POLITICAL AND SOCIAL RESEARCH
“Social research” can be summed up as research in any field of social sciences. Social research provides empirical evidence and analysis to understand and explain the nature of human behaviour, social structures and cultures, as well as the social impacts of issues such as government policies. Social research is used by policy makers and political representatives, the media, academics and businesses to inform policy choices and to help understand and manage the risks associated with these choices. It may be carried out within universities, public bodies or specialist research organisations.
Social research includes research related to politics, but the term “political research” tends to refer to research carried out within a “political” context, such as for an MP or a political party. Often, this research focuses on providing responses to specific questions and may therefore be more varied and time-pressured,and less analytical, than other forms of social research.
Some major employers and roles within the broad field of social research are set out below:
- Civil Service
- Houses of Parliament
- MP’s researcher
- Trades unions
“Government Social Researchers ensure that government policies and services are relevant, effective and meet people’s needs. At its core it is about people; ensuring that government and frontline decisions are based on an understanding of and engagement with people affected by that decision – those implementing it and those directly affected by it – as well as an understanding of the wider social consequences”For further information, see the following links:
- Social Research Fast Stream http://faststream.civilservice.gov.uk/The-Fast-Streams/Analytical-Fast-Stream/Social-Research-Fast-Stream/Recruits graduates annually, with a closing date in October
- Prospects Occupational Profile – Government Research Officer www.prospects.ac.uk/p/types_of_job/government_research_officer_job_description.jsp
- Department for Work and Pensions http://research.dwp.gov.uk/asd/asd5 a major commissioner of external Social Science Research
Houses of Parliament
Library Clerks in the House of Commons and the House of Lords are not actually librarians! The main duties of Library Clerks are to carry out research and provide information to Members. They respond, orally or in writing, to requests from Members and prepare briefing papers on subjects of public and parliamentary concern. While responses to individual Members are confidential, much pre-prepared and regularly updated briefing material is made available to all Members on the Parliamentary Intranet and the Parliament website. Many requests from individual Members have tight deadlines, sometimes needing an instant answer on the telephone or requiring a response the same or the next day. Briefing papers linked to the business of the House may also need to be produced at short notice, but some subjects allow time for a more considered approach.
You will need to keep up to date with developments in the subjects which you cover and to develop contacts who are experts in these fields. Librarians in research teams compile a knowledge base of source material relevant to the subjects covered. Your sources will include relevant on-line databases as well as contacts in Government Departments and other outside organisations. All Library Clerks are expected to acquire a knowledge of parliamentary procedures and documentation, to become familiar with the procedures of the European Union and to keep abreast of European proposals in the areas which they cover.
Library Clerkship vacancies are advertised on an irregular basis in the national press and in specialist publications.
INVOLVES: Monitoring the press, Hansard etc. Researching background to political issues & campaigns. Writing reports, speeches, etc. Assisting with constituency business. General gofering.
- Political Researcher Career Guide www.myjobsearch.com/careers/political-researcher.html
- Politician’s Assistant – Prospects Occupational Profile www.prospects.ac.uk/links/polpartresoff
- Diary of a Parliamentary Researcher a series of articles from the Guardian
- Working for an MP www.w4mp.org
- Electus Start www.electus-start.com information and advice about careers in politics, job vacancies, courses and CV/interview technique
- Working as a Parliamentary Researcher, from the Careers Group http://thecareersgroupgid.wordpress.com/2010/09/03/working-as-a-parliamentary-researcher
- Interns’ Network profile of a political-research-assistant
- I Want to Work In Politics www.kent.ac.uk/careers/workin/politics.htm
The Oxford English Dictionary defines a think tank as "a research institute or other organisation providing advice and ideas on national or commercial problems". A more contemporary definition is “a group which performs research and develops reports and recommendations on topics relating to strategic planning or public policy, and which is usually funded by corporations, interest groups, or government” (http://en.wiktionary.org)
- Guardian forum on working in think-tanks (October 2010) http://bit.ly/d4dcO3
- Working for a think tank, from the Careers Group
List of think-tanks
Please note that the descriptions in the following listing are taken from the think-tanks’ websites and do not reflect the opinion of the Careers and Employability Service at the University of Kent.
