City Q-Step's first seminar for 2016 - Oliver Hawkins: House of Commons library.
The City Q-Step Centre held its first seminar of the year on Wednesday 9 March. Oliver Hawkins, from the House of Commons library, came to talk to us about his work as a statistical researcher at the House of Commons library and his passion for data and storytelling.
As Oli explained to us, the House of Commons library is a research and information service for MPs and staff based in Westminster. He provided us with some fantastic examples of the enquiries he is faced with – often with a turnaround time of only a day – ranging from verifying statistics an MP may have come across in a publication or heard in a parliamentary debate, to generating projections or predictions for a particular policy discussion on behalf of an MP.
Full Fact, who inaugurated our seminar series last year with a talk on their General Election fact check campaign, can be seen as sitting on the other side of Oli, scrutinising the statistical claims that have already been made by both politicians and media journalists. Oliver's work can often prove problematic with some MPs wanting statistics on issues where there is simply not relevant data available, or wanting a hard and fast answer to a more complex issue. However, he is well placed to make sure the information he produces is as robust as possible, and publication-worthy. The number of enquiries that his department received has risen in recent years, due to a combination of both a rising need for and interest in statistical literacy in the political sphere and a growing wealth of data publicly available for MPs to use to bolster (some more responsibly than others) their political arguments. With his skills as a software developer and his interests in political and social statistics, Oli is also a keen data visualiser. He showed us some of the data stories he has worked on recently, for example mapping ethnic separation within and across parliamentary constituencies in England and Wales using 2011 census data.
He also walked us through his Population Builder app which allows users to map population estimates for small areas in England, Scotland or Wales. This was inspired by some of the enquiries he regularly faces asking him to, for example, estimate the population of the catchment area of an ailing school. We almost all had questions for Oli after his talk. Some focused on the practical nature of his work, for example the type of programming software he uses to generate his visuals. Others asked for more detail on the extent to which the information he produces is well received and actually utilised by the MP in question. It was all in all a fascinating and well-placed talk for the Q-Step crowd. It also gave us some real insight into the important and innovative work stats enthusiasts outside our realm of academia do.
City Q-Step says hello to our third PhD student Teaching Assistant, and first in the Department of International Politics.
Juvaria Jafri Madani has a Master's degree from the Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Institute of Science & Technology and an undergraduate degree from the University of Toronto. She has recently joined the Q Step team as a Teaching Assistant for the module 'Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics' and is currently studying for her PhD at the Department of International Politics. The focus of her research is on the political economy of finance led growth strategies and development. Juvaria's previous work experience includes investment banking and management consulting in Pakistan.
City Q-Step Centre Welcomes Dr Christopher Gandrud
This September City Q-Step Centre was excited to welcome our third full-time academic member of staff, Dr Christopher Gandrud. Christopher is the first member of the team to be based in the International Politics department and his appointment coincides with the widening of City Q-Step Centre. Now all International politics and International Political Economy students at City, University of London take Q-Step modules in their first year and can elect to take additional modules that further develop their quantitative skills over later years.
Christopher's research focuses on the international political economy of public financial and monetary institutions, as well as applied social science statistics, software development, and open data. His work has been published in peer reviewed journals including the Journal of Common Market Studies, Journal of Peace Research, Research and Politics, Review of International Political Economy, Political Science Research and Methods, Journal of Statistical Software, International Political Science Review, and The Political Methodologist. He regularly writes for the Bruegel think tank on European banking union. He authored a book on reproducible research methods published by Chapman and Hall. He has been a Post-doctoral Fellow at the Hertie School of Governance, a Lecturer in International Relations at Yonsei University, and a Fellow in Government at the London School of Economics where in 2012 he completed a PhD in quantitative political science.
Christopher’s interests in research methods, commitment to innovative pedagogy and outstanding research agenda make him a fantastic new addition to the Centre. We’re really happy that he’s joined us.
City Q-Step at the Inaugural Postgraduate Q-Step Network Conference 2015
Rima Saini and Nadine Zwiener, two of our Q-Step PhD Teaching Assistants, attended and presented at the first ever conference of the PG Q-Step Network at Cardiff University on Monday 19 October.
