As in 1996, this submission is an integrated report on research from two related groups of staff, one from the School of Social and Community Sciences (20 staff, including Offer as Research Coordinator) and one from the School of Public Policy, Economics and Law (13 staff, including Osborne as Research Coordinator). Thus 33 staff are included, an increase of 6 from 1996. Birrell, Carmichael, Erridge, Evason, Hughes, Knox, Mackay, McWilliams, Morrissey, Murtagh, Offer, Osborne, Paris, Robinson and Williamson were included in 1996. New entrants are Beer (Leverhulme Visiting Research Fellow), appointments since the last RAE, Biggart, Donnelly, Fee, Fullerton, Hillyard, Marnoch, O'Connor, O'Halloran and O'Neill, staff previously entered in other UoAs, Borooah, Dunn and Osmani, and Byrne, Cook, Heenan, Gray and McCallion, not entered in the RAE before. Of the staff returned in 1996 but not in 2001, two have become Senior Officers, four have left the University (UU) and four are returned in other UoAs.
The two groupings, described in UU as the social policy and the public policy groups, are of the highest priority for support and investment. Sociological, historical and philosophical approaches are commonly used within the social policy group, whilst the perspectives of economics, administrative science and law tend to frame work within the public policy group. Complementarity and collaboration (e.g. joint ESRC awards) have been promoted through the coordinators. UU is now forming a new Faculty of Social Sciences where these groups will be united in a School of Policy Studies from Summer, 2001, recognising the coordinated strategic research approach already in place. This change formalises existing inter-disciplinary work and provides a new framework for further innovative and collaborative research activity building on the established strengths. At a crucial phase in the development of these islands the combined groups will thus be further enabled to advance the academic and conceptual development of their fields and the formulation of evidence-based policy, internationally, nationally and regionally.
Since 1996 the research focus has been recast for clarity and to make explicit the unit’s relationship to changing policy objectives, changes in political structures in Northern Ireland (NI) and the Republic of Ireland (RoI), the particular interests of new staff, and innovation in research and scholarship by other members. Responsibility for particular themes is divided between the coordinators. The broad themes are: Voluntary Action, Informal Care and Family Studies; Equality and Equity; Conceptual and Theoretical Analysis of Welfare Thought and Policy; Education, Governance and Regulation; Service Delivery in Housing and Health. A further research related theme is the development of ARK - The Northern Ireland Social and Political Archive - a web-based resource on NI, including original research outputs, enhancing greatly access for global and local research and policy communities. Analytical unity across these research themes is achieved through the four explicit objectives of (a) furthering international and comparative dimensions of research, (b) exploring the needs of policy makers, locally, nationally and internationally, (c) examining the experiences of service users, and (d) retaining our distinctive focus on changes in NI and NI/RoI relationships, and in East/West relationships within the British Isles. A wide range of qualitative and quantitative methods are used. The seven themes are now summarised in a non-hierarchical order.
Voluntary Action, Informal Care and Family Studies
The Centre for Voluntary Action Studies (CVAS), based at Coleraine, is the focus in UU for voluntary action research, providing academic leadership for the development of this field on the island of Ireland. CVAS was established in 1995 by Williamson who is Director. CVAS is one of three such university-based research centres in the UK and the only one in Ireland. Other staff associated are O'Halloran (Assistant Director) and Birrell, Gray and Offer. CVAS has a strong record of publications and external funding. During the RAE period it first obtained £470,000 of core, project and studentship funding: in 1999 CVAS underwent a successful external evaluation of its first phase and in 1999/2000 secured further core funding of £485,000 for the next four years. Current project funding is in excess of £205,000, including two collaborative projects with other HEIs.
The work of CVAS has three themes: politics and civil society; the legal framework for voluntary action; social inclusion and voluntary and community action. CVAS works closely with external colleagues on an international and UK/Ireland basis: there is extensive contact with the voluntary sector. Representatives of government in NI, sitting on the CVAS Management Board, and an Advisory Committeee (with representatives of the voluntary and community sectors), have made significant contributions to the development of its research strategy. A Visiting Professor (Kearney, until recently Head of the Government's Voluntary Activity Unit in the Department for Social Development), who has extensive experience in NI of developing social policy in the field of voluntary action, provides links with the policy and user communities in NI and internationally. Williamson established in 1997 the Association for Voluntary Action Research in Ireland (AVARI) to promote all-Ireland research collaboration.
O'Halloran has undertaken extensive and important research on charity law; a recent phase involves international collaboration. There are important publications by Williamson and colleagues on participative democracy in NI's new institutions, new mechanisms to engage local interests in policy formulation in NI, and voluntary organisations in border areas and their engagement with EU funding programmes. Current work by Williamson includes a North-South study of housing associations (with Trinity College, Dublin and the University of Birmingham) and research into public participation in rural development (involving Aston and Glasgow Caledonian Universities). Two projects directed by Williamson and O'Halloran, externally funded, concern disability and voluntary action (a collaborative project between CVAS and the Down/Lisburn Health and Social Services Trust) and the contribution of faith-based bodies to developing and sustaining social capital. Two research officers and eight postgraduates are linked to this theme.
