ONS consultation roadshows about 2021 census
The 9 March edition of this newsletter contained a piece on the ONS consultation about 2021 census outputs and dissemination channels. ONS will be holding a series of consultation roadshows next month in Cardiff (17th) , Newcastle (24th), Manchester (25th), Birmingham (26th) and London (1 May). A reminder that the deadline for comments on the proposals is 23 May.
New analysis function in government
The leaders of the analytical professions in government, including social research, have agreed to work together to form a new analysis function in the civil service. Speaking at a recent conference to agree priorities for the new function, Sir Jeremy Heywood, Head of the Civil Service, challenged the community ‘to become more visible so that analysis shapes the decisions on important issues facing the UK’. The work in hand to make a reality of the function is focusing on: talent, leadership and career development, diversity and capability and skills. We will endeavour to keep readers informed about the initiative as it develops.
SRA Conference, Summer Event and GSR North & Scotland conference
The 2018 SRA annual conference will be held on Thursday 13 December at Kings Place, London, near Kings Cross. The theme is ‘Adapting to Change: where now for social research’ and confirmed speakers so far include Sir John Curtice (senior fellow at NatCen) and Jennifer Rubin (Chief Executive of the ESRC). New breakout sessions are also planned. More will follow in subsequent issues of the newsletter but make sure you hold the date!
The SRA summer event this year will take place on 21 June at the LGA in London and booking is now open. The theme is ‘Ethics in practice in innovative methods’ and four expert speakers are confirmed.
Government Social Research (GSR) North and GSR Scotland present a free one day conference on 25 April in Newcastle. The keynote speaker will be Sir John Curtice on NatCen's award winning probability-based online panel, and how they used this to track attitudes towards Brexit on both sides of the border, plus a panel discussion and a number of workshops.
New data horizons
In recent years the data landscape has seen significant changes and new developments, featuring innovations in data collection and usage of surveys and the rise of linked data sources. These issues were discussed at a recent conference and the presentations from the New Data Horizons Autumn School 2017 are now available to view, including: Michaela Benzeval on ‘Integrating Biological and Social Science data’, Curtis Jessop on ‘Ethics and Social Media Research’ and also on the setting up of the NatCen panel, Dave Martin on ‘Transforming the Census’, James Doidge on ‘Challenges in doing research using linked data’, Patrick Sturgess on ‘Changing Patterns of Social Science Data Usage’ and Joel Williams on ‘Push to web’ and ‘address based surveying’.
Transparency of evidence use in government policy making
The somewhat mixed picture reported above is also evident from a ‘Sense about Science’ spot check of how transparent government departments are about the evidence underpinning their policies. The audit covered 94 government policy proposals from 12 Whitehall departments and uncovers a general improvement since a report published in November 2016. However, it also reveals large discrepancies between departments, though interestingly, more consistency within departments. Departments were also found to be stronger in explaining evidence about the problems their policies aim to solve than in planning how they are going to test out and evaluate whether policies are working.
The What Works Centres: five years on
It is five years since the first of the ‘What Works Centres’ were set up with the key aim of embedding the best available evidence into the heart of policy making and service delivery. A recent report from Nesta presents a positive picture of progress, whilst also concluding that adoption of evidence-based messages, even when they are very clear, is often very slow and there is still a great deal to do in some policy areas. A number of actions are proposed and at the launch David Halpern suggested that officials within government are to be assessed on their use of evidence.