Festival of Social Science

ESRC Festival of Social Science – University of Plymouth

Futures centre hosted a series of events as part of the ESRC’s annual festival.  The festival offers a fascinating insight into some of the country’s leading social science research and how it influences our social, economic and political lives – both now and in the future.

Two School Events with focus on:

1.Digital Rights

2. Human Resources/Labour Market

1. Digital Rights: Safety at the expense of privacy? Does being safe online mean we have to lose our rights?

 Friday 10th November 2017

Key note Speaker: Professor Andy Phippen 

The event is part of the Annual National Festival of Social Science organised by the Economic and Social Research Council.

This school event consisted of a talk, debate and a workshop on youth/children’s digital rights. This topic is highly relevant nowadays as for young people life without information and communications technology seems as unfathomable and quaint as an era before sliced bread (Rallings, 2015).

Children’s rights in the digital age are presently undermined by a mix of innocence, ignorance and media pressure. It is for the benefits of economy, society and the whole World to wake and inform the young generation of the positive/negative impact ‘the digital’ environment causes without developing a dysopian view of safeguarding which closes off many of the opportunities afforded by the digital world. Children’s well-being and their digital rights and awareness are interlinked and inseparable features.

2.  ‘Good Work Is…’

As part of the 2017 Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Festival of Social Science, the University of Plymouth organised a series of activities in an attempt to create a debate about the future of work in Devon and Cornwall and develop an agenda for ‘good work’.

In the last few years there has been increasing attention paid to the growth of the use of zero-hours contracts. Over the last four years, their use has trebled and they now cover almost 1 million workers. They disproportionately affect younger workers with a third of those aged 16 to 24 on zero-hours contracts.

As technology develops more work is going to be done through on-line platforms, while others will disappear or change due to greater automation. While these developments have the potential to improve working lives they also create huge challenges in the UK labour market which is already characterised by low pay, job insecurity and stagnant productivity.

Our initiative wanted to get the views of the next generation to enter the labour market on a number of key questions:

i) What do you want from your work and career?

ii) How important are things like pay, security, flexibility and autonomy?

iii) What do you expect from your future employer in terms of recognition and fairness?

iv) What does ‘good work’ look like to you?

To get these views we offered to visit Schools or Colleges and facilitate a 1-2 hour interactive session which:

  • Provide students with vital insights on the changing nature of the labour market and the future of work;
  • Help students identify key challenges to the management of people in the contemporary workplace;
  • Examine the links between the wider economy and the nature of work and employment;
  • Encourage students to discuss and analyse this information in the context of their own experiences.

These sessions took place during late September, October and early November (2017) and were conducted by a team of experienced lecturers led by Professor Richard Saundry, an expert in work and employment. These sessions  were ideal for GCSE or A level students in business, economics or sociology. They aimed to extend students’ knowledge of work, employment and the management of people.

The views and data gathered during the sessions were fed into the final event held on 10th November at the University. This brought experts, employers, trade unionists and students together to discuss these issues and create an agenda for good work in Devon Cornwall.



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