UK Human Geography no.1 in the world

The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), the Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers) and Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) have launched the results of a benchmarking review of human geography.

The ESRC's Chief Executive launched the Panel's report on the International Benchmarking Review of UK Human Geography at the RGS-IBG offices on 4 March 2013. This is the sixth in the series of benchmarking reviews looking into UK social science disciplinary areas.

The aim of the benchmarking reviews is to highlight the standing and contribution of UK social science research in an international context. It also identifies ways of enhancing capacity and helps to promote and shape future research agendas.

A Steering Group was set up to initiate and oversee the Human Geography review. Chaired by Dr Rita Gardner, CBE, RGS-IBG, the group was made up of prominent UK academics, users of human geography research and funders.

The group, in consultation with the UK human geography community, appointed an international panel of leading international experts, chaired by Professor David Ley, University of British Columbia, Canada. The panel made an independent assessment of the UK’s performance in human geography research, made key conclusions from and identified a number of recommendations.

The key conclusions from the report were:

  • UK human geography ranks first in the world. Findings also showed it as an empirically and conceptually innovative, diverse, vibrant discipline that in many areas sets the intellectual agenda
  • The UK publishes more than its share of major disciplinary journals; bibliometric indicators reveal international primacy both in volume and citation impact; and a large number of the seminal publications (books as well as articles) continue to have a UK origin
  • UK human geography 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
  • There was confidence that research in human geography had substantial impact on policy and practice and would successfully meet the challenges of the current impact agenda

ESRC Chief Executive Paul Boyle said: "I am delighted by the Panel's finding that UK human geography ranks first in the world. However, we will make sure that the Panel’s helpful recommendations for further improvements will be taken seriously and will be used to support the ongoing development of this important disciplinary area."

AHRC Associate Director of Programmes Gary Grubb said: "I welcome the Panel's affirmation of the international standing and leadership of UK historical and cultural geography which is also reflected in their important contributions to AHRC's themes and programmes such as 'Landscape and the Environment' and 'Connected Communities'."

Dr Rita Gardner CBE, Director of the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG), said: "It's such a key subject in helping to understand and address many of the environmental, economic and social challenges the world and the UK faces. At a time when impact is increasingly seen as important, the fact that the Panel highlighted the range, clear strategic intent and effectiveness of engagement between scholars and the users of research in human geography is also especially welcome. We look forward to working with the research councils and the HE community to take forward the five recommendations of the review.