Sam Clemens is a Research Director at IPSOS-Mori.
As a child what did you want to be when you grew up?
I remember wanting to be a cowboy for a while when I was very young, but apart from that I never really had any idea what I wanted to do when I grew up.
When did you first turn towards a social research career?
My father was a market researcher and I was always quite interested in what he did. I even worked as a telephone interviewer part-time while at school. However, although research was appealing, I didn’t just want to follow in his footsteps, so after university I worked in housing policy at the Institute of Housing. While there, I got involved in some research projects which made me reconsider research as an option. To find out more, I went on an evening course run by John Hall at North London Poly on Social Research Methods that had sessions given by some excellent practitioners including Nick Moon, Patten Smith and Sharon Witherspoon. That course convinced me that social research was a career worth trying.
What was your first professional job? And first project there?
My first social research job was as a trainee researcher at SCPR (now NatCen). It was the early nineties, and the Government kept coming up with new employment and training schemes for the unemployed. I spent a lot of time in my first few years doing surveys to help evaluate these schemes.
Where did your career go next? What motivated that/those moves?
After five years at SCPR I decided to try out market research, so I moved to Research International and spent a couple of years researching financial products, banks, cars, tyres, etc. It was very different to social research and I learnt a lot, but I quickly realised that it wasn’t the sort of research that I wanted to do. So, I got a job in the social research team at RSL (Ipsos). Seven years later, I moved to BMRB which had a larger social research unit, and which offered me the opportunity to build up a team. After five years, I returned to NatCen (partly motivated by the fact that I lived in South London and BMRB were based in Ealing, which was a bit of trek!). I started as Deputy Director in the Health team and ended up as head of the Health and Wellbeing team there. Then, last year, I came to Ipsos MORI to head up a team that is focused on large-scale random probability surveys. Many of us at Ipsos MORI have worked together before in various places – social research is a small world!
What has been your best professional moment?
That’s tricky. I don’t think I can pick out one particular moment. It’s a bit cheesy, but the best times have been due to the great people I have worked with across my whole career – I’ve had a lot of fun designing and delivering various research projects and that is down to everyone I’ve worked with.
Having to make redundancies.
Do you have a social research hero/heroine?
I was extremely lucky to begin my research career at SCPR. Roger Jowell was very inspiring – his huge enthusiasm for social research really set the tone there. I also learnt a lot from Barry Hedges and Trish Prescott-Clark, and feel very fortunate to have had such a great start to my research career. On a less personal note, Maud Pember Reeves who wrote “Round about a pound a week” – a survey of income and expenditure (and a bit of a food survey too) in 1913 Lambeth. It is an early example of using social research to influence policy and is fascinating.
Do you have a favourite quote?
Mark Twain is my namesake (Samuel Clemens – Mark Twain was his pen name) and I like many of his quotes. Today’s favourite is “Never put of till tomorrow what you can do the day after tomorrow”.
What would you say to encourage a young person today considering a social research career?
Go for it. It is a career that allows a lot of variety, both in terms of what you do day to day and in terms of the subject matter you learn about.