British psychology is world class: ESRC

The quality of British psychological research is very high, bettered only by research from the USA, and in many areas it is unsurpassed anywhere in the world.

That is the finding of the Economic and Social Research Council’s (ESRC) International Benchmarking Review of UK Psychology. The ESRC appointed an international panel, chaired by Professor Max Coltheart from Macquarie University, Sydney, to conduct a review benchmarking the quality and impact of psychology research against international standards.

The review found many examples of research excellence in areas such as animal learning and cognition, social psychology, clinical psychology and psychopathology, biological psychology, developmental psychology and cognitive psychology. It also found that British psychology research has a considerable impact on policy and practice.

Psychology in the UK continues to be an extremely popular university subject, found the review, at both undergraduate and postgraduate level.  Research training is performing strongly, although concern is expressed over the lack of funding for postgraduate research training and postdoctoral research positions and the potential impact of this on UK-trained individuals securing academic appointments.

The report makes  a number of recommendations aimed to meet the threats that may impact on the currently strong research reputation of psychology in the UK. These include monitoring awards to psychological research to ensure that no subdiscipline falls between the remits of research funders, the consideration of an alternative PhD format (a thesis written in the format of journal articles)  and ensuring the availability of postdoctoral training and the competitiveness of early-career psychology researchers in the UK.

ESRC and the other main research councils will consider the report’s recommendations, and an action plan setting out how they will be taken forward will be published later this year.