Graeme Beale is Principal Research Officer in the Office of the Chief Researcher, Scottish Government

As a child what did you want to be when you grew up?
I think I probably had the same kinds of aims of lots of children: astronaut, doctor, geneticist, then maybe diplomat, that kind of thing.

When did you first turn towards a social research career?
I was studying International Relations at St Andrews University and had Social Anthropology as a 3rd subject, but I enjoyed it so much more that I switched to doing it as a main degree. I’ve always been interested in what makes society tick, so it just felt like a natural fit.

What was your first professional job? And first project there?
My first real job related to social research was as an interviewer for Ipsos-MORI. I can’t remember exactly what the first project I worked on was, though the one that is most memorable was a survey of victims and witnesses of crime. It was important work, but also needed really sensitive listening because of the subject and the people I was talking to.

Where did your career go next? What motivated that/those moves?
I was only at Ipsos-MORI for about six months. My next job was as a social researcher in the Scottish Government, which is where I’ve been for the last 5 years. I liked the idea of research that I was involved in feeding directly into policy or even legislation, and that is certainly the most satisfying aspect of being a government social researcher. After a couple of posts in very policy related areas – Housing and Transport – I moved to the Office of the Chief Researcher, where I work on a whole range of issues related to the social research profession, like standards, quality assurance, staffing and recruitment, and training.

What has been your best professional moment?
It’s a difficult question to answer because so much of what we do is behind the scenes, and often we have most influence in a few hurried conversations with policy colleagues rather than in big single authored monographs. Having said that I think one of the most satisfying moments was been being contacted out of the blue by a researcher in a local authority who had read a working paper I’d written a few years before and thought it was so good that she wanted to try and replicate the approach. Even though I was no longer working on that topic, it was still nice to get some positive feedback from elsewhere on the work I’d done.

...and worst?
I didn’t enjoy some of the interviewing – people can be incredibly rude when you’re asking them to participate in research!.

Do you have a social research hero/heroine?
Not really, I’m not a hero/heroine type of person.

Do you have a favourite quote?
“Inspiration is for amateurs – the rest of us just show up and get to work.” Chuck Close, American painter and photographer. I find it very helpful on more difficult days!

What would you say to encourage a young person today considering a social research career?
If you’re curious about society it’s a really interesting career, but you’ll often end up with more questions than answers.

Interview by William Solesbury

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