Social researchers we look up to
As a home-working independent researcher, I often have the radio or a podcast on in the background. Social scientists seem a little under-represented in The Life Scientific, with some notable exceptions such as Elizabeth Stokoe on conversation analysis, Steve Reicher on the psychology of crowds and of course the many examples where social science interfaces with other disciplines (e.g. public health and the public’s understanding of risk and evidence).
There are a wealth of leaders and thinkers in social research on the Social Science Bites podcast, recently including Les Back on migrants, Diane Reay on education and class and David Halpern on nudging. A US equivalent is the Research in Action podcast, which helpfully provides transcripts, notes and a reading list of books mentioned during interviews.
We love almost anything on More or Less by Tim Halford, which goes behind the statistics reported in the news. There is more in-depth analysis from Tim Halford in Whodunnit - suspenseful serialisations of social science mysteries. I have been following the Calendar Conspiracy about summer born children.
Blogs about blogging
Inevitably, social researchers blog about blogging, and how to use blogs in research. The original editors of the LSE Impact blog have provided handy guides to setting up a multi-author institutional blog and what to write about. Helen Snee at Manchester University neatly describes what a blog is, and how to analyse blogs. One of the SRA’s trustees, and an expert on social media in higher education, Mark Carrigan, writes on blogging on his personal website. We will be hosting Mark on the SRA blog very soon.
Why we blog
Blogging and podcasting provide a route to engaging with audiences outside a researcher’s immediate field, in a more informal, responsive and conversational communication style than standard journal articles and research reports. The proliferation of research blogs and other creative research communication must, in part, be attributed to the burgeoning academic impact industry.
Useful places to look for guidance and support on creating and communicating impact include Fast Track Impact, Research Retold and Research Podcasts, who have produced audio content for national surveys such as Understanding Society and the Millenium Cohort Study. They also produced an audio series for NatCen on innovative methodological thinking. The SRA North chairs have blogged for us about their recent Knowledge Café on Creative Research Dissemination.
Outside the academy
As the SRA membership demonstrates, social research doesn’t just happen in universities. Readers can tap into government social research expertise in User Research, at the ONS Data Science Campus and at What Works. Other What Works centres also blog regularly, such as the What Works Centre for Wellbeing. There is more data science related blogging at the Open Data Institute and on the Market Research Society (MRS) geodemographics blog.
Where to look right now
In the run up to the election our timelines are filling with opinion polls, claims about evidence and counter claims. Previous SRA keynote, Sir John Curtice, is commenting at What the UK Thinks: EU about Brexit and the upcoming election. The Guardian are tracking polling data across a range of sources. IMPRESS (the regulator) and the MRS have published timely draft guidance on using surveys and polling data in journalism. We are pleased to host Nick Moon of the British Polling Council on the worrying trend for newspapers to insist on at cost or free polling, at the risk of de-valuing social research expertise.
Blogs by our authors
If you would like to read more from the authors we have commissioned you can see Helen Barnard vlogging on twitter about her campaigning work with the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Jessica Smith travel blogging her Winston Churchill fellowship and Adam Pearson documenting his freelance journey, including a post that is packed full of resources for independent researchers.
The SRA Blog editorial team
The SRA Blog editorial team are fourteen SRA members who responded to a call for volunteers willing to write, review and commission new posts on a regular basis.
Some of us are experienced writers; some of us are blogging and editing for the first time. I have the lofty title of ‘Commissioning Editor’, which mainly means that I chase people for deadlines (and miss my own). Jessica Nelligan (Digital Communications Manager, SRA) oversees the blog at SRA and makes sure that our posts are web ready and publicised widely.
We are lucky to have Dr Helen Kara leading on our independent research theme, and dispensing invaluable advice on writing for the web. Helen writes prolifically on research methods and her personal blog reaches thousands of students and researchers.
Patten Smith (Research Methods Centre at Ipsos MORI, and former Chair of SRA) leads on our quantitative theme, and can be found writing on all things survey related in the Research Matters archive.
In their own posts for The SRA Blog, the team have highlighted the organisations and projects they work for, many of which have their own blogs.
Our qualitative lead, Dr Sophie Payne-Gifford has written about the complex Citizen Science conducted by the Wellcome funded Parenting Science Gang. Leanne Teichner is writing about how Data Cymru are responding to the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act in Wales (Welsh versions to appear on their own blog shortly). You can find more from Hannah Ormston at the Carnegie UK blog, writing about the UK-wide Future Generations bill.
Propose a post or join the team
The SRA blog team are 86% female (even more skewed than the GSR gender balance). We are also over 80% qualitative (depending on definitions of research methods). Most of us are early- to mid- career researchers. When asked for proposals, around half of the suggestions from the team were for posts on engagement, participation and participatory methods.
As a very unscientific and self-selecting poll of SRA members, perhaps this shows which researchers like to write, want to blog and what we want to read about right now.
However, it you think you can sway our team profile in a particular direction or would like to propose a post, do get in touch (email email@example.com).
Bio: Dr Cath Dillon is an independent research and evaluation consultant, with a specialism in culture and heritage. Cath is currently evaluating one of the National Lottery Heritage Fund ‘Kick the Dust’ projects (Hope Streets, Curious Minds NW) and is working with Arts Council England on a review of Museum Development annual data collection. Cath also teaches introductory research methods and statistics. In her ‘spare time’ Cath edits this blog.
The editorial team:
Cath Dillon (Commissioning Editor, Independent Researcher)
Helen Kara (Independent Research editor; Independent Researcher)
Sophie Payne-Gifford (Qualitative editor; University of Hertfordshire)
Patten Smith (Quantitative editor; Ipsos-Mori)
Petra Boynton (UCL; Independent Researcher and journalist)
Anna Cordes (Which?)
Lucy Ellis (Youth Sport Trust)
Rowena Hay (Shortworks, Independent Researcher)
Emma Hollywood (Skills Development Scotland)
Andrew McKeown (Ipsos-Mori)
Hannah Ormston (Carnegie UK)
Bessie Pike (Walnut Unlimited)
Emilie Smeaton (National Lottery Community Fund)
Leanne Teichner (Data Cymru)