IOE - Faculty of Education and Society


IOE120: The impact of Covid-19 on society and social research

This IOE120 Conversation focuses on the expertise of our Social Research Institute.

Experts from different fields within social research discuss people’s very different experiences of the pandemic depending on their social characteristics, as well as the pandemic’s effect of magnifying those differences and revealing new insights.

Chaired by Professor Ann Phoenix, Professor of Psychosocial Studies at IOE, this recorded round table discussion explores the impact of Covid-19 on society not only directly, but also on what its devastating effects have revealed about underlying social phenomena.

Watch the recording

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The panel discusses how research from IOE’s Social Research Institute has highlighted the gap between the government’s emphasis on personal responsibility as the key to combating the virus and the differing ability of people to act in accordance depending on their circumstances. We explore how Covid has presented an array of ‘natural experiments’ shedding new light on issues such as gender and the labour market, the utility of economic indicators, and even football. Our academics explain what they’ve learned through a range of work including a project working with young families in Tower Hamlets, an analysis of Covid-related hate crimes, and the addition of new questions to IOE’s world-renowned longitudinal birth cohort studies.

The participants reflect on the role of social research in mitigating the effects of the pandemic, and how its findings can point the way towards building a more resilient society for the future.

About the Social Research Institute

IOE’s Social Research Institute works to advance knowledge and to inform policy in areas including gender, families, education, employment, migration, inequalities, health and child/adult wellbeing. It is home to four of the UK’s longitudinal birth cohort studies, which follow the lives of thousands of individuals from birth, charting social change and the reasons behind it.

Since IOE began undertaking more social science research in the early 20th century, the Social Research Institute has grown to one of the leading centres in the UK for multidisciplinary teaching and research in the social sciences.

About the panel

Chair: Professor Ann Phoenix

Ann Phoenix is Professor of Psychosocial Studies at IOE. She worked at IOE’s Thomas Coram Research Unit from 1983-1992 and then worked at Brunel University, Birkbeck University of London and the Open University before returning to be the Co-Director of the Thomas Coram Research Unit (from 2007-2014). Her research interests include motherhood, social identities, young people, racialisation and gender, with recent projects covering boys and masculinities, young people and consumption and adult reconceptualisations of 'non-normative' childhoods', particularly in relation to serial migration, visibly ethnically mixed households and language brokering in transnational families. Ann is a Fellow of the British Academy and of the Academy of Social Sciences.

Professor Phoenix is a member of the Independent SAGE Behavioural Advisory Group. Her Covid-related publications include Public Perceptions of Building Back Better: An intersectional view. See also: The Conversation and Institute of Advanced Studies Talk Pieces.

Read Professor Ann Phoenix’s research profile.

Professor Alex Bryson

Alex Bryson is Chair of Quantitative Social Science in the Social Research Institute at IOE. He is an applied labour economist with a background in sociology and his research covers various aspects of work and employment relations, as well as sports economics and predicting economic downturns. He teaches on IOE’s BSc in Social Sciences with Data Science, MSc in Public Policy and MSc in Social Research Methods programmes. Professor Bryson is also a Research Fellow at IZA in Bonn, the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) in London, WISERD in Cardiff and Rutgers in New Jersey, USA. He is Chief Editor of Industrial Relations: A Journal of Economy and Society and an editor of the Journal of Participation and Employee Ownership. 

Professor Bryson’s Covid-related publications have variously covered: Covid and labour market inequality; Covid and mental health in America and recession in America; absent football crowds

Read Professor Alex Bryson’s research profile.

Dr Katherine Twamley

Katherine Twamley is Associate Professor of Sociology in the Social Research Institute at IOE, specialising in gender, love and intimacy, feminist practice, and family, with a particular interest in India and the Indian diaspora. Her research has been funded by the ESRC, British Academy and Leverhulme Trust, among others, and her book Love, marriage and intimacy among Gujarati Indians: A Suitable Match (Palgrave Macmillan: Basingstoke, 2014) was shortlisted for the British Sociological Association Philip Abrams Award.

Dr Twamley’s Covid-related projects and publications include the British Academy-funded FACT-COVID study (with Dr Charlotte Faircloth and Dr Humera Iqbal), which explores how families with children have experienced the COVID-19 pandemic across ten different countries.

Read Dr Katherine Twamley’s research profile

Professor George Ploubidis

George Ploubidis is Professor of Population Health and Statistics at IOE and Director of Research and Principal Investigator of the National Child Development Study and 1970 British Cohort Study, respectively, at the Centre for Longitudinal Studies. He is a multidisciplinary quantitative social scientist and a longitudinal surveys methodologist. His main research interests relate to socioeconomic and demographic determinants of health over the life course and the mechanisms that underlie generational differences in health and mortality. Prior to joining UCL, Professor Ploubidis held posts at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) and the University of Cambridge.

Professor Ploubidis’s Covid-related publications have covered psychological distress, the furlough scheme and health behaviours, and inequalities in healthcare disruptions; he leads the Society & Health theme of the Longitudinal Health and Wellbeing National Core Study and is a co-investigator on the Coronavirus post-acute long-term effects: constructing an evidence base (Convalescence Study).

Read Professor George Ploubidis’s research profile.


Professor Margaret O’Brien

Margaret O’Brien is Professor of Child and Family Policy in the Social Research Institute at IOE. Until recently she was Co-Director of IOE’s Thomas Coram Research Unit, which she joined from the University of East Anglia. Her research interests include fathers, work and family life, with a focus on parental leave policy and parenting support. In particular, she seeks to understand how fathers and mothers can work and care together for the welfare of children and gender equality. Another significant strand of Margaret's work has examined children's experiences of neighbourhood life, concerned with understanding children's local kin and neighbourhood environments in the context of class, ethnicity and faith groups. Professor O'Brien is a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences.

Find out more about Professor O'Brien’s Covid-related project: Families in Tower Hamlets: impacts of Covid-19

Read Professor Margaret O’Brien’s research profile.

Professor Kirstine Hansen

Kirstine Hansen is Professor of Social Policy in the Social Research Institute at IOE. Her research interests relate to education and skills acquisition and attainment across the life-course, and she has written extensively using birth cohort data to examine the determinants of cognitive development and academic achievement, trying to unpick to the mechanisms of inequality of opportunity and outcomes, with particular focus on the role of the family and of perceptions and choice in achievement. More recently, she has examined the impact of Covid-19 on crime, relating to hate crime (and the role of the media) and to domestic abuse. Alongside, Professor Hansen leads IOE’s MSc Social Research Methods programme, and various professional short courses on quantitative analysis. 

Read Professor Hansen’s Covid-related paper: Did Covid-19 lead to an increase in hate crimes against Chinese people in London? 

Read Professor Kirstine Hansen’s research profile.