Social Research update :October

Research Findings

What might increased Social Trust mean for Wellbeing?

New results from the British Social Attitudes Survey indicate a significant recent increase in levels of social trust. The proportion of people agreeing that: ‘generally speaking people can be trusted’, increased from 47% in both 1998 and 2014 to 54%  by 2017. Whilst the results are interesting, the rise should not be conflated with levels of trust in government or other institutions. 

People with higher levels of education and those in managerial and professional occupations are significantly more trustful than other groups. Moreover, levels of social participation and social connections were also found to be connected to social trust, factors which are in turn linked to higher levels of wellbeing. 

A Divided Britain 

Britain is divided across cultural, age and education lines, according to a report from ‘Hope not Hate’ which warns of a potential rise in far-right and anti-Islam sentiments unless politicians tackle long-standing disaffections reflected in the Brexit vote. 

The research, based on 60 focus groups, segmentation analysis by populus and yougov polls, the latest one conducted, in July 2018, uncovers significant geographic splits between people of varying attitudes and identifies ‘six tribes’. And, the most hostile attitudes to migrants and minorities are concentrated in places left behind by globalisation including isolated coastal communities and single industry towns.

Attitudes to Brexit highly polarised 

John Curtice has released new evidence on attitudes to Brexit showing just how polarised attitudes have become. Nearly nine in ten members of the Natcen mixed mode panel said that they were either a ‘Remainer’ or a ‘Leaver’, whereas less than two-thirds claim to identify with a political party. Moreover, no less than 44% say they are a ‘very strong Remainer’ or a ‘very strong Leaver’, whereas only 9% claim to be a very strong supporter of a political party. Furthermore, those who identify strongly with one side or the other of the Brexit debate have very distinctive views underpinned by emotion and identity. 

The Future of Work 

A British Academy and Royal Society evidence review of the impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on the future of work detects an emerging consensus that around 10-30% of jobs in the UK are automatable. It acknowledges that the transition to an automated workplace ‘will not be painless for all’ and echos existing concerns that, in the short term at least, AI could contribute to a widening of inequality. However, the Academies argue, there is a great deal that can do to shape the way that new AI technologies change the economy and the workforce, and to ensure the benefits are shared equally.

Some children aiming higher than others

A new report suggests UK children have their sights set on ambitious jobs but a closer look at the aspirations of boys and girls from different ethnic backgrounds shows that some are aiming higher than others.


Academy calls for greater investment in Social Science

The Academy of Social Science has called on the Commons Science and Technology committee to encourage UKRI to take a wider view of the configuration of its current strategic themes. The Academy adds ‘with modest extra investments in the social sciences relevant to the broader themes relating to Industrial Strategy and the other ‘grand challenges’, UKRI and the UK are more likely to meet the goals and aspirations of a transformational change in the UK’s future prospects’.

The Administrative Data Research Partnership 

It has been announced that combined data from across government and UK public bodies will be made available to ‘high quality’ research teams, thus providing a secure route for accredited researchers to use de-identified data. The ADRP is being led by the ESRC which will strategically acquire and curate admin data with the aim of driving high-quality research on major societal challenges The National Statistician and ONS are closely involved and the UK Statistics Authority will be responsible for accrediting researchers. 

This represents a major push, but the success or otherwise of the initiative will depend on how far the ADRP learns lessons from its predecessor – the ADRN – in tackling the tough challenge of extracting data from government departments and other bodies. 

New ONS Evidence Centres

The Office for National Statistics has launched five new centres, each focusing on a key policy in order to provide evidence to inform better decision making. This development reflects the wider changes taking place at ONS aimed at producing new insights on areas of particular, and often cross-cutting, policy interest; utilising new sources of data; adopting the latest tools and approaches; and, working in collaboration with others. The five topic areas are as follows: Ageing and Demography; Equalities and Inclusion; Crime and Justice; Subnational Analysis and International Migration.

Building Effective Research Teams

Effective team working is essential to most research endeavours in government, charities, research institutes and across academia, but what are the lessons for building effective teams? A recent paper identifies the keys to success as being a clear definition of the scope of a project and explicit agreement on individual responsibilities. At the start face-to-face meetings can establish the ground rules and expectations for all members of the team, including agreement on deadlines and monitoring/enforcement mechanisms. Candid and timely feedback limits the damage that emergent problems can create and innovative coordination and communication mechanisms are also essential. 

Internet based Social Science Research

Platforms such as twitter and facebook have heralded what Kandy Woodfield and Ron Iphoren refer to as ‘an explosion of internet based social science research’. A recent blog provides an overview of the issues covered in a new book edited by Kandy: ‘The Ethics of Online Research’. 


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