How did you know that social research was the career for you?
I’ve always been interested in trying to understand and explain people’s attitudes and behaviours, which lead me to do a combined honours degree in Psychology and Sociology, followed up with a Masters in Social Science Research Methods. A lack of career planning on my part meant that I have almost drifted from one research post to another.
Where do you work at the moment?
(What are you responsible for? What did you do today?)
I’m currently the Senior Research Officer for Equality at the Welsh Government. My role is to provide policy colleagues with support and advice on matters relating to equality. This includes analysis of evidence, commissioning and managing research, and liaison with stakeholders inside and outside the Welsh Government and also the other devolved governments.
Today I put the finishing touches on an analysis of the potential impact on equality groups of the proposed reforms to Council Tax Benefit, and began an equality impact analysis of the Welsh Government’s budget for 2013/14.
Where have you worked previously?
I’ve worked in the academic, third, private and statutory sectors. More recently I worked for seven years at CRG Research Ltd, a private evaluation and management consultancy as a Senior Research and Evaluation Manager. CRG was an interesting company to work for as it covered a number of research areas i.e. criminal justice system, health, education and economic development. This gave me an opportunity to work across these areas, although I tended to specialise in research on children and young people.
What has been your greatest achievement/s in your (social research) career?
Two pieces of work stand out for me. As part of the development Welsh Government’s Strategic Equality Plan I was asked to conduct a review of the evidence on the causes of inequality. This was a really challenging piece of work due to it’s broad scope and the very tight timescale I had to complete it in. It was really rewarding to see how the work I produced was used in the policy development cycle and helped inform the final version of the Strategic Equality Plan.
Another piece of work I’m proud of is the national evaluation of Positive Activities for Young People (PAYP) which I project managed whilst at CRG. This was a large-scale, three year evaluation of a flagship multi-department government programme. This project was a major part of my role at CRG to the extent I was nick-named PAYP-Man. I can bore for Britain on this project.
Who is your social research hero/heroine?
I don’t really have any heroes or heroines in social research but the work of Stanley Milgram, particularly Experiment 18 inspired me to study Psychology - I’ve got some spare electrodes if anyone is interested in reliving a milestone in social research. Experiment 18 is a lesson for how social research can challenge and change our perceptions of what we understand about people’s behaviour, but also the risks of conducting social research, and our responsibilities as researchers to research participants.
What is your earliest SRA memory?
My earliest SRA memory is meeting in the Millennium Stadium in 2006 to discuss the creation of a Welsh branch of the SRA.
When did you become involved with the SRA - why did you join the Board?
I’ve been involved with the SRA since the launch of SRA Cymru in 2006. I’ve really enjoyed being part of SRA Cymru and was keen to see it continue, so jumped at the opportunity to be Co-Chair of SRA Cymru when the previous chair stepped down. From Co-Chair of SRA Cymru to board member seemed a natural progression as it allows me to be part of the body that is shaping the SRA across the UK.
What do you enjoy about your involvement with SRA? Are there any bits you prefer to avoid?
I actually enjoy working with my Co-Chair Jennifer Evans (this may surprise Jennifer). It’s great having someone to bounce ideas off and keep my wilder ideas where they belong, just ideas. I’m also enjoying building up awareness of the SRA in Wales as we had a bit of a quiet patch before Jennifer and I took over, plenty of chances to meet new people and share ideas.
Which of the SRA plans are you particularly excited about?
Further developing the SRA network in Wales, and finally getting some SRA training delivered in Wales.
Looking forward - where would you like to see Social Research and the SRA being in 5 years time?
I would really like to see the concept of evidence-based policy accepted as the default position and approach within government, and a firm rejection of the encroaching policy-based evidence approach.
Regarding the SRA I’d like us to be the voice of good quality research, and have a much stronger advocacy and challenge role. There needs to be a greater recognition of the societal and economic value of well conducted social research.
Miscellaneous getting-to-know you
Where was your last holiday - what was the highlight?
I’ve been so busy I haven’t had a proper holiday for two years, but my last one was a family one in Devon, which allowed me to bore my family with my reminisces of studying in Plymouth.
What do you do in your spare time? (Any great achievements you want to mention - is there anything people don’t generally know about you that you wish to reveal!)
I’ve got a three-year old daughter so spare time is a distant memory. When not feeding, playing or struggling to get my daughter to go to bed (and then stay in bed until morning – and not the crack of dawn variety of morning), I enjoy reading – too little energy to do anything else. Although I have been known to wear spangly fur lined trousers every Chinese new year and pretend to be a lion – you have to be there to understand.