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ESRC awards funding to City academics for project exploring global social survey ideas

£255,000 of funding awarded for the City-based scheme

by Chris Lines (Senior Communications Officer)

The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) has launched a new project called ‘Global Social Comparisons: A review of International Survey Resources and Research’, to be based at City, University of London.

The project will run until 31st March 2020, with a team comprised of Principal Investigator Dr Eric Harrison (a Senior Lecturer in City’s Department of Sociology) alongside three co-investigators, all of whom are sociologists working in City’s School of Arts & Social Sciences: Dean of School Professor Chris Greer, Dr Sally Stares and Dr Vanessa Gash.

The research project aims to undertake a comprehensive review of cross-national surveys in which the UK participates or with which its national data is harmonised.

The project will explore the feasibility of constructing a 'global social survey', both as a vehicle for international comparisons in a range of areas of policy or wider academic interest, and as a piece of developmental work in survey methodology.

It will do this by employing a range of methods: desk-based review, analysis of existing data, interviews with key players in the field, and group discussions.

The researchers will examine whether there is a persuasive case for a new recurring multi-country survey with a social and economic focus that can inform policy.

Alongside this, the researchers will explore a range of 'next best' models for producing comparative data that allows the UK to benchmark itself against non-European countries.

Key objectives

The project has three principal objectives:

  • to review the stock of internationally comparative survey datasets of which the UK is a part;
  • to establish if there is the potential for a new piece of survey infrastructure with global reach;
  • to explore whether existing UK-inclusive datasets could be better exploited and results more effectively disseminated.

Dr Harrison said: “With the UK in the process of leaving the European Union, this is a good time to be rethinking our approach to comparative social science; more specifically, which aspects of social and economic life we want equivalent measures for, and against which parts of the world we want to compare ourselves.”

The award will provide a major stimulus for developments in the social sciences and has the potential to produce significant international and societal impact.

Sam McGregor, Head of Data Strategy at ESRC said: “We are delighted to announce ‘Global Social Comparisons: A review of International Survey Resources and Research’, led by the well-placed team at City, University of London.

“The major challenges of our time – from climate change and clean growth to an ageing society and social cohesion – are mainly caused by, differentially affect, and require solutions that involve people.

“This work will be a vital and timely contribution to the development of our new data strategy, Data4Society, which aims to build upon the strengths of our existing research infrastructure and resources portfolio to deliver an integrated, interconnected, and interoperable network of investments.”


About the ESRC

  • The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) is part of UK Research and Innovation, a non-departmental public body funded by a grant-in-aid from the UK government.
  • The ESRC is the UK’s largest funder of research on the social and economic questions facing us today. It supports the development and training of the UK’s future social scientists and also funds major studies that provide the infrastructure for research. ESRC-funded research informs policymakers and practitioners and helps make businesses, voluntary bodies and other organisations more effective.
  • UK Research and Innovation is a new body which works in partnership with universities, research organisations, businesses, charities, and government to create the best possible environment for research and innovation to flourish. We aim to maximise the contribution of each of our component parts, working individually and collectively. We work with our many partners to benefit everyone through knowledge, talent and ideas.
  • Operating across the whole of the UK with a combined budget of more than £6 billion, UK Research and Innovation brings together the seven Research Councils, Innovate UK and a new organisation, Research England.
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