The First Five Years

Eastern Arc was founded in 2013, and initially focussed on three themes that encouraged interdicsdiplinary collaboration between its members.

Each university acted as the academic lead in one of the three areas.

The three themes

  • Digital Humanities, led by the University of Kent. Digital humanities combine materials and methodologies from traditional humanities disciplines with computing tools and digital media. Techniques can range from data mining and information retrieval, to digital mapping and visualisation. Interests and expertise in the Eastern Arc include digital heritage and curation, visualisation, and geographical information systems. The consortium also embraced the use of digital technologies to protect, document, and understand humanity’s shared heritage.
  • Quantitative Social Science, led by the University of Essex. Quantitative social sciences apply statistical and mathematical techniques to the empirical investigation of phenomena in the social sciences. The universities of the Eastern Arc have undertaken research on individual and collective behaviour, as well as social interactions and their consequences. This has made a substantial contribution to understanding and improved the well-being of human populations. In the first five years the Consortium focussed on three main areas: inequality, conflict and migration; lifespan, lifestyle and decision-making; and environment, energy and security.
  • Synthetic Biology, led by the University of East Anglia. Synthetic biology combines advances in biological understanding with concepts of engineering to design and construct new biological devices or systems for a range of uses, from new materials and biofuels to medical treatments. The discipline is underpinned by rapid advances in high-throughput genomics technologies, and the principles of synthetic biology can be applied to optimise the characteristics of biological organisms for a wide range of uses.

Leads and fellows

Each of the themes was led by an experience academic in the field, and within each theme at each university a fellow was appointed on a five year contract, meaning that there were nine early career researchers nurturing and developing research across the Arc.


Within Digital Humanities and Quantitative Social Sciences there were two students at each university; in Synthetic Biology there were three.


To find out about some of the achievements of the first five years, click here.