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RA5a: Structure,environment and staffing policy

The Unit has been transformed radically since 1996. Nine outstanding new research-active colleagues have been recruited. These new staff represent 50% of the Category A/A* staff returned. Three further appointments have been made in 2001. The research programmes of existing staff have developed fruitfully, leading to seven externally assessed promotions. Per capita research income has risen by 48% and is more widely spread. 15 of the 18 Category A/A* staff returned have held or been awarded grants in the period. These come from a range of highly competitive sources, including research councils, charities, EU, government and industry. Research output shows greater strength in depth, with an average of 13 publications per head. Numbers of research students and numbers of degrees awarded have more than doubled (120 FTE and 20 awards). The proportion of staff with PhDs has risen to 95% (60% in 1996). These trends, which reflect a major improvement in research performance, are described in detail below.
Research in the Unit focuses on the methodologically rigorous and theoretically informed investigation of policy-relevant issues. Promoting and supporting an active research culture are central to the strategy of the Unit. Scholarly interactions have been greatly enhanced by the clustering of research around the four topics outlined below. The University has endorsed the scale of work on three of these topics through formal recognition as University Research Centres. Recent rapid growth in the fourth (Social Exclusion), following the appointment of four new staff, promises a similar concentration of work in this area in the near future. All staff are linked to at least one topic and most are associated with several. This overlap affords excellent opportunities for theoretical and methodological cross-fertilisation across different areas. The emphasis within these groups is upon informal support and networking. Colleagues provide feedback on draft publications and funding applications and discuss theoretical, conceptual and methodological aspects of work in progress.
Health Policy and Medical Sociology (Dingwall, López, Manning, Martin, Murphy, Pilnick, Shaw): A well-established group works on health, with funding from ESRC, Wellcome, DH, HSPSCB, Lottery and NHS Exec. The Centre for Medical Sociology and Health Policy, directed by Manning, has close links with many parts of the Medical School, although a critical distance is maintained from medical interests. There has been joint work with Business, Education, Public Health, General Practice, Law, Psychiatry, Pharmaceutical Sciences and the Trent Institute for Health Services Research. Current work focuses upon three areas. The first concerns mental health policy. It includes evaluations of the Mental Health Act Commission (Shaw) and therapeutic communities, leading to a major national revision of Trust purchasing policy, (Manning), an analysis of GP referral letters for specialist mental health services and a study of ‘revolving door’ psychiatric admissions (Shaw). Shaw has studied the management of depression in general practice. The second is the health policy, social insurance, and social risk implications of new medical technologies. The University has invested £350,000
to establish the Genetics and Society Unit (Dingwall, Martin, Pilnick) to cover development and secondment of core staff. Partnerships are in place with several other departments. Work includes health policy, health care provision and genetics (Dingwall and Pilnick), policies on informed choice in antenatal screening (Pilnick), and the regulation of gene therapy, technology transfer in UK and Europe and the social and public policy implications of cloning (Martin). Grants totalling over £1.3m will be taken up in 2001. Much of this (£1.19m) will support a new multi-disciplinary Institute for the Study of Biorisks and Society (Director: Dingwall), incorporating the Genetics and Society Unit (see below). The third area involves work on health professionals’ practice, discussed under Work, Employment and the Professions and Gender and Social Relations below.
These three interests are cross-cut by a concern with methodologies for policy related health research. A ground-breaking methodological review of the literature on qualitative research on health (Murphy, Dingwall, Greatbatch for NHS Executive) has attracted interest from major funding bodies, senior policy officials and research practitioners (1552 copies despatched; accessed electronically by 10,533 readers, to year end 2000). Sociology of Health and Illness, the leading international journal in this field, is being edited in the Unit for six years from 2000 (Dingwall, Murphy, Pilnick). Shaw and Manning co-edited a special mental health issue of Policy and Politics.
Research has been supported by 12 grants (total spend = £333,280) from sources such as Wellcome, Department of Health, Lottery and NHS Executive, and has led to the publication of 1 book, 1 edited collection, 35 refereed articles, 9 book chapters, 1 working paper and 6 reports. 30 research students have been investigating related topics.
Work, Employment and the Professions: (AldridgeA, AldridgeM, Dingwall, Evetts, Greatbatch, Ladipo, Pilnick, Strangleman, Walker): A long-standing interest in Professions and Professional Work has widened to include other aspects of work. A central theme is the policy implications of changes in the nature of work and the emergence/ transformation of occupational groups. This includes studies of the reduced role of the nation state and the growing influence of supra-national institutions on regulation of professional work (Evetts); the impact of globalisation on job insecurity and, in turn, its impact on welfare state provisions (Ladipo, Walker); the reorganisation of probation training as an example of state-led de-professionalisation (AldridgeM) and the transformation of coal mining and the rail industry (Strangleman). Much work concerns the impact of such changes: eg the emergence of new occupational cultures on print journalists (AldridgeM); the development of NHS Direct on nurses’ career trajectories (Strangleman); job insecurity and work intensification on manual and non-manual workers (Ladipo, Walker); transformation of working class identities (Strangleman) and the transfer of risk within personal finance from the state to the individual (AldridgeA, Walker). Detailed analyses of working practices of occupations (e.g. pharmacists, genetic counsellors, anaesthetists, obstetricians, midwives (Pilnick) divorce mediators (Dingwall, Greatbatch)) complement this work. There is also substantial research on gender and work (see Gender and Social Relations below), and important links, given successive governments’ emphasis on paid work as a route out of poverty, to other work on Social Exclusion (see below). Work was supported by 11 grants (total spend £341,191), from sources including ESRC, Department of Health, NHS Executive and EC and has led to the publication of 1 book, 1 edited collection, 34 articles in refereed journals, 18 book chapters, 7 working papers and 14 reports. 17 research students have been investigating related topics. Three overseas visiting scholars were hosted (Buchner-Jeriorska, Pélage, Edelman).
Much of this research developed within the Centre for Professions and Professional Work whose international reputation is underscored by its Director’s appointments to key positions in ISA, SASE and ESA (Evetts: see RA6). Members organised one international conference and the Professions Streams at five international conferences (see RA6). In 2001, they are organising the major international conference in this field - Work, Employment and Society.
Gender and Social Relations: (AldridgeM, Dingwall, Evetts, Manning, Morley, Murphy, Pascall). The formation of the Centre for Gender and Social Relations (Directors: Morley and Pascall) provided a focus for well-established and emerging work. One theme linking much of this work is the penetration of social problems into the agenda of policy makers and practitioners. Of note here are three ESRC funded studies which address the impact of changing housing policy on women and children experiencing domestic violence (Morley, Pascall), the impact of government policy and professional practice on infant feeding (Murphy) and the marginalisation of domestic violence in divorce mediation (Dingwall, Greatbatch). A second theme concerns the relationship between gender, changes in the family and work (e.g. gender and careers in science and engineering (Evetts), gender and print journalism (AldridgeM), gender and banking (Evetts, Pascall)). The impact of structural changes upon women was central to a study of the effects of economic transition and the delegitimisation of the state on gender relations in transition countries, funded via UNICEF under the Women in Transition project (Pascall, Manning). This report’s selection as the only non-governmental report to be presented at the UN General Assembly Preparation Committee (Beijing + 5) reflects its policy significance. The changing gender relations of parenting in Poland are now the subject of a collaboration between Pascall and a Polish colleague (Kwak). Research has attracted external funding, with 5 grants (total spend = £184,162), largely from sources such as ESRC and EU and has led to the publication of 2 books, 19 refereed articles, 7 book chapters and 1 report. 14 research students investigated related topics. One overseas, EU funded scholar (Kwak) was hosted.

Social Exclusion (Fitzpatrick, Ladipo, Manning, Pascall, Silburn, Song, Walker). The appointments of Fitzpatrick, Ladipo, Song and Walker complement prior interests in social exclusion (eg Manning on unemployment, Pascall on young adults with disabilities), and further strengthen international perspectives. Walker’s research challenges traditional modes of conceptualising and measuring poverty and social exclusion, reformulating both as social processes rather than states, with important implications for policy response. Song’s work on rural poverty and social policy in Africa and China complements Manning’s work on Russian social policy and Walker’s research on poverty and social exclusion in the EU and USA. Fitzpatrick’s publications on crime and social exclusion fit well with Ladipo’s work on income and racial inequalities in US and their exacerbation by prison population growth. Fitzpatrick’s work on the ‘basic income debate’ complements Walker’s promotion of ‘positive’ and proactive forms of social security and analysis of paid work as a response to poverty. Work in this field has attracted 9 grants, (total spend £223,803), from sources including Rowntree and EU (INTAS) and has led to 4 books, 3 edited collections, 24 refereed articles, 21 book chapters, 6 working papers and 15 reports. 8 research students investigated related topics and two British Academy funded, overseas scholars were hosted (Davydova, Tikhonova).
Theoretical and methodological underpinnings Research in the Unit is underpinned by the development of new concepts, theoretical frameworks and research methodologies to analyse the impact of rapid socio-cultural change on individuals and communities. In addition to work cited above, this includes: critical assessment of efforts by the state and consumer organisations to create an informed public of consumers (AldridgeA), clarification and refinement of the concept of social structure (López), developing a more nuanced approach to the representation of social work in the UK press (AldridgeM), analysis of the corrosive effect of the market on traditional workplace cultures (Strangleman), addressing the increasing interaction of Internet and offline environments, and the implications this has for identity and community membership (Fitzpatrick), and analysing the impact of consumer culture on communities of religious faith and systems of religious authority (AldridgeA).
A particular strength of the Unit is its engagement with policy and practice to develop and refine modes of generating policy-relevant evidence. Dingwall, Manning, Murphy and Walker have pioneered the use of systematic reviews in health technology, mental health, nutrition and welfare policy, extending coverage to non-experimental and qualitative methods. Meta-analyses have been undertaken by Manning and Walker and are currently being applied to the complete set of US welfare to work experiments (Walker). Walker has also initiated the use of event history techniques to investigate the dynamics of welfare policy and introduced pluralistic approaches to large-scale policy evaluation. Unsurprisingly, given the Unit’s international standing in qualitative methods, such approaches have been creatively exploited in applied settings. For example, Walker has applied qualitative approaches in international comparative research. He has also written widely about the use and limits of evidence based policy making and is currently investigating the role of research evidence in international policy transfer.
Inter-disciplinary research: Staff in the Unit are members of 3 University Interdisciplinary Institutes. The Institute for Russian, Soviet, Central and East European Studies funds international visiting scholars (Davidova, Buchner-Jeziorska), international conferences (Manning), and made a successful bid to HEFCE for 3 new permanent lectureships in 1997, 2 of which came 50% to the School (Pickvance, Pupavac), but are returned elsewhere. The new Institute for Contemporary Chinese Studies funds a permanent lectureship (Song). The new Institute for the Study of Biorisks in Society, with £1.19m from Leverhulme, funds two posts in the Unit (Dingwall, Martin). In addition, six new permanent posts, in partnership between this Institute and other Schools, will provide an exciting stimulus for further interdisciplinary research. The post-holders will be located within the Unit’s greatly extended accommodation (see below). All three Institutes are important foci for interdisciplinary research. Staff are also involved in interdisciplinary research collaborations and student supervision with Food Science, General Practice, Nursing, Reproductive Medicine, Education, Pharmaceutical Sciences, Public Health, Psychiatry, Law, Economics, Geography and the Business School.
Research students contribute significantly to the research culture. We have Mode A and CASE ESRC Recognition and are recognised as an appropriate outlet for PhD training by Wellcome, MRC and NHS Trent (OST 14.5; Wellcome 2; NHS Trent 1, in period). 85 research students (59 ft, 26 pt) have been registered in the Unit in the period. This is a major expansion since 1996. 15 PhDs and 5 Master’s degrees have been awarded (6 PhDs and 2 Master’s in previous period). The full impact of expansion on awards will occur in the next RAE period. This area illustrates the rapid change in the Unit’s research productivity.
Research students have published 22 articles in refereed journals and two book chapters. Nine are now in academic appointments, 5 are academic research associates and two are in government or political employment. Six students are jointly supervised by colleagues from other departments, bringing an inter-disciplinary dimension to the programme. Students have offices within the Unit with guaranteed access to desks and PCs and equal access with staff to Unit infrastructure and resources. They are fully involved in planning the School seminar programme, regularly make presentations to weekly School research workshops and are represented at School Meetings and on the Research Development Group (see below). They also have their own programme, with weekly graduate workshops and student-led reading groups. In 2000, they organised a highly successful national conference for PhD students, attracting 90 participants from 34 home and 1 overseas institutions. A second conference is planned for June 2001. Student attendance at national and international conferences is supported financially and students have made 41 conference presentations (including 10 at overseas conferences) in the period.
Support for research: Research policy development is supported by at least two Research Away Days each year. The Research Development Group represents several ‘constituencies’ (recently appointed/more established academics, staff whose research is supported by large/small grants, research staff and research students). The Director of Research is responsible for implementing policy. Biennial staff appraisals (annual for probationary/research staff) have been supplemented by six-monthly research reviews. Where needs are identified, help is offered through finance, mentoring and/or relief from other responsibilities. The Director of Research monitors the external environment and advises colleagues about its impact upon research. She offers individual advice about targeting publications, funding and other resources, supported by a Research Information Officer who sifts and disseminates information about funding, conferences etc.
University funds (up to £15k) are available through competitive schemes to pump-prime strategic research initiatives (£13k awarded in the period). Attendance at national and international conferences is also supported (£36k in period). Two staff are on study leave each semester and staff receive six months’ leave every three to four years (16 in period). Younger staff receive additional support: teaching loads are reduced to 1/3 normal load in Year 1, 2/3 in Year 2. New staff receive a minimum of £1k to support the development of their research (total £9k). A University New Lecturers’ Fund, from which three new lecturers have received grants totalling £25,500, offers pump-priming funding up to £15k for academics in their first three years. Mentors provide individual support in relation to research and publication. Joint supervision of research students offers the opportunity to gain supervision skills by working with experienced colleagues. In 1999, the Unit was relocated to completely refurbished accommodation in a prime site adjacent to the university library. In 2000, research expansion led to a further 50% extension of the Unit’s space (total non-teaching rooms now = 43).
In the period, the University has invested a total of £418k central funds to support the Unit’s research. This is an indication of the University’s confidence in the Unit’s buoyant and dynamic research environment. This confidence is also reflected in the appointment of Unit staff to five University Research Strategy Groups and of Manning to University Research Committee.
Research in progress is presented at weekly workshops which are well-attended by staff and research students. These facilitate cross-fertilisation between those working in the different but related research areas outlined above. These are supplemented by informal reading groups which form spontaneously as shared interests emerge. At present, these groups include Gender and Parenting, Work, Employment and Society and Cultural and Social Structures. Monthly half-day data workshops allow staff and students to work together on data analysis. Invited speakers make presentations at monthly seminars which attract a large audience from within and beyond the School.
Choice of UoA: As a fully integrated School of Sociology and Social Policy, the choice of UoA was not entirely clear cut. Our choice reflects the close fit between our work and the UoA 40 descriptor. As evidenced above, and in RA2, comparative social policy and administration, methods of social policy research, socio-legal issues, crime and criminal justice policy, urban policy, housing policy, social divisions of welfare and links to structures of inequality (in particular ethnicity, gender, disabilities, age) poverty and social exclusion, employment and labour markets, social policy in developing and developed countries, policy, practice and service delivery with regards to social security and income maintenance, health, youth and families and voluntary associations and communities are all research interests within the Unit. We rejected the possibility of making separate returns to UoA 40 and 42. To have done so would have ridden roughshod over what we believe to be a major strength of our work – our capacity for investigating policy-relevant problems in a theoretically informed, conceptually sophisticated and methodologically rigorous way.
Users, collaborations and dissemination: In addition to the academic collaborations outlined above, much research, consultancy and advisory work in the Unit involves working with public, voluntary and private sector bodies (See RA6). Service users and providers are actively involved in several projects. For example, the Impact of Changing Housing Policy on Women’s Vulnerability to Violence Project Advisory Board includes workers from relevant agencies. Women’s Aid Federation England is a project consultant. The project directors have consulted widely with local authority departments and advice/advocacy organisations. The Advisory Committee for the Disability and Transition to Adulthood Project is representative of agency and user groups. In these projects users are active in developing the research agenda. Users are also actively involved in negotiating access to the 25 therapeutic communities studied by the Therapeutic Communities project.

Findings are made accessible to users, policy makers and practitioners in a range of ways. These include invited presentations to the National Conference on Domestic Violence and Child Protection, Notts Child Protection Committee Conference and Newnham National Domestic Violence Conference (Morley), ESRC Nation’s Diet Practitioners’ Seminar and Programme Conferences (2), NHS Executive Health Technology Commissioning Board , Medical Research Council’s HSR Board (Murphy), UNESCO World Congress of Engineering Educators and Industry Leaders (Evetts). Walker has made presentations to 8 government ministers. Summaries of the findings of research on job insecurity (Ladipo), working conditions in midwifery (Ladipo), infant feeding (Murphy) qualitative methods applied to health technology assessment (Murphy and Dingwall) and employment and social policy (Manning) have been widely distributed to policy makers and practitioners through conventional and web-based media. Manning made a major contribution to the UN 2000 World Summit for Social Development (see RA6) and his non-executive directorship of Notts Healthcare Trust offers ongoing opportunities for using findings from his mental health research to inform policy and practice. Training and feedback events have been organised for research participants and practitioners/service users in genetic counselling, anaesthetists, pharmacists (Pilnick), health service researchers (Murphy, Dingwall) and coal workers (Strangleman). Research received media coverage in THES (AldridgeA), Guardian (Ladipo, Murphy, Strangleman), Independent (Ladipo, Martin), Times and Financial Times (Ladipo) and on Radio Four’s Today Programme (Ladipo) and Science Now (Martin), Radio Five Live (Ladipo) and the BBC World Service (Murphy, Martin, Ladipo), Channel 4 News (Martin) and various local radio stations (Martin, Murphy). Research findings are also made available through the popular OUP text Social Policy (Manning) and the multi-volume, 1,000,000 word International Encyclopedia of Social Policy to be published by Routledge (Fitzpatrick, Manning, Pascall, Walker).
Staffing Policy: Arrangements for supporting the development of research are described above (Support for Research). The Unit fully implements the University’s policy on the development and career management of research staff, which covers the key points in the Concordat for the Career Development for Researchers. This includes procedures for promotion, induction, continuing professional development, supervision and appraisal. These procedures allow us to identify and respond to the career development needs of individual staff. For example, we have set aside £8000 to support a period of study leave for a long-term member of the contract research staff. The Contract Researcher Career Development Programme offers 16 different courses on a wide range of topics.
Unit staffing, structures and activities were reviewed following RAE 1996. Eight of 18 non-social work academic staff returned in 1996 retired or were re-deployed. This, and Heath’s return to King’s College, offered opportunities for reinvigorating the Unit through new appointments. Seven appointments were made at lecturer level, 1 at senior lecturer and 1 at professorial level. In 2001, 3 further appointments have been made at Chair, Senior Lecturer and Lecturer levels (see below).
Staff restructuring focussed initially on areas of strength: Health, Professions and Professional Work and Gender and Social Relations. Two of these (Health and Professions) were identified as research clusters in 1996. The third was an area of considerable new growth. Initial appointments strengthened these three areas, at grades reflecting the levels of experience among existing staff. These included a lectureship in health, a senior lectureship in Professions and a professor to provide leadership in Gender and Social Relations. The Unit now takes a less prescriptive approach to recruitment, encouraging organic growth of research. Two new lectureships have extended long-established interest in the professions to other kinds of work. As anticipated in 1996, the Social Security Cluster redefined its interests in terms of social exclusion. This has been strengthened by appointments at lecturer and professorial levels. Despite retirement, Silburn continues to be an important resource for those working on social exclusion, not least through his Rowntree funded project and his editorship of Benefits. Social Work and Social Welfare has expanded into a separately funded Centre for Social Work (returned to UoA 41). The Culture and Socio-legal Clusters ceased to be discrete entities although some work continues in these areas.
While here, Heath stimulated interest in interaction analysis and this legacy strengthened research on workplace organisation and language use. Staff and students working in this field continue to benefit from the intellectual leadership and expertise of Greatbatch (Category C). The sophisticated video analysis suite, part of the University’s investment in Heath’s appointment, remains an important resource. Lewis was recruited to provide leadership in Gender and Social Relations. In 1999 she left to take up the new Barnet Chair at Oxford, having strengthened this work in a number of ways, including adding an international dimension. These developments, and the promotion of two members of the Centre for Gender and Social Relations to Readerships (Murphy, Pascall) have enabled us to replace her with a professor (Walker) to support work on social exclusion.
Additional observations: The 65 publications in RA2 are drawn from 248, including 9 authored books, 7 edited collections, 60 chapters, 119 journal articles, 14 working papers and 36 reports. They were selected to show the range of work in a diverse multi-disciplinary Unit, to include sole and joint writing and a range of types of output and to highlight policy relevant publications. Among those not cited are 3 books, 3 edited collections and many articles in journals including Journal of Social Policy, Social Policy and Administration, International Journal of Law, Policy and the Family, Critical Social Policy (2), Policy and Politics (4), Journal of Health Services Research and Policy, International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, International Journal of Health Services, Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Oxford Economic Papers, Evaluation, Qualitative Sociology, Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, Sociological Research Online, International Sociology, and Disability and Society. Despite considerable collaborative work in the Unit, there is no duplication of papers in RA2. Given the number of early career staff, this represents a very healthy level of output.
Almost all income in RA4 comes from highly competitive sources following rigorous peer review. These include ESRC (17%), charities such as Wellcome, Leverhulme, Rowntree and the Spencer Foundation (21%), UK (33%) and EU (23%) government departments. Almost all grants (90%) were awarded following open competition or competitive tendering processes. A number involve interdisciplinary collaborations at Nottingham and partnerships with other UK and overseas institutions. P.I.s, supported by a dedicated Finance Officer and the University’s Research and Business Unit, are responsible for project financial management. Overheads are returned to grantholders, after deduction of central costs, and these are used for further research development.


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Copyright 2002 - HEFCE, SHEFC, ELWa, DEL

Last updated 17 October 2003

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