Social Science in the Public Sphere: Riots, Class and Impact
Social Science in the Public Sphere
- Riots, Class and Impact
Professor Patrick Dunleavy
2nd July 2013
Social Science in the Public Sphere
Reading the Riots
Department of Social Policy
The 2011 riots
• Thurs 4th August: Mark Duggan
• Sat 6th August: Tottenham
• Sun 7th August: Wood Green,
• 8th August: Ealing, Camden
Town, Kingsland Rd, Barking,
Enfield, Notting Hill, Hackney,
Peckham, Camberwell, Croydon,
Clapham, Bromley, Merton,
Birmingham, Liverpool, Nottingham
• 9th August: Woolwich; West
Manchester; Salford; Gloucester
The riots: reaction
• But nobody doubts that the violence we
have seen over the last five days is the
symptom of something very deeply wrong
with our society… Why does a violent gang
culture exist in so many of our towns and
• This is criminality, pure and simple, and it
has to be confronted and defeated.
• What I found most disturbing was the sense
that the hardcore of rioters came from a
feral underclass, cut off from the
mainstream in everything but its
Phase one: timetable
August September October November December
6-9th Riots 5th Launch project 3-4th Interviewer training Early: start planning launch
5th Findings: Policing
16th First conversation
between Paul Lewis & Tim
5th Advertise for
5th Fieldwork begins Mid: Fieldwork ends 6th Findings: Looting; poverty
22nd Start planning project 19th Shortlisting 11th Analysis begins End: initial analysis ends;
write-up starts; planning
7th Findings: Gangs; policing
24th Start talking to
From 19th Recruit
From 17th Recruit ‘fixers’ 8th Findings: Social media
w/b 26th Seek ethical
w/b 17th Start sharing data
9th Findings: Ethnicity
23rd – 28th Recruit
10th Findings: Gender; phase
14th LSE Conference
An unusual project: staffing
• Directed by:
– Guardian and LSE
- Interviewers (over 30 in all)
An unusual project: publication…
• Phase One
– 6 days early December 2011
• Rioters & the police
• Social media
• Policing, victims
• Phase Two
– 3 days early July 2012
• Criminal justice system
• 23 pages in Guardian in Dec ‘11
• Further 10/11 pages in July ‘12
• 2 Newsnight ‘specials’; BBC verbatim
drama; Today programme; all major news
bulletins; over 50 media interviews on
launch day alone;
• Responses to RtR from: Home Secretary;
Shadow HSec; Leader of Opposition;
Archbishop of Canterbury; Justice
Minister; Commissioner of the Met Police;
• Evidence to Home Affairs Committee;
Victims and Communities Panel
• Shortlisted for THES ‘research project of
the year’ 2012
• Winner ‘Innovation of the Year’, British
Advantages of working with a
• ‘Can do’ culture
– TV; radio; newspapers; opinion formers;
politicians; general promulgation
• Resources – Multi-media; data visualisation
• (The one thing you don’t worry about
is whether you have a ‘story’)
Challenges of working with a
• ‘Cultural’ contrasts
– Methodological contrasts
– The story in advance?
– The headline
– Focusing on ‘ends’ or ‘means’?
• Reputation (works both ways)
– When not to mention The Guardian
– When not to mention the LSE
• RtR had great ‘impact’ in one sense,
but perhaps not in REF terms
• REF Impact case studies:
– Summary of impact
– Underpinning research
– References to research
– Details of impact
– Sources to corroborate
• Challenges for RtRs:
– Non-traditional publication
– No obvious means of citation
– Directly critical of current policy direction
All project materials (reports, articles, films etc) available at:
Class and Impact
Some Reflections on the Great
British Class Survey
Sam Friedman Fiona Devine
Project Team: Mike Savage, Niall Cunningham, Mark
Taylor, Yaojun Li, Johs. Hjellbrekke, Bridgitte Le Roux.
