Social Research Update: April


Lords report calls for stronger oversight of political polling on on-line political communications

The House of Lords select committee enquiry into ‘Political Polling and Digital Media’ chaired by Lord Lipsey has called on the polling industry to ‘get its house in order’ but has, ‘for the moment’, rejected the idea of banning polling in the run-up to elections. It calls for the British Polling Council to take a more proactive role in how it regulates polling and influences the reporting of polls, working with other regulatory bodies to call out bad practice, as necessary.

The Committee also raises deep concerns about the adverse influence of social media on political debate and calls on the government to undertake more research and to ‘ensure that the challenges posed by digital media are tackled as part of its Digital Charter’.

New Election Purdah rules welcomed
New guidance on the conduct of civil servants during the run up to the forthcoming local elections have been welcomed by the RSS and others following complaints that the previous rules were being used to restrict independent commentary at crucial points during elections and referendum. The new guidance seeks to clarify the issues by spelling out that the guidance is not about restricting commentary from independent sources e.g. academics. It goes on ‘is for individual public bodies to apply this pre-election guidance within their own organisations, but in doing so they should not go beyond the principles set out in this document.’
Rebuilding Trust around Data Collection

What are the implications of the Cambridge Analytica saga for public willingness to co-operate in research? Assurances about confidentiality are a key plank for ensuring informed consent, one of the basic pillars of conducting ethical research. A recent piece from Natcen suggests more dialogue with the public is needed in order to help them to understand the ethical standards that underpin the conduct of social research and data linking for research purposes.

Public acceptance of the Sharing of Health Data?
A small scale deliberative exercise involving citizens juries was carried out to better understand public attitudes to the complex issues surrounding the secondary use of health data for research purposes. It concluded that jurors became more positive about the sharing of health data as they became more informed and tended to the view that an individual’s right to privacy should not prevent research that can benefit the general public. However, a note of caution needs to be added as not all, jurors became less sceptical about health data sharing.

The Sociologists outside Academia group of the BSA represents and supports sociologists who are fully or partly situated outside of academic institutions. The starting point is that sociology is essential, not only for understanding the big problems that face society, but also the daily issues that need addressing at work, at home or in the community.  Part of their work programme involves developing a model curriculum in ‘Applied Sociology’ free to all UK universities to adapt as part of their sociology programme.

This years ‘Homelessness Monitor’ found the majority of local councils in England struggling to find any stable housing for homeless people in their area, leaving them forced to place more and more people in unstable temporary accommodation. There are 78,000 homeless households in England in temporary accommodation and, if current trends continue, the authors estimate that more than 100,000 such households will be trapped in temporary accommodation by 2020.

Joram Feitsma delves behind the rhetoric about ‘Nudge’ through an ethnographic study of ‘behaviour experts’ employed by the Dutch central government. She finds the everyday practice is complex and precarious as experts spend their time building networks, circulating knowledge, and translating abstract ideas into relevant tools.
Workplaces where employees had a strong ‘sense of belonging’ were better able to weather the 2008 recession in terms of maintaining organisational performance and employee wellbeing according to analysis of data from the Workplace Employment Relations survey.
A new report from the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights highlights a lack of progress to improve social and economic rights for people in GB across a number of areas, including social security, legal aid and work.


Six Rules of Thumb for Determining Sample Size and Statistical Power’ is a very clear tool describing some of the factors that affect statistical power and sample size.


Post 18 review – call for evidence
The independent panel supporting the Government’s Review of post-18 Education and Funding is inviting organisations and individuals to submit evidence on a number of questions including: how to support young people in making effective choices between academic, technical and vocational routes after 18; promoting a more dynamic market in education and training provision; ensuring the post-18 education system is accessible to all; supporting education outcomes that deliver the skills the UK needs and provides vfm. The deadline for responses is 2 May.



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