Social Research News update March 2018

Some of the live issues, research findings, methodological developments and social research related consultations are briefly summarised in this planned monthly round up.

ISSUES

UK Research and Innovation – 20 days away

On 1 April the new UK Research and Innovation comes into being and will bring the nine UK research councils together under one umbrella. Whilst the individual councils will remain as separate bodies there is a great deal of nervousness within the social science community about the changes.

The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) winter 2018 edition of ‘Society Now contains a timely interview with Professor Jennifer Rubin, ESRC’s new Chief Executive. Jennifer sees one of her first priorities as being to make a success of the new arrangements. She says she wants the ESRC to be global in outlook. There is also likely to be a major push for inter-disciplinary research. Many will also be relieved to learn that Rubin also confirms a belief in the value of long-term research which “is not limited to one set agenda or one policy cycle.”

Refreshed Code of Practice for Statistics
The UK Statistics Authority has published a revised Code of Practice in order to reflect the changing environment of statistics and data more generally, and the growing interest in how statistics are used in public discussions.

It aims to provide users and producers with a set of principles that need to underpin independent statistics production and presentation in the new environment and is organised around three key pillars:

  • Trustworthiness – including independence, honesty and integrity,
  • Quality – including sound methods and assured quality,
  • Value – including relevance, clarity and insight.

 

RESEARCH FINDINGS

Analysis of the ‘Children of the 90s project’ data concludes that the ‘locus of control’ of mothers (ie. a belief that their fate is in their own hands) is key to explaining children’s performance in GCSE exams, even after other factors influencing exam results, including mothers education, family background, and children’s IQ at aged 9 were held constant.

A recent paper from IPSOS MORI shows how expectations about the NHS have been managed downwards, meaning that although levels of satisfaction are falling, people’s expectations are more likely to have been met compared with 20 years ago, though pressure is mounting.

A project from the Fatherhood Institute found significant gaps and weaknesses in data available about fathers despite the potential importance of child – father relationships to explaining long term outcomes. The sixteen large-scale repeated cross-sectional and longitudinal studies investigated were found not to have kept up with today’s diversity of fathers and the final report makes a number of proposals for improvement.

RESEARCH METHODS

A recent article from the Pew Research Center concludes that even the most effective adjustment procedures were unable to remove most of the bias in opt-in sample surveys. Moreover, very large sample sizes do not appear to fix the shortcomings of these surveys. The extensive testing revealed that choosing the right variables for weighting is crucial and for many of the topics examined the ‘right’ adjustment variables go beyond the standard set of core demographic variables.

Capturing a non-linear journey’ summarises a Project Oracle discussion about some of the challenges of applying a ‘Theory of Change’ approach to evaluation in the children and young people sector.

A series of three short video tutorials from NCRM cover the rationale and research design of community studies, methods used and the building up of a cumulative body of knowledge.

CONSULTATIONS

Consultation on 2021 Census outputs and dissemination channels
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has launched a consultation about their initial proposals for the design of Census 2021 outputs and dissemination channels for England &Wales.

Following feedback from users, ONS plan a number of improvements. These include greater flexibility in outputs through a web based interactive dissemination system, faster delivery of key statistics and the development of ‘enhanced census outputs’ eg. links with administrative data. As in 2011, ‘Output Areas’ and ‘Workplace Zones’ will be the building blocks for other census geographies and ONS propose to maintain as much stability in geographical boundaries over time as possible. The closing date for comments is 23 May

 

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