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Breaking the research mould: Understanding Society delivers unprecedented insight

Posted on 02 March 2012 .
Tags: society

It’s great to see the second major release of data from Understanding Society. With scientific leadership from ISER it’s the world’s largest social science survey. Two years’ of longitudinal data are now available in the ESDS, giving researchers the first opportunity to measure change over time.

My colleagues have already blogged on the benefits of longitudinal data, so what is it that I find so exciting about this study? In a nutshell, it's  the scale and inclusivity of the data collection that make it such a rewarding project to work on.

The findings from Understanding Society are most powerful when we're able to speak to as many people as we can each year. We've got the huge task of delivering around 100,000 interviews in 40,000 households across the UK each year. As a I write this blog, 600 NatCen Social Research interviewers are in the field following households as they separate, move and grow. We also ask questions in ten different languages. This gives a voice to groups traditionally underrepresented in social surveys, recognising that there’s not just one minority story any more than there is one migrant story.

After all of this hard work it’s great to see ESRC’s findings report which accompanies the release of the data. Ever wondered whether female breadwinners do less housework? Or if the Olympics will create a nation of rhythmic gymnasts? The scope of the study means we can answer these questions and more; revealing what life is like in Britain today and how it’s changing.

In July, Andy blogged about Understanding Society’s first findings conference. With this second set of findings, the value of significant investment in innovative, high-quality longitudinal social research is clear. I’m excited about what’s still to come.
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