Social Research News: May update

RESEARCH NEWS

Review recommends further investment in ESRC Longitudinal Studies

The independent review of longitudinal studies has concluded that the ESRC should continue to fund its world-leading social science longitudinal studies. It concludes that the studies provide us with unrivalled information and insights into the lives of the UK population, with data that stretch over 60 years. Moreover, it is recognised that the data are particularly powerful when used in conjunction with administrative data records. 

The review also concludes that whilst the studies are internationally excellent, more investment is needed to secure the UK’s position as a global leader in the provision of social science data. It also highlights the need to better demonstrate the academic and societal impact of these data sets. How to achieve this is likely to be a focus of debate over the coming months. 

Social Science Careers – why data and number skills matter

The Campaign for Social Science (CfSS) is launching a new report on 8 June highlighting the importance of number and data skills for those studying social sciences. 

Almost four in ten undergraduates are studying one of the social sciences and the report looks at where they go to work, how their employment and earnings compare to those who graduate from other disciplines, and what makes a difference to their employment chances. One clear theme to emerge is that having number and data skills is likely to give individuals of every discipline, including the social sciences, a wider range of choices about work. It also means they are likely to earn more.

Indices of Multiple Deprivation update 2019 (‘IoD2019’)
Work has begun on updating the 2015 indices of deprivation with publication scheduled for summer next year. The work will be undertaken by OCSI and Deprivation.Org, featuring the same key personnel who have been responsible for developing the conceptual model and methodology for measuring small area deprivation utilised in all the English Indices of Deprivation since 2000. The update will retain and replicate the model of multiple deprivation used in 2015. We will endeavour to keep SRA members informed of progress.

Improving the Indicators of ‘Economic Performance’

A discussion paper from IPPR’s Commission on Economic Justice highlights a need for  significant improvements in the measurement of key economic statistics, including better  local and regional data. The report also proposes five new indicators of economic outcomes that would aim to reveal how broadly the economy distributes its rewards, whether it is succeeding at reducing poverty, whether people feel satisfied with their lives and progress in moving to an environmentally sustainable model of growth.

Hopes for an early UK-EU deal on science evaporate

The government response to the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee report on Brexit and Science is widely regarded as being vague and disappointing. Whilst it makes warm noises about UK participation in EU science programmes, the government is refusing to commit to a clear timeline for agreeing a deal by October.  In response to a further recommendation from the committee, the government says it has no plans to bring forward the date for release of the recommendations of the Migration Advisory Committee (due in September) on plans for retaining EU scientists after Brexit. In response the S&T committee has decided to develop its own proposals for immigration and visa rules for scientists and has issued a call for submissions (deadline 6 June). 

Ethics and Integrity Framework under development

The European Science Foundation, in conjunction with other bodies, is to run a EU funded 2.8 million euro project aimed at building a ‘Research Ethics and Integrity Framework’ for all non-medical research. The main tasks will be ‘to gather all relevant work, consult with the right stakeholders, extract the common threads and synthesise to a coherent and easy to understand whole’. The commission is keen to stress that the intention is not to seek to re-invent the wheel given that many codes already exist. 

Implementing the New Code of Practice on Statistics

The new UK Statistics Authority Code of Practice for Statistics aims to reflect the changing environment of statistics and the growing interest in how they are used in public discussions. It is underpinned by three pillars : Trustworthiness, Quality and Value. An event was held earlier this month to discuss the issues being experienced by organisations in the process of voluntarily adopting the  code.

SOCIAL RESEARCH FINDINGS

A recent report commissioned by the Sutton Trust reviews the current state of ‘early years’ policy in light of the evidence about what works. The picture to emerge is mixed. Significant policy effort and funding has been targeted at early education and childcare, but the report highlights a number of worrying indications, including a shift away from quality provision aimed at furthering the development of poorer children towards support to help working families with childcare. The report contains a number of policy recommendations. 

Current housing systems, and the linked welfare systems, respond poorly to life events such as relationship breakdown and the onset of poor health according to a series of reports commissioned by JRF.  Social rented housing, at its best, was found to provide a secure tenancy in decent housing at an affordable rent, but its potential can be undermined by a number of factors.  Furthermore, those on low incomes who are only able to access the lower end of the private rented sector encounter a series of problems, including high housing costs, poor quality housing and/or the precariousness of tenancies.

Back in 1969 about 10,000 of the then eleven year old participants in the NCDS (covering children born in one week in 1958) were asked to write an essay with the title ‘Imagine you are 25’. Almost 50 years later researchers contacted some of the respondents to see if they had fulfilled their childhood dreams. A team of researchers are now analysing all the essays to examine whether the language used by participants may have predicted how life would turn out for them. We will report the results in due course. You can also download information about the age 11 essays via the UK data service.

METHODS

‘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.

Does having a mis-match between the wording of survey questions and the response options available (e.g. open ended questions with closed-ended response options) impact on data quality?  A recent trial involving postal and telephone methods concluded that  it does and suggests that researchers should aim for a ‘holistic design’. 

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