• Over 7 million hits on the BBC website
• NYT most ‘shared’ world news story of
• One of most tweeted articles in history
of social science (altmetric.com)
• One of the most popular and
controversial pieces of sociology ever
conducted in UK
• A model for the future?
April 3rd 2013
Emergent Service Workers of the World Unite!
‘A political party - but the good kind’
The Story of
• Project developed in conjunction with BBC’s Lab
• Attempted to establish ‘public value’ via:
• The creation of peer-reviewed scientific
• Popular content for BBC broadcast and web
• Web survey launched in Jan 2011 with much
• 161,000 participants - largest survey on class
The GBCS: The Results
• Seven Classes Identified
• Elite 22% 6%
• Established Middle Class 43% 25%
• Technical Middle Class 10% 6%
• New Affluent Workers 6% 15%
• Emergent Service Workers 17% 19%
• Traditional Working Class 2% 14%
• Precariart <1% 15%
The GBCS: Two Headlines
• Clear POLARISATION between top and bottom with
identification of elite often overlooked in survey
research and a precariat which is not insignificant in
• Obvious FRAGMENTATION at the middle with the
divide between the establish middle class and
traditional middle class not so clear but and
important groups in between
What did not go so well?
• Representativeness of web survey a problem. Heavily
skewed to advantaged middle classes. Typical BBC
• Disadvantaged working classes underrepresented. Even
those replying would not have been typical. Higher cultural
• BBC funded a face to face survey sample survey to facilitate
a more representative picture.
• Required clever statistical analysis when national survey
results were weighted to web survey. Took lots of advice.
• Some members of the academic community not overly
impressed. Colin Mills and Danny Dorling quick off the mark.
What did not go so well? Change,
Time and Analysis
• Working with an organisation and people going through
change. Instigator, Philip Trippenbach, left for a new job
on launch day.
• Initial lack of ownership, working with different sets of
people coming and going, frequent meetings on project
on what it was about etc.
• Different conceptions of time for BBC team and
academic team. Could not come up with quick results.
• Early results and preliminary reports not especially
liked. Important `reboot’ was an important turning
point which turned things around.
What did not go so well?
Focus on public Discussion
Not easy translating
findings into media friendly formats.
Did with the BBC Class Calculator and it has
just won a prize
But interest rarely went beyond calculator
Sometimes assumed calculator was all there
Preoccupation with place in which of seven
What went well: Optimising
• Huge resources of BBC behind launch of web
survey. Mike Savage on The One Show.
• Attention generated the high level of participation
in survey at the beginning.
• Resource came in again with launch of results.
Fiona Devine on BBC Breakfast.
• Increased participation again with a further
200,000 doing the full web survey.
What went well?: Despite
everything, it happened!
• Lots of unfunded research time went into project.
Could well have not seen the light of day. Stuck with it
and it did but……!
• A couple of critical people. Richard Cable stayed
interested even though he moved on to pastures new.
• Michael Orwell, BBC producer, stayed with the project
the whole time, was patient and understood the
academic issues at stake.
• Never any threats to our autonomy. Desire for a news
story, something highlighting change, but no particular
What went well: GBCS and
• The Big Personality Test 16,580
• Brain Test Britain 5,194
• The Web Behaviour Test 2,896
• The Stress Test 11,764
• The Big Money Test 17,120
• The Big Risk Test 23,420
• How Musical are You? 29,853
• The Get Yourself Hired Test 5,981
• Test Your Morality 22,183
• Can You Compete Under Pressure 11,270
Lessons learnt: the research
In no particular order…….
patience, patience, patience and hanging in there
maintaining good relationships with key folk
making the best when the situation is not ideal
understanding needs and pressures on both sides
being flexible and creative to continue to make
research always messy, this project as messy as any
scientific value of work will take time to be established
In no particular order….
You have very little control of course!
You have to take the bad with the good
Cannot be too precious or churlish
Important things being learnt from public reaction
New data for analysis which becomes part of the project
It is a ride but it is massive fun