Research in the humanities and social sciences

We fund research in the humanities and social sciences that addresses any aspect of health.

Why it's important

We believe in the intrinsic value of open-ended 'discovery research' that extends and improves knowledge. Discovery research in the humanities and social science does this by:

  • testing and investigating new ideas
  • exploring and describing experience
  • analysing and questioning social and cultural phenomena.  

Such advances in understanding are valuable in themselves, but they also form the bedrock of more focused and instrumental research projects that lead to improvements in health.  

We believe that the knowledge created by humanities and social science research can play an essential role in improving human health.

What we support

We support the most effective possible range of discovery research in humanities and social science. We take risks on approaches, methodologies and themes to maximise the creation of knowledge. Specifically, we:

  • support research and scholarship that improves understanding of health and disease
  • support research that is grounded in the needs, values and priorities of the people and communities affected by illness, disease and health disparities
  • work with researchers, and their community partners, to identify health challenges that the humanities and social sciences are uniquely placed to meet, such as biomedical developments that require ethical, social or legal analysis, or disease outbreaks and emergencies that need social or cultural insights for progress to be made
  • support researchers at key points in their careers, helping them to fulfil their potential to become leaders and team players in a diverse and inclusive research community
  • invest in the facilities and resources necessary for world-class research, including preserving historically significant archives and collections, and resourcing professional meetings, conferences, travel and networking
  • encourage cooperation across the research community, and support collaborations between UK research networks and international partners to maximise the impact of their work.

Where Wellcome is well placed to make a significant difference in any of these areas, we will try to do so, working in collaboration with global partners where necessary.

Find out more about our funding schemes.

What we don't support

Across all Wellcome’s funding areas there are certain activities we don’t fund.

In humanities and social science, the following are areas of research that we don’t usually fund.

Applied research

Your main research aim should be to make a significant intellectual contribution to your field – theoretical, conceptual and methodological innovations are likely to be central features of your proposal.

If these elements are not clearly shown or do not appear to be a major motivation for the research, your application is unlikely to be successful.

Similarly, an application which seems mainly or wholly focused on testing whether or not a particular intervention works is also unlikely to succeed.

Research we fund can have applied elements, but successful bids also promise to add something to their field intellectually.

Education

Projects to develop, promote, implement or assess education, including medical education, aren’t usually suitable for humanities and social science funding schemes.

Historical or sociological studies of health education that offer a contribution to scholarship in these disciplines might be suitable. 

Researchers interested in education should read our Science education priority area page.

Psychology

Wellcome does fund psychologists’ research but mostly through our Neuroscience and Mental Health and Population Health funding, which supports research through our Science schemes.

If your research uses qualitative methods such as focus groups or semi-structured interviews as its main approach, then it might be more suitable for our humanities and social science funding schemes.

Epidemiology

If your research project will mainly rely on collecting primary, quantitative data, you should contact our Population Health team

If your project will mainly rely on qualitative data (or any kind of secondary data), you should consider applying for humanities and social science funding.

More information