The National Institute of Economic and Social Research is Britain's longest established independent research institute, founded in 1938. The vision of our founders was to carry out research to improve understanding of the economic and social forces that affect people’s lives, and the ways in which policy can bring about change. Seventy-five years later, this remains central to NIESR’s ethos. We continue to apply our expertise in both quantitative and qualitative methods and our understanding of economic and social issues to current debates and to influence policy. As Jonathan Portes, our Director, said on his appointment in February 2011:
Both policymakers and the public benefit from economic and social research that is independent, high quality and relevant. NIESR has a long and illustrious history of producing just that, on topics ranging from macroeconomic modelling to pensions to international finance.
The Institute is independent of all party political interests. We receive no core funding from government and are not affiliated to any single university, although our staff regularly undertake projects in collaboration with leading academic institutions.
Institute staff are organised into four groups: macroeconomics and finance; employment; productivity, innovation and skills; and labour markets and disadvantage. We carry out research across 18 themes, which bring together researchers across the four groups, with expertise in a range of research methods, including quantitative and qualitative approaches. Our research themes reflect key areas of policy. They include health and well-being, policy evaluation, welfare, migration, inequality poverty and disadvantage, families early years and early intervention, education training and skills and employment policy and practice.
Although we are a charity and our ultimate purpose is to inform the public debate, we receive little or no core funding from government or other sources. Instead, we carry out research commissioned from a variety of sources: government departments and agencies, the research councils, particularly the Economic and Social Research Council, the European Commission, charitable foundations, and the private sector. We are partners in two ESRC research centres (LLAKES and the Institute for Macroeconomics). We frequently work in partnership with experts in universities and other research institutes on larger projects.
Macroeconomic modeling and forecasting
NIESR’s well-known quarterly economic forecasts are produced using our global econometric model, NiGEM, which is also used by many European Central Banks and international organisations such as the IMF. The model’s use within these organisations helps to widen the influence of NIESR’s research and allows our expertise to influence policy decisions not only in the UK but worldwide. The model, including the database and simulation software underlying the forecasts, is sold to subscribers to help finance the costs of maintaining and developing NiGEM.
The Institute is also part of the EUROFRAME network, an initiative for improved forecasting and macroeconomic analysis in the European Union. The EUROFRAME network was founded at the end of 1998 by nine independent European research institutes that combine their knowledge in providing quantitative analysis, forecasts and policy recommendations for the European Union and for national decision makers.
In keeping with our role as an educational charity, we aim to disseminate research to as wide an audience as possible. We hold frequent seminars at which to present our findings, and those of our research collaborators and other respected researchers. Our research has strong academic credibility and is published in top journals. We provide free copies of all our published research reports and discussion papers via our website. We also provide indicators on the state of the economy which are free to download. The website also contains videos of seminars and press conferences and staff blogs covering current research and opinion.
Serious commentators on economics and social policy look to the Institute for an informed and measured approach to news items and political debates, based on sound research and analysis. Our findings and commentary on the economy are frequently covered by press and broadcast media. We also actively participate in social media, including through our @NIESRorg and individual Twitter accounts, Facebook and through our staff blog.
Our research frequently influences policy across economic and social policy areas. We were awarded Think Tank of the Year in 2011 for our influence on debates on the economy. More recently, our research on caste discrimination in the UK directly led to the enactment of a clause relating to this form of discrimination in the Equality Act (2010).
NIESR at a Glance
- Was founded on 2nd June, 1938, with funding from charitable foundations including the Rockefeller Foundation and the Leverhulme Trust.
- President – Charlie Bean, Deputy Governor of the Bank of England.
- Director - Jonathan Portes, appointed February 2011.
- Governed by a Council of Management (who function as a Board of Trustees)
- Chair of Council - Professor Timothy Besley, Professor of Economics and Political Science, London School of Economics;.
- Company Secretary - Gill Clisham, BA, FRSA, appointed January 2001.
32 research staff, 7 visiting fellows, 9 support staff. Annual turnover approximately £3 million.