- Adam Smith Institute www.adamsmith.org ASI is the UK's leading innovator of practical market-economic policies.
- Centre for the Analysis of Social Exclusion http://sticerd.lse.ac.uk/case The Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion (CASE) is an ESRC Research Centre, core-funded by the Economic and Social Research Council since October 1997.
- Centre for Economic Policy Research www.cepr.org.uk CEPR conducts research on a range of economic issues.
- Centre for Enterprise www.cfe.org.uk The Centre for Enterprise (CfE) works with the public sector, small businesses and individuals. It provides professional support services in the design and management of public programmes for enterprise and skills.
- Centre for European Reform www.cer.org.uk The Centre for European Reform is a think-tank devoted to improving the quality of the debate on the future of the European Union.
- Centre for Policy Studies www.cps.org.uk The Centre for Policy Studies (CPS) is an independent think-tank which develops and publishes public policy proposals and arranges seminars and lectures on topical policy issues, as part of its mission to influence policy around the world.
- Centre for the Study of Financial Innovation www.csfi.org.uk The CSFI is an independent think-tank based in London. It was formed in early 1993 to stimulate research into the future of the financial services industry.
- David Hume Institute www.davidhumeinstitute.com The David Hume Institute promotes research, analysis and debate on public policy issues. Its work is primarily focused in areas linking economics and law, with a particular interest in the interaction between institutional or legal frameworks and market forces.
- DEMOS www.demos.co.uk Demos is a forum for new ideas which can improve the quality of our lives. As an independent think-tank, the aim of DEMOS is to create an open resource of knowledge and learning that operates beyond traditional parties, identities and disciplines.
- European Policy Centre www.epc.eu The European Policy Centre (EPC) is an independent, not-for-profit think-tank, committed to making European integration work. It provides information and analysis on the EU policy agenda. EPC aims to promote a balanced dialogue between the different constituencies of its membership, spanning all aspects of economic and social life.
- The Fabian Society www.fabian-society.org.uk The Fabian Society aims to explore the political ideas and the policy reforms which will define progressive politics in the future.
- The Federal Trust www.fedtrust.co.uk The Federal Trust is a think-tank that studies the interactions between regional, national, European and global levels of government.
- Foreign Policy Centre www.fpc.org.uk The Foreign Policy Centre is a think-tank which aims to broaden perceptions of what foreign policy is, encourage public debate about our foreign policy goals and find new ways to get people involved.
- Institute for Development Studies www.ids.ac.uk/ids IDS is an internationally-renowned centre for research and teaching on development. It was established in 1966.
- Institute of Economic Affairs www.iea.org.uk The IEA seeks to explain free-market ideas to the public, including politicians, students, journalists, businessmen, academics and anyone interested in public policy.
- Institute for Fiscal Studies www.ifs.org.uk The Institute for Fiscal Studies is a research institute which exists to provide economic analysis independent of government, political party or any other vested interest.
- International Institute for Environment and Development www.iied.org IIED is an independent, non-profit organization promoting sustainable patterns of world development through collaborative research, policy studies, networking and knowledge dissemination.
- International Institute of Strategic Studies www.iiss.org The International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) is the world’s leading authority on political-military conflict.
- Institute for Public Policy Research www.ippr.org/home IPPR is an independent think-tank on the centre left.
- Joseph Rowntree Foundation www.jrf.org.uk The Joseph Rowntree Foundation is one of the largest social policy research and development charities in the UK.
- The Kings Fund www.kingsfund.org.uk The King's Fund is an independent charitable foundation whose goal is to improve health, especially in London.