After a welcome address from Dr Luke Sloan, the Deputy Director of the Cardiff Q-Step, they enjoyed some expert presentations from enthusiastic Q-Step representatives from the Universities of Edinburgh, Manchester, Leeds and UCL among others.
Charlotte Brookfield, a Q-Step PhD student from Cardiff, and the primary organiser of the event, discussed her research on the place of quantitative research in British Sociology. The session elicited some great discussion about the balance between quantitative and qualitative teaching and research across British universities.
Rima and Nadine presented in the second session of the day called ‘Developing Strategies for Teaching and Learning’. After a brief introduction of City Q-Step, they shared best practice teaching methods and pedagogic reflections on their time as teaching assistants on the undergraduate courses ‘Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics’ and ‘Producing Social Data’.
They opened up the floor to discussion about how best to balance teaching and research, along with other academic commitments, as PhD students. Some great tips were shared by the other Q-steppers, such as opting to teach on non-quantitative modules for a welcome rest from all that statistical data analysis!
Everyone present seemed to express similar concerns about teaching quantitative methods to social science students, particularly with regards to overcoming the ‘maths anxiety’ barrier prevalent among many of the students they teach. However, it was heartening to see such enthusiasm and creativity among those present when sharing their unique approaches to tackling some of these obstacles.
After lunch were some great presentations from the ONS and the Administrative Data Research Centre Wales, and an overview of the quantitative research projects in childhood development and education being undertaken by students from the UCL-Institute of Education.
All in all it was a fantastic event for both networking and knowledge-sharing that both Nadine and Rima are hoping to replicate next year at City, so watch this space!
City Q-Step Centre welcomes two PhD student Teaching Assistants
The Centre and the Department of Sociology are very pleased to welcome two new PhD students, Nadine and Rima, who are going to be working as Teaching Assistants, supporting our undergraduate students across all programmes in Criminology, Sociology and Media.
Nadine and Rima will be part of City Q-Step Centre for the next three years and are based in room D605, on the sixth floor of the Social Science Building. They both hold office hours on Mondays 2-3 and Tuesdays 3-4, so stop by and say hello!
Nadine Zwiener has just finished her Master's degree in Political Sociology at the LSE and is joining the team as Teaching Assistant for the module 'Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics'. She is currently studying for her PhD, where her interest lies in the differences in political attitudes and behaviour of men and women, as well as in gender inequalities in work and employment. She focuses particularly on the comparison of different (European) countries using large datasets.
Rima Saini has just completed an MSc in Social Research Methods at City, following a BA in Politics from SOAS and an MA in Political Theory at the UCL School of Public Policy. She will be joining Nadine as a Q-Step teaching assistant on the first-year module 'Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics'. Her interests lie in the measurement of minority ethnic identity and she will be starting her PhD this year, focusing on the intersection between ethnicity and class.
Hello to Sally and Matt
Over the summer City Q-Step was excited to welcome two new members of academic staff:
Dr Sally Stares joins us from the LSE's Department of Methodology, where she taught quantitative data analysis. She will be working with Dr Rachel Cohen and Dr Eric Harrison in teaching the first-year modules 'Lies, damned lies and statistics' and 'Producing social data'. Sally's research is about social measurement - how the abstract concepts we study in the social sciences are captured with numerical data, and how statistics are used in society. Her focus is on how we can understand social attitudes, perceptions and values better using multivariate data analysis.
Dr Matt Barnes specialises in quantitative research in the areas of poverty and social exclusion. He has worked with a wide range of social survey data sets, including Understanding Society, Family Resources Survey, Longitudinal Study of Young People in England, and the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing. He has previously worked at NatCen Social Research, the Social Exclusion Task Force in the Cabinet Office, the Centre for Research in Social Policy, and the University of Bath. Matt will be working as our Quantitative Data Resources Officer, helping to find 'data' (statistics, surveys, key information sources) for embedding and working one-on-one with students.
Both Sally and Matt are joining the Department of Sociology at City and you can find them on the 6th floor of the Social Sciences building.
Two new teaching assistants, Rima Saini and Nadine Zwiener, will also be joining the team later this month. More details soon!