Chris Martin is a Research Director at Ipsos MORI in charge of the Scottish Household Survey and the Scottish Crime and Justice Survey.

As a child what did you want to be when you grew up?
A psephologist - I loved the drama of politics. When, as a 9-year-old, I had to write a “day-in-the-life” story, I chose to be Jimmy Carter, traveling to Europe, by helicopter, to see if America could join the EEC. I was obsessed with elections. David Butler was a boyhood idol. My teenage bedroom in the 80s was festooned with newspaper cuttings of opinion polls, swingometers and diagrams of electoral seat predictors. It’s a real shame that election nights now lack drama - the exit polls are far too accurate.

When did you first turn towards a social research career?
Looking back, it is easy to see my trajectory towards where I am today. My dad (an educational psychologist) and my mum (a domiciliary family planning nurse in Easterhouse among other things) both argued with passion about how things should be and there was pretty much constant debate and a challenging of ideas in my childhood house. I also remember my dad writing shopping lists on old SPSS punch-cards and him showing us the machines that counted the holes. At school, I designed and carried out my first survey at the age of 15 as part of the in Scottish Higher Modern Studies syllabus. But I didn’t see that path at the time. It wasn’t until I’d finished my undergraduate degree in History, when I applied for a Masters at Surrey University in Social Research Methods, that I made my first conscious turn towards a career in social research.

Chris Martin is a Research Director at Ipsos MORI in charge of the Scottish Household Survey and the Scottish Crime and Justice Survey.

As a child what did you want to be when you grew up?
A psephologist - I loved the drama of politics. When, as a 9-year-old, I had to write a “day-in-the-life” story, I chose to be Jimmy Carter, traveling to Europe, by helicopter, to see if America could join the EEC. I was obsessed with elections. David Butler was a boyhood idol. My teenage bedroom in the 80s was festooned with newspaper cuttings of opinion polls, swingometers and diagrams of electoral seat predictors. It’s a real shame that election nights now lack drama - the exit polls are far too accurate.

When did you first turn towards a social research career?
Looking back, it is easy to see my trajectory towards where I am today. My dad (an educational psychologist) and my mum (a domiciliary family planning nurse in Easterhouse among other things) both argued with passion about how things should be and there was pretty much constant debate and a challenging of ideas in my childhood house. I also remember my dad writing shopping lists on old SPSS punch-cards and him showing us the machines that counted the holes.  At school, I designed and carried out my first survey at the age of 15 as part of the in Scottish Higher Modern Studies syllabus. But I didn’t see that path at the time. It wasn’t until I’d finished my undergraduate degree in History, when I applied for a Masters at Surrey University in Social Research Methods, that I made my first conscious turn towards a career in social research.

What was your first professional job?  And first project there?
My Masters at Surrey was great. After that, I was lucky enough to get a temporary position at the Centre for Educational Sociology (CES) at the University of Edinburgh. It was my first introduction to serious quantitative survey analysis, of Family Expenditure Survey data, and my first proper introduction to large-scale data collection, in the form of the Scottish School Leavers Survey.

Where did your career go next?  What motivated that/those moves?
I moved from a temporary post in the academic sector to a temporary post at Scottish Homes, a government agency, to work with the Scottish House Condition Survey team as an analyst. The team there understood the challenges of survey design and collection, and were also excellent at using the data to help inform policy. I was lucky to have a very minor role on the first report on Fuel Poverty in Scotland. From there, I moved to the commercial sector and System Three, who, together with Ipsos MORI, had recently won the first contract for a new post-devolution study called the Scottish Household Survey. The rest, as they say, is history.

What has been your best professional moment?
When the SHS team at Scottish Government recently produced a data comic based on the survey results (https://www.gov.scot/publications/scottish-household-survey-data-comic-inequality-2017/) I was really chuffed to become one of the cartoon characters.  

...and worst?
I’d happily never discuss envelope design for advanced letters with interviewers again.

Do you have a social research hero/heroine?
No, but I am very grateful to a number of inspiring teachers. Christian Heath and Nigel Gilbert at University of Surrey, David Raffe at the University of Edinburgh, Celia McIntyre at Scottish Homes, and to Steven Hope at System Three and then Ipsos MORI.

Do you have a favourite quote?
I like the phrase from Robert Groves, “the tyranny of the easily measurable” as a reminder that accuracy is as much driven by good survey questions and good interviewers as it is by sample size.

What would you say to encourage a young person today considering a social research career?
I’d echo the words of my school guidance teacher. What do you most enjoy doing? Do that. People do best at things they enjoy doing.

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