WISERD co-director appointed as new academic director of Cardiff University’s Social Science Research Park (SPARK)

Professor Chris Taylor

Professor Chris Taylor has been appointed as the new academic director of Cardiff University’s Social Science Research Park (SPARK). WISERD is one of 10 research centres due to relocate to SPARK when the new 12,000 sq.m. building opens its doors in spring 2021.

As one of the most exciting developments in the UK social sciences landscape – and the world’s first social science research park – SPARK builds on the excellence that has made Cardiff University a leading institution for social science-led research, with a focus on innovative research with transformative social impact. To be located in a purpose-built home on the university’s Innovation Campus alongside external partners from a range of sectors, SPARK catalyses connections between impactful university research entities.

In addition to taking forward this exciting new venture, Chris will continue to lead a number of research projects at WISERD, including the WISERD Education Data Lab, which is jointly funded by the Welsh Government and the ESRC. Chris also has a work package in the recently announced new ESRC Civil Society research centre and will undertake an international comparison of civic expansion among children and young people. He is also involved in an ESRC-funded four-year UK-wide study on school exclusions, with the universities of Oxford, Edinburgh and Queen’s University Belfast.

Chris has led a number of important Welsh Government-funded independent evaluations of the Foundation Phase and the Pupil Development Grant. He has worked closely with the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales on widening access to Higher Education and strategic developments in education research in Wales, including the establishment of the WISERDEducation Multi Cohort Study.

Chris is a proponent of interdisciplinary and mixed methods research, publishing extensively in a wide range of disciplines. In 2017 he was recognised for his contribution to educational research in Wales with the inaugural Hugh Owen Medal by the Learned Society for Wales, and was made a Fellow in 2018.

On taking up his latest role, Professor Taylor outlined the SPARK vision: “We want to create a unique and innovative research environment that encourages ground-breaking approaches to the many ‘wicked problems’ we face locally, in Wales, across the UK and internationally. This includes the aim to strengthen multi-disciplinary collaborations between the social, physical and biological sciences across the University.”

He added: “SPARK involves the unique co-location of various private, public and third sector organisations, working in close collaboration with academics across the University, enabling us to improve the design of our research to ensure it has maximum impact and supports the research capabilities of these other organisations.”

Professor Damian Walford Davies, Pro Vice-Chancellor for the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, says of the appointment: “We sought an exceptional individual to provide leadership for SPARK and have found that in Chris. At the heart of SPARK are the ideas of co-creation and collaboration: people working together across academic disciplines and with practitioners across private, public and third sectors to address some of society’s most pressing needs. As academic director, it will be within Chris’s remit to deliver on these ambitions – to support the development of research that transforms lives; establish new partnerships between the University and private, public and third sector organisations that are partners in that transformation; and ensure that SPARK connects excitingly with research, teaching and the student experience across the university.”

SPARK and its activity will be at the heart of Cardiff University’s £300M multidisciplinary Innovation Campus, alongside world-leading research clusters in neuroscience, compound semiconductors, mental health and catalysis. You can find out more on the SPARK website.