Human Geography

IMG_0487Over the last few years, the ESRC has undertaken a series of benchmarking reviews of the international research standing of different social science disciplines in the UK. They have just published the International Benchmarking Review for Human Geography. Here is the take-home paragraph:

“Our unanimous conclusion from the evidence presented to us is that human geography in the UK is innovative, vibrant, and in most sub-fields is the world leader. Its students and staff are gifted and committed, its research outputs are disproportionately influential, read and referenced throughout the English-reading world – and, in translation, beyond. It is radically interdisciplinary and with the spatial turn in the humanities and social sciences has become an exporter of ideas and faculty to other disciplines. In the 1960s and 1970s the overseas export of geographers was substantial, and though slower today and more likely to be two-way, this trade in academic knowledge continues. UK geographers have an art not only for innovation but also for synthesis and a large number of the seminal publications (books as well as articles) continue to have a UK origin. So too among the major disciplinary journals – the UK publishes more than its share. Bibliometric indicators reveal that both in volume and in citation impact UK human geography exceeds the scores of other countries and almost all UK comparator social sciences. Cumulatively, this evidence supports the conclusion that human geography as a whole in the UK ranks first in the world.”

Say it loud, say it proud.

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2 thoughts on “ESRC International Benchmarking Review of Human Geography

  1. Here is a note on the press release from a colleague Down Under about the publication of this report “…here is the link to the UK geography community’s report that benchmarks themselves as world No 1.”. Exactly – hardly an objective publication.
    The quotes given above evokes a strange and continued attachment to a colonial discourse centered on Britain, does it not? And some flag waving. i.e. Britain still ‘exports’ knowledge and inspires others through its academics, books and journals, even though we thought colonialism had ended in the 60s. Imagine how innovative Departments elsewhere, like University of Western Sydney, NUS in Singapore, or some of the Brazilian universities feel on reading this, as they try hard to develop their own pathways.
    The trouble with British human geography, since I am on a roll, is that it produces many ideas but not many that we can use. There is a tradition of working in the ‘critical’ space that is just that – critical, and theoretical. Interesting books and papers, particularly many books, well argued and thoughtful, but very hard to apply these theoretical ideas to tractable policy questions. And still, points of reference that do not stray too much outside continental theory and anglo-american traditions. Geography can do so much better despite its manifest contributions. The ‘public sociology’ debate really needs extending to the discipline.
    By contrast, the human-environment tradition (separate from human geography) is far better developed outside the UK – indeed it is strongest in the US. Back in the day, some of us quit the UK to explore it at Clark, Berkeley, UBC and Madison.
    It is the fringes that I like – the geographical work in environmental studies and development studies, political ecology, and planning. A decent amount of that comes from the UK. My undergrad Department, Reading, was something of an anomaly in that a lot of work would be classed as ‘applied’ – same for Brunel and LSE where I lectured in the 1990s.

  2. Pingback: ESRC benchmarking review places UK Human Geography at the top | Sam Kinsley

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