Social Research Issues: July update


British Social Attitudes Survey – latest findings

The latest  report of the British Social Attitudes Survey exposes new divides in attitudes to politics, gender, work, welfare and climate change – but also discovers areas of unexpected unity and agreement. The survey received a large amount of press coverage and reports that the British public are not as worried about major global challenges, including climate change, as the experts. 

Age and education are found to be strongly associated with attitudes to a range of issues covered in the report, including Brexit and immigration, though on some issues such as same sex relationships and the role of women, the differences in attitudes between different groups in society are narrowing. 

Educational Inequality Worsening

Recent research found the school system to have become less equitable since 2010, with higher-performing schools admitting relatively fewer disadvantaged pupils. The report, undertaken by the Institute of Education and funded by the Nuffield Foundation involved case studies from 47 schools, a survey of almost 700 head teachers, analysis of Ofsted results over a 10 year period and evaluation of the impact of Multi-Academy Trusts on pupil attainment and progress. The research also uncovers a gap between rhetoric and reality with the government policy aim of ‘moving control to the frontline’. 

21st Century Grandparents

A number of changes in society mean that grandparents are playing an ever increasing role in raising the next generation and a special issue of the Journal of Contemporary Social Science contains articles from the expanding body of interdisciplinary research on the subject. Issues covered include: How is grandparenting different from parenting? How do lineage, gender or marital status influence the role played? How does grandparental involvement affect the well-being of children?

Serious organised crime with deep roots in specific geographical areas

A study funded by the Scottish government examines serious organised crime (SOC) with deep roots in specific areas, concluding that SOC is rooted in deep and enduring forms of harm and exploitation at the community level.


Linking Survey Data to Information on Social Media?

The Understanding Society Innovation Panel (IP) is used as a test-bed for experimental ways of collecting data and developing new research areas. A recent paper sets out the results of wave 10 and includes a very interesting project (f) on the feasibility of linking survey information with data on twitter. The potential benefits of doing this include enhancing the richness of survey data and improving adjustments for non response bias. However, a range of methodological and ethical challenges need to be addressed through further work and testing.  

Evaluating Survey Quality

A recent document from the American Association of Public Opinion Research sets out  the types of information survey practitioners and end users need in order to assess the quality and reliability of survey data.  It  is intentionally non-technical and is organised around a number of high level headings: transparency; coverage; sampling; non response; measurement and ‘other factors’ including reputation of organisation carrying out the research. Under each heading a number of pertinent questions are posed in order to tease out what is really important when assessing quality.

Evaluating programmes aimed at reducing youth re-offending

The Youth Justice Cohort provided free evaluation support to eleven organisations seeking to improve their ability to evaluate programmes aimed at reducing youth re-offending, or helping young people exit gangs.  Read about the lessons addressed throughout the cohort and about the outstanding challenges.


Commons report on Research Integrity published

A report from the Commons S&T committee acknowledges that the vast majority of research undertaken in the UK is of high quality and high integrity. However, whilst all of the most research intensive universities are complying with key recommendations  of the 2012 concordat on research integrity, as many as a quarter of universities overall are not fulfilling the basic recommendation of producing an annual report on research integrity. The committee calls for a new committee to be set up to champion research integrity and  drive the future implementation of a tightened concordat.  In commenting on the report James Wilsdon has called for the system of oversight to be ‘light touch and trust-based’. 

Does high quality research have more impact?

An interesting blog uses data mining techniques to plot whether achieving research impact comes at the expense of the quality of research. The overall findings, with some caveats, reassuringly suggest that the opposite is true and that quality research is more likely to have impact.

Use of Evidence Frameworks in Social Policy

The Alliance for Useful Evidence has mapped out 18 ‘Standards of Evidence Frameworks’ and similar documents currently in use across different areas of social policy. The paper goes on to discuss the pros and cons of introducing more standardisation into frameworks.

Citizen Deliberations in Policy Development

The Sustainable Communities Act (2007) sought to integrate the results of various locally organized citizen deliberations within the policy development processes of central UK government. A newly available journal article examines the achievements and failures of the processes as well as fundamental obstacles to do with broader contextual factors.


























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