- NatCen Social Research www.natcen.ac.uk the largest independent social research institute in Britain.
- National Foundation for Educational Research www.nfer.ac.uk/index.cfm The UK's leading independent research organisation carrying out research in the field of education.
- National Institute of Economic and Social Research www.niesr.ac.uk The Institute's objective is to promote, through quantitative research, a deeper understanding of the interaction of economic and social forces that affect people's lives so that they may be improved.
- New Economics Foundation www.neweconomics.org/gen NEF is an independent think-tank that inspires and demonstrates real economic well-being. It aims to improve quality of life by promoting innovative solutions that challenge mainstream thinking on economic, environment and social issues.
- New Local Government Network www.nlgn.org.uk The New Local Government Network (NLGN) was founded in 1996 by a small group of senior local government figures whose stated aim was to make local government more relevant and credible to local people.
- New Policy Institute www.npi.org.uk The New Policy Institute is a progressive think-tank, founded in 1996. The aim of the NPI is to advance social justice in a market economy.
- Overseas Development Institute www.odi.org.uk ODI is Britain's leading independent think-tank on international development and humanitarian issues.
- Policy Exchange www.policyexchange.org.uk Policy Exchange is an independent think-tank whose mission is to develop and promote new policy ideas which will foster a free society based on strong communities, personal freedom, limited government, national self-confidence and an enterprise culture.
- Policy Studies Institute www.psi.org.uk Policy Studies Institute (PSI) is one of Britain's leading independent research institutes, conducting research to promote economic well-being and improve quality of life.
- Regulatory Policy Institute www.rpieurope.org The RPI is an independent research organisation whose objective is the promotion of the study for the public benefit of all aspects of regulatory policy being the regulation of business activity by official or governmental authority.
- Science and Technology Policy Research www.sussex.ac.uk/spru SPRU is one of the world leaders in policy research on science, technology and innovation and its wider economic, social and environmental implications.
- The Smith Institute www.smith-institute.org.uk The Smith Institute is an independent think-tank, which has been set up to undertake research and education in issues that flow from the changing relationship between social values and economic imperatives.
- Social Market Foundation www.smf.co.uk The SMF was established in 1989 to provide a source of innovative economic and social policy ideas.
For information regarding more research organisations take a look at the Association for Qualitative Research’s listings at www.aqr.org.uk
National Institute for Research Advancement (NIRA) produces a World Directory of Think Tanks www.nira.or.jp/past/ice/nwdtt/2005/index.html
Trades Union Research
This role may involve some or all of the following:
- Researching issues such as terms and conditions; salary negotiations
- Producing reports, articles, press releases and other material
- Contributing to union projects
- Organisation of training and conferences
- Building and maintaining union relationships, generally and for research purposes, with other groups such as the TUC and other unions
For further details, see:
- Prospects Profile - Trades Union Research Officer www.prospects.ac.uk/p/types_of_job/trade_union_research_officer_job_description.jsp
- Trades Union Congress http://www.tuc.org.uk includes list of members
Other useful links:
- The Social Research Association www.the-sra.org.uk includes many useful links to public and private sector research organisations, also careers advice and resources at www.the-sra.org.uk/careers.htm
- LARIA – Local Authorities Research and Intelligence Association www.laria.gov.uk
- NatCen Social Research www.natcen.ac.uk independent social research centre
- Social Issues Research Centre www.sirc.org independent, non-profit organisation founded to conduct research on social and lifestyle issues
- Joseph Rowntree Foundation www.jrf.org.uk charity that funds a large, UK-wide research and development programme
- Economic and Social Research Council www.esrc.ac.uk Researcher Development Initiative www.rdi.ac.uk supports the training and development of researchers in the social sciences at all stages of their career
- Prospects Occupational Profile on Social Research www.prospects.ac.uk/p/types_of_job/social_researcher_job_description.jsp
Last fully updated 2012