IOE - Faculty of Education and Society


New book explores how social science research and its timing matter

14 November 2019

A new book by a UCL Institute of Education (IOE) academic has been published examining how social science research is conducted and ‘matters’ at particular times.

People on South Bank, London

‘Social Research Matters: A life in family sociology’ (Bristol University Press) by Professor Julia Brannen explores research conducted in the IOE from the 1980s to the present day. It includes a chapter on the research environment, with the Thomas Coram Research Unit (TCRU) and the IOE as a case study.

The book examines key developments in the field and demonstrates how social research is an art as well as a science; a process that involves craft and creativity. The book considers the structures, policies and practices within a university context and how they impact on social science research.

Professor Brannen said: “‘Social Research Matters’ provides key messages for universities, for the quality of the social science research they do, and for the ways in which they value those who do much of the labour of research. It shows how the university, not only the availability of external and internal funding, shapes the kinds of environments in which research is done.”

As the book documents, social science research should be in advance of policy and social change, and not only reflect current concerns. Professor Brannen gives examples of projects that were conceived well ahead of their time, including the rise of mothers in the labour market, the significance of generations and generational relations and the advent of food poverty.

The book ends by examining future directions for social science research. It lists themes related to the migration of families within, as well as to, the UK, the decolonisation of Britain's high streets, and housing as topics that require future research.

Professor Brannen added: “These and many other questions about what kind of society we want for future generations, particularly in the context of environment and climate change, demand the attention of researchers, as they do of politicians and policy makers. They require interdisciplinary collaborative research, a historical approach and a visionary perspective that takes seriously what families and civil society bequeath to the generations to come.

“Most importantly, in an age of diversity, social inequality and political division, they require us to think about the ‘public good’ and the kind of society we desire for our children.”