Areas of Research Interest: Summary Paper 

This paper outlines a summary of themes found in departmental Areas of Research Interests in the UK Government, as well as opportunities for academic-policy engagement. 

Engaging with UK Government Areas of Research Interest:
learning and insights from the Universities Policy Engagement Network

This report provides an overview of UPEN members' experiences of working with government departments on their Areas of Research Interest (ARI). The report highlights what’s worked well, what could be improved and what UPEN’s future role could be.

Areas of Research Interest (ARIs) are produced by government departments to provide information about the main research questions they are facing. Departmental ARIs, found on here, can also be useful to understand departmental research and development strategies. They aim to improve how government departments work with evidence from academia to inform policy and decision-making. The intention is that policymaking can be better informed by giving researchers the opportunity to contribute their research evidence, knowledge, and expertise during policy development.


Rebuilding a Resilient Britain ARIs

The Rebuilding a Resilient Britain programme was launched during the COVID-19 pandemic, to address aspect of Britain's recovery from the pandemic over the medium-to long-term.

ESRC/ARI Fellows Professor Annette Boaz and Dr Kathryn Oliver, funded by ESRC and working with the Government Office for Science ARI team and with government departmental Chief Scientific Advisers, identified a set of topics and themes based on existing departmental ARIs that should be addressed as a priority. These ARIs were divided into 9 themes, which were addressed by 9 Working Groups consisting of researchers, funding bodies and policy makers.

Each Working Group produced a report, identifying existing evidence, gaps in the evidence base, and key messages around the ARIs (note that the reports are the views of the working group members and are not indicative of government policy). These are linked below.

The reports have been made available online as a resource for academics, policy makers and funders interested in what the groups collated on what is already known; and where the current research gaps seem to be on 9 topics of cross cutting interesting to government departments.

ARIs were identified by UPEN members as a key area of focus for the network in 2019. In the Rebuilding a Resilient Britain programme of work, UPEN were actively engaged in the identification of expertise.


  1.  Vulnerable Communities

  2.  Supporting Services

  3.  Trust in Public Institutions

  4.  Crime Prevention

  5.  Supporting Lower-Carbon Local Economies

  6.  Land Use

  7.  The Future of Work

  8.  Local and National Growth

  9.  Trade and Aid

Sample Reference: RRB Working group 1 (2020) Rebuilding a Resilient Britain: Vulnerable Communities [Online]. ARI Report 1. Available at: