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10 September 2008
Five Welsh universities have come together to deliver a £9M project which will help government, policy makers, and businesses better tackle major social problems in Wales.
The centre of excellence will be known as The Wales Institute of Social and Economic Research, Data and Methods (WISERD).
The Institute, which will be coordinated from a Hub at Cardiff University, brings together leading social scientists from across Wales who will work together to develop a more detailed picture of the people of Wales through the collection, analysis and dissemination of data in areas from economic activity and growth to education, community participation, health and social care.
The project is jointly funded for three years by the Economic and Social Research Council and Higher Education Funding Council for Wales. The new inter-disciplinary social science research centre builds on existing social science expertise at Cardiff University, Aberystwyth University, Bangor University, Swansea University and University of Glamorgan.
Enabling social scientists across Wales to take a more joined-up approach to gathering and analysing new, existing and vital social science data, the Institute will seek to engage the people of Wales in discussions about the places in which they live and how they can be changed for the better, which together will help inform future policy decisions.
It will create a critical mass of expertise in social sciences in Wales and provide a solid research base to support policy development by the Welsh Assembly Government. It is also anticipated that it will enable Wales to better compete for future research funding.
First Minister Rhodri Morgan said 'This is a substantial advance in social research of relevance to Wales. This new centre of excellence will take us much further down this road because making effective policy depends on high quality data and when that information has been assembled it becomes a starting point for problem-solving and policy development. The Wales Institute of Social and Economic Research, Data and Methods work will enable the social science community to make a bigger contribution to addressing the key issues we face here in Wales.
Professor Teresa Rees, Pro Vice-Chancellor, Research at Cardiff University said: This heralds a new development for the social sciences in Wales. Not only will it enhance the research competitiveness of the Welsh sector on a UK and International basis it will also help gather the kinds of research data relating to Wales which will have practical applications for the benefit of every community in Wales.
For the first time, Wales will be able to boast a centre of social science research excellence to support the Government in tackling economic and social issues in Wales through the collection of data using the most advanced research methodologies and internationally renowned researchers.
Linked to the Economic and Social Research Council National Centre of Research Methods, the Institute will be responsible for social science research capacity building in Wales, developing links with other UK initiatives, and promoting collaboration across disciplines and institutions.
It will carry out work around four inter-related programmes of activity which will involve examining existing data sets and identifying areas of shortage in social data, data collection across localities in Wales using innovative research methods, policy analysis and examination, and building Wales-wide research skills through training, networking and academic appointments. The Institute will also look to increase interaction with policy makers and the private sector through consultancy.
The Wales Institute of Social and Economic Research, Data and Methods is currently recruiting 20 researchers to join an established team of internationally recognised researchers involved in the new venture.
Wales Institute of Social and Economic Research, Data and Methods (WISERD)
WISERD is jointly funded from the Welsh Assembly Government (HEFCW) and the UK Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) to draw together and build upon the existing expertise in quantitative and qualitative research methods and methodologies at Cardiff, Swansea, Aberystwyth, Bangor and Glamorgan Universities. WISERD will embark on an ambitious data integration, primary research and capacity building programme in Wales.
WISERD is coordinated from an administrative centre at Cardiff University. The research activity and programme of capacity building of WISERD is distributed across the partner HE institutions and also involves the Welsh Assembly Government, ONS and other public organisations. WISERD is an interdisciplinary social science research centre. Contributing disciplines include sociology, geography, social and public policy, economics, politics, education and social work.
WISERD has four inter-related and integrated programmes of activity:
The identification, archiving, integration and management of existing Welsh data sets; including the identification of areas of data deficit, and the examination of issues, challenges and opportunities involved in methodological innovation and the development of mixed methods.
The phased study of localities across Wales, which will serve as sites of detailed (qualitative and quantitative) data collection and methodological development.
Policy Analysis and Evaluation which will involve two distinct strands of work, i) developing and implementing mixed research methods for the rigorous evaluation of complex policy interventions; and ii) comparative policy analysis.
Research capacity building, training and networking leading to the development of inter-institutional research teams with a strong emphasis on addressing identified deficits in research skills in Wales.
The work of WISERD is organised around a number of thematic strands, including:
Data Integration and Data Management;
A series of Locality Studies across Wales (including survey methods and ethnographic fieldwork);
Policy analysis and Evaluation;
Methodological development, including innovative qualitative and quantitative methods;
Training and capacity building with strong emphases on quantitative, qualitative and mixed methods.
WISERDs research activity and programme of capacity building will be formulated and delivered by teams in each of the WISERD institutions with a member of academic staff in each institution taking a lead role as co-director, and member of the executive team of WISERD.
Cardiff University is recognised in independent government assessments as one of Britains leading teaching and research universities. It is also ranked as one of the worlds top 100 universities by Times Higher Education (THE). 2008 marks the 125th anniversary of Cardiff University having been founded by Royal Charter in 1883. Today the University combines impressive modern facilities and a dynamic approach to teaching and research. The Universitys breadth of expertise in research and research-led teaching encompasses: the humanities; the natural, physical, health, life and social sciences; engineering and technology; preparation for a wide range of professions; and a longstanding commitment to lifelong learning.
Cardiff is a member of the Russell Group of the UKs leading research universities. Visit the University website at: www.cardiff.ac.uk
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