Government procurement of research

The SRA has published the report of a study it commissioned to examine how government’s procurement of social research is working out in practice. The study was undertaken by Carol Goldstone Associates and funded by the Nuffield Foundation. It identified three main alternative procurement models and undertook case studies of each including exploring research suppliers’ experiences. It concludes with recommendations on good practices.

Read more, including the downloadable report, on the SRA website.



Social researchers recognised in the Queen’s Birthday List were:

  • Jan Pahl, emeritus professor of social policy at the University of Kent
  • Geoff Whitty, former Director of the Institute of Education
  • Peter Elias who works on labour markets
  • Nirmala Rao of London University who researches urban government.

Sadly in the same period the sociologist Ray Pahl has died.

ESRC Delivery Plan

In this new document, the Economic and Social Research Council spells out how it is to spend the resources allocated to it over the next few years. It plans to adopt three strategic priorities (Economic Performance and Sustainable Growth; Influencing Behaviour and Informing Interventions; A Vibrant and Fair Society); to continue with cross-Research Council initiatives on Living with Environmental Change and Ageing; to initiate a national strategy in quantitative methods; and to merge its Postdoc Fellowships and First Grant Schemes into a new Future Leaders programme.

Read more on the Economic and Social Research Council’s website.

Bad research

Ben Goldacre, the Guardian’s scourge of ‘bad science’, takes the Communities and Local Government Department to task for its press statement endorsing some ‘research’ on how much local authorities could save by better procurement, a report taken up enthusiastically by the Daily Express and Daily Mail – ‘Council incompetence ‘costs every household £452 a year’ was the latter’s headline.

Read Goldacre’s critique on the Guardian website and laugh or cry.


A new report from the Institute for Fiscal Studies, Poverty and Inequality in the UK 2011, analyses changes to average income, inequality and poverty since 1997. 

It finds that average incomes rose and relative poverty declined but change was not evenly spread, so that income equality increased.
Read the full report here.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation has published Poverty and Ethnicity: a review of evidence, focusing on six areas: education, work, caring, social networks, the role of places, and inequality within ethnic groups.
Read the full report here.

Text analytics

The Market Research Society website currently has an article and comments on the use of software to analyse the content of online communications – texts, tweets, blogs and so on. 

It has mostly been tried out so far in assessing sentiments about brands. Its performance is variable – unable, for example, to recognise irony or sarcasm.  But some market researchers see great potential here for assessing awareness and attitudes – maybe also for social research?

Read the full article on The Market Research Society website.

Recession Britain

Sheffield University geographers Danny Dorling and Bethan Thomas have produced Bankrupt Britain: An Atlas of Social Change (Policy Press, 2011).

It focuses on the last three years revealing, in Dorling’s words,  “the extent of Britain’s bankruptcy in financial, residential, political, moral, emotional and environmental aspects.”  Some of these aspects are quirky and the results surprising: for example, the  rate of malicious calls to emergency services – growing most in Hertfordshire, Gloucester and Hereford and Worcester, falling most  in Greater Manchester, Merseyside and Strathclyde.

Find out more about the book on Amazon.