Social Research Matters: December update

Research Findings

Is Britain Fairer?

Three reports from the Equality and Human Rights Commission report the results of a three-yearly project to review of the state of equality and human rights in England, Scotland and Wales. The reports reveal some improvements in education, political participation and work, but, at the same time uncover an increase in poverty, ‘forgotten’ groups, and regressions in justice and personal security. Child poverty has increased and infant mortality has risen for the first time in decades, whereas tax and welfare reforms continue to disproportionately impact the poorest in society.

UK Poverty 2018

JRF’s annual state-of-the-nation report, UK Poverty 2018, estimates that 4.1 million children now live in poverty  – half a million more than five years ago following ‘a relentless rise in the number of working families struggling to make ends meet’. Indeed, the report finds that in-work poverty has been rising even faster than employment. As well as describing the way in which poverty has changed amongst different social groups, the report provides an overview of how poverty is linked to disability and ethnicity and also looks briefly at persistent poverty and destitution.

Understanding the Dynamics of Ageing

The English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA) collects extensive data from a representative sample of men and women living in England who are aged 50 and over. It has taken place bi-annually since it started in 2002. The latest report, based on eight waves of data, confirms the extent to which physical and social environments play a crucial role in well-being amongst older people. The report also includes analysis of changes in the state pension age for women and suggests that a substantial proportion of women approaching retirement do not know precisely when they will reach state pension age.

People with ‘Borderline Intellectual Impairment’ face inequalities

A new report based on secondary analysis of data from the Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey (APMS) sets out the extent to which people with ‘borderline intellectual impairment’ (BII)  face inequalities in health and use of services compared with the rest of the population. BII is common, affecting at least one adult in ten in England  but this group tend to face high levels of poor mental health, poorer general health, and many limitations in their daily lives, but they do not receive the services they need.


Public Policy 10 years after the crisis

In this year’s Campaign for Social Science/Sage Publishing annual lecture, Paul Johnson noted the huge number of remaining challenges as well as a range of future challenges coming down the track. Issues include the impacts of technology on the labour market, growing inequalities, and funding a welfare state that will become more expensive.  Paul’s key message was that policies and perceptions take far too long to catch up with the reality of what is happening and long term policy making needs to be based on a broad understanding of the social and economic trends and challenges. However, he could not point to much evidence that this lesson is being heeded at present.

Major Boost for Humanities and Social Science Research

The Wolfson Foundation has awarded the British Academy (BA) £10 million in order to boost high quality research in the Humanities and Social Sciences across the UK. BA intends to use the funds to deliver a transformative programme to support fellowships for early career researchers.They will also be setting up the ‘Gladstone Institute’, a new network to enable early career researchers to collaborate across subjects and institutions and to ‘inform police and practice beyond the academic world’.  

Improving Data on Separated Families

At any one time, there are more than four million children living in separated families in the UK. A report published last year called for improved survey data, particularly about non-resident parents, in order to inform decision making on issues such as child support, welfare benefits, and housing. A new report from the Nuffield Foundation reports the results of an experimental study used to test ways of achieving improvements such as collecting data directly from non-resident parents (rather than relying on resident parent reports) and gathering data on the reasons why families separate.

UK Research and Innovation Guide to GDPR

It is important that researchers understand what the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) means for them and the personal data that is processed during their research. Compiled with the support of the Information Commissioner’s Office, a UKRI GDPR overview for researchers provides guidance and sets out the appropriate lawful basis for data processing.

Clinical Trials fail to publish results

The Commons Science and Technology Committee has expressed concern that nearly half of clinical trials fail to publish their results. This selective non-publication—‘or publication bias’—of results distorts the published evidence base and is a threat to research integrity and the committee  is calling for increased transparency.

Linking Research and Policy – What Works?

In an interesting piece, the Alliance for Useful Evidence argue that improving the supply of good evidence is not the same as translating that evidence into meaningful changes in policy design and delivery. In order to try to uncover what works in ‘What Works’, the Alliance, in partnership with UCL, did an exhaustive systematic review and scoping study of all the relevant research, and counted 150 different techniques. One of the key messages is that it is not enough to set up unstructured interactions between policy makers and researchers and hope for the best, but ‘evidence champions’ willing to spearhead evidence informed policy making in their organisations are a key ingredient to success. 

Research and Innovation Infrastructure Roadmap : update

UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) is building a roadmap of the UK’s current research and innovation infrastructure in order to inform their future planning. In a social science context infrastructure means things like data collections and services, specific capability infrastructures eg the BES, and broad remit capabilities such as the Centre for Longitudinal Studies. UKRI has published an analysis of responses to the first consultation in which the value of longitudinal evidence comes across strongly. Over the winter the team will be exploring the gaps with a view to publishing the final roadmap in spring 2019. Information about omissions in the current document should be communicated to

Help shape the Age 50 sweep of the 1970 British Cohort Study
The Centre for Longitudinal Studies is seeking input to help determine the content of the Age 50 Sweep of the 1970 British Cohort Study (BCS70). They are asking anyone who is interested – including academics, policy makers and representatives of the third sector – to put forward their suggestions for content and questions by Friday 11 January 2019. Your suggestions will help to produce a high-quality survey that meets the needs of researchers across a range of disciplines and which has the potential to influence policy.