ACADEMY FOR THE SOCIAL
MEMBERSHIP SURVEY 2002/3
SUMMARY OF KEY FINDINGS
Dominic Abrams and Paul Hutchison
ACADEMY FOR THE SOCIAL SCIENCES
MEMBERSHIP SURVEY 2002/3
SUMMARY OF KEY FINDINGS
Introduction, Background and Context
This is the second survey of Academicians. The survey is designed to describe the membership, identify their priorities and needs, and help to provide input in the Academy’s plans and future activities. A further aim is to establish a database to of specific expertise and interests that the Academy can draw upon for future consultation and activities. This report summarises the key findings.
At the time of the first membership survey, in March 2001, the Academy was a very new organisation and had yet to demonstrate its strengths and capabilities. There were 150 academicians, of whom 76 (50%) responded to the survey. Many of the questions were in open-ended format to allow all relevant themes to emerge. The responses were later content coded and the primary findings were reported to 2001 AGM of the Academy nd(Abrams, Frankenberg & Cawdell, 2001). The 2 survey of academicians was
conducted at the end of 2002, at which time there were 342 Academicians. By the time of the survey the Academy had coordinated several events and meetings, reports, consultation processes and other activities, including effective communications with ESRC. It had also appointed a new President and a new Director of the Academy (see the Annual Report for further details).
The survey was conducted prior to the report of the Commission on the Social Sciences (2003) and the 2003 White Paper on Higher Education. Compared with the 2001 survey, the 2002-3 survey was much more extensive, and used a more easily quantified fixed ndresponse format, whilst retaining open-ended options at the end of each section. The 2
survey also investigated areas of expertise and interest and priorities in much greater detail.
One hundred and ninety six academicians responded (57% of the total number of Academicians).
Modal characteristics among respondents were as follows. Sixty eight percent
were male, 57% were in the 50-59 age band, 97% were white, 86% were
working full time, and 85% were based in a higher education institution. One
hundred and thirty two different institutions are represented in the survey. The
majority of respondents (26%) are from the Greater London area, but all regions
and countries are represented (e.g. 8% from Scotland). Eighty two percent
defined themselves as academics and the remainder as practitioners or
practitioner-academics. Very many Academicians were members of more than
one learned society, and, as far as can be ascertained, every learned society in
UK social science is represented by at least one Academician.
Subject areas. The survey asked people to identify their main subject area.
Forty two different disciplines and 60 substantive social science areas were
represented in the sample. The predominant subject areas were sociology,
geography, psychology education and social policy (all 11-13% of the sample)
followed by economics, political studies, history and social research (all between
8 and 5%).
Methodological approach. Participants could nominate up to 2 methodologies
to characterise their work. Qualitative research 44%, case studies 42%,
interviewing 37%, data analysis 30%, survey methods, 28%, evaluation research
24%, secondary data analysis, 22%, statistical techniques 22%, observational
work 20%, field studies 18%, life events/historical analysis 15%, longitudinal
surveys 14%, focus groups 14%, cross cultural 13%, other 13%, intervention
studies 10%, research ethics/governance 12%, laboratory experiments 7%,
simulation/modelling 7%, ethnomethodology 3%.
The Future of Social Science in the UK
We asked how important, relative to other issues, each of a list of 13 areas was for the future of the social sciences in the UK. The items were selected on the basis of preliminary discussions with the Commission on the Social Sciences and in the light of prospective developments in the Roberts review and the White Paper on Higher Education. Responses were made on a scale from 1 (relatively unimportant) to 5 (relatively important). None of the issues was rated as relatively unimportant but some emerged clearly as more important than others.
The most important issue was availability of funding from ESRC (4.5 – 72%
rated 5) and trusts and charities (4.3 53% rated 5). This was followed by
concerns with influence over policy, training infrastructure for social scientists
and links between policy and research (all 4.0-4.1, with about 40% rated 5). The
next cluster concerned funding availability from other UK research councils and
the EU, teaching of social issues and the career structure for social scientists (all
3.8-3.9 with 30-35% rated 5). The RAE was slightly less important (3.7), as
were interdisciplinary issues, legal and ethical issues and government initiated
research (all 3.4-3.6).
Priority issues for the Academy.
We asked how desirable it would be for the Academy to concentrate on 15 different activities (each rated on a scale from 1 to 5, where 5 is highly desirable).
The three highest priority items were making recommendations to ESRC (mean
rating = 4.6), lobbying government and other policy organisations to support the
social sciences (4.6), and responding to government and research councils (4.5).
Over 75% of respondents rated these three activities to be of the highest priority.
The next set of priorities was to initiate consultation processes (4.4), contribute expertise in consultation exercises (4.4) and setting up working groups and expert panels (4.1) and pressing for increased funding for postgraduate students (4.2), activities that were rated highly desirable advocated by over 40%.
Networking activities were seen as desirable but not so crucial (e.g. national meetings, broadcasts, international networks, seminars, annual lectures, regional events – all averaging between 3 and 3.7). There was less enthusiasm for generating research projects or writing articles for journals (both 2.8).
Services sought from the Academy
We asked participants to indicate whether each of a list of 8 items was essential, desirable,
or not important.
All items were considered to be desirable or essential by a majority, suggesting that the Academy is focusing on an appropriate range of services. The items most frequently identified as essential were web site access to documents and reports (38%), up to 6 email bulletins per year (29%), invitations to prepare consultation documents (27%), and collaborative activities with learned societies and other organisations (25%).
Willingness to Participate in Academy Work
General participation. Academicians expressed a high level of willingness
to be contacted by the media (76%), to provide written research summaries to advisory panels (55%), and to speak to elected officials on policy issues (74%).
Participation in Academy activities. There was a high level of willingness
to serve on Academy committees, particularly the committee of Academicians (47%), Council (42%) and Learned Societies (33%). Over 20% were willing to serve on the nominations panel and Academy development group. We were also interested to gauge interest in 4 potential working panels. Interest was highest in participating in the panel on research infrastructure (23%), then ethics and governance (15%), asylum and immigration (8%) and new genetics (4%).
Initiating Academy Activities. High numbers also expressed willingness to
support Academy activities through organisational work. 48% offered to coordinate an Academy response to a government or other consultation in their area of interest (e.g. chair a working group). 45% offered to provide a venue, 33% to widen an event within their own learned society to include other members of the Academy, 33% to organise an Academy event or activity, and 31% to link an Academy activity to a related international activity. 20% wrote indicating willingness to be involved but that current commitments precluded them from doing so.
Comparison with the 2001 survey.
The 2002-3 survey shows that the membership of the Academy has become broader and represents the social sciences more fully. Their priorities are clearer and willingness to support the Academy greater than before.
Academicians now represent a far wide range of institutions and areas of social
science. For example, the number of institutions to which Academicians were
affiliated has more than doubled from 54 to 112. The number of subject areas
has also increased from 26 to 42
The priorities of Academicians have also changed somewhat. Although making
representations to external agencies and lobbying government were rated highly
in 2001 they are given greater priority in 2002-3. Moreover funding for research
has emerged much more clearly as a priority in 2002-3, as has the importance of
infrastructure and postgraduate training.
Willingness to participate in, support, or initiate Academy activities has
increased from an already high baseline in 2001.
The survey highlights the strong consensus about priority issues and strong support for the Academy’s efforts to represent and serve social science effectively.
The Academicians represent a very wide range of social science expertise in
terms of academic discipline, topic areas, methodologies and affiliation with
learned societies. They are very willing to contribute this expertise to support the
work of the Academy and to strengthen social sciences as a whole.
ESRC emerges as a clear focus of concern for Academicians. They see increased
resources for the ESRC as a priority and want the Academy to play a significant
role in ESRC’s consultations with social scientists.
A role in policy consultation and formulation is regarded as a major priority for
Other, non-governmental, sources of research support are also regarded as
Postgraduate training and career progression emerge as important themes.
Note: The survey was designed by Dominic Abrams and Jean Martin (members of Academy Council) with the benefit of comments and suggestions from members of Council and the committee of Academicians. The survey was printed and distributed by Fiona House, and the data coding and analysis was conducted by Dominic Abrams and Paul Hutchison. A copy of the survey and this report are available from the Academy’s website (www.the-academy.org.uk).