Research on informal care and family life embraces studies of the family law framework, and adoption (O'Halloran), divorce law, domestic violence, and the inclusion of women in political processes (McWilliams), lone parenthood (Evason and Robinson), the differences in employment by religion of women in NI (Gray and Robinson), gender and welfare in comparative contexts (O'Connor), farm families and cross-generational expectations of caring roles (Birrell and Heenan), and informal care in NI (Evason and Robinson). It also includes Evason's research with South Bank University for the NI Equal Opportunities Commission on working families' tax credit, Fullerton’s studies of preventative work in respect of teenage pregnancy and smoking and Morrissey's analysis, as co-author of Northern Ireland’s Troubles: The Human Costs (1999), of the effects of conflict on families. Other notable publications are Fullerton (1997, 1999), Heenan (2000), Evason and Robinson (1998, 1999) O'Connor, (1999 (2)) and McWilliams (1996, 1997). External research income in this (sub-)area exceeds £100,000 including an ESRC award to McWilliams (see also NI Life and Times Survey entry under ARK, below).
Equity, Equality, Conflict Resolution and Community Relations
Research in this cluster has NI, UK-wide and international dimensions. Knox’s work (Peace Building in Northern Ireland, Israel and South Africa) has sought to explore comparatively community-based strategies to conflict resolution in three different societies. Osmani has brought a new dimension to the group with his interest in development issues – especially a concern with poverty and a human rights approach to basic services in emerging economies particularly in Asia. Knox has obtained (with Dickson, UoA 36) a substantial ESRC award (part of the ESRC Violence Initiative) to investigate the role and impact of alternative justice systems in NI and South Africa. This research combines insights from public policy and legal perspectives. Hughes (with Knox) has examined the implementation of the EU Peace and Reconciliation Programme in NI with its focus on cross-community initiatives and novel structures for delivery (Partnership Governance in Northern Ireland: the Path to Peace). Hughes has also developed a detailed critique of the evolving community relations strategy in NI. Erridge and Fee have developed comparative research on contract compliance (EU, South Africa, Canada and NI). Robinson has hosted two major projects exploring comparative issues for countries in transition from violence: the ESRC Future Governance project on developing and implementing public policy in South Africa and NI; the Volkswagen/BICC (Bonn International Centre for Conversion) project on demilitarisation. Osborne has examined the development of equity/equality policy (fair employment, targeting social need and equality proofing in policy making) and leads an ESRC-funded interdisciplinary team examining equality and institutional change after the Belfast Agreement. Borooah has undertaken a sophisticated quantitative analysis of socio-economic data assessing the rationale for the distinctive NI Targeting Social Need policy. Cook was part of an ESRC-funded team analysing the rank-ordering of deprived places and equitable targeting of government resources. Similarly, Hillyard uses mapping techniques in ESRC research into spatial analysis of crime and justice with colleagues from Bristol. This cluster of research reflects a strong comparative dimension, a mix of quantitative research, policy analysis/policy implementation, and interdisciplinary research and policy relevance internationally. One research officer and three full-time research students are associated with this theme. Grant income for this area of research exceeds £200,000.
Conceptual and Theoretical Analysis of Welfare Thought and Policy
Offer provides leadership and has continued to publish on the social and political thought of Herbert Spencer and its impact. Herbert Spencer: Critical Assessments is a major four-volume collection with important new editorial material of over ninety key articles, past and recent, on the main aspects of Spencer’s work, providing guidance to the process of reappraising his thought. Related work by Offer (funded by the British Academy) on idealist and non-idealist social thought and policy seeks to account for the neglect and ‘rediscovery’ of informal care in research and policy. His Social Work, the Community and Social Interaction draws on his earlier research into informal care to provide distinctive sociological and theoretical perspectives on service users and social workers. Hillyard is examining postmodernism and social policy, police street powers as social discipline, and the theoretical analysis of crime, punishment and harm (ESRC project). Currently he is developing new thinking with colleagues in Bristol, Liverpool and various European universities around the idea of social harm and the potential of a new discipline of Zemiology (from the Greek, Zemia, harm) for an objective study of the forms of harm people experience during their life cycle. O'Halloran has offered a challenging analysis of the principle of the welfare of the child and the role and functions it has served in the past and present family law in England and Wales. Knox has examined the new conceptual thinking behind partnership frameworks for the delivery of EU programmes and their evaluation, Osborne the conceptual problems in formulating policy around targeting social need and positive action and positive discrimination in NI, and O'Connor problems in comparative work on citizenship and gender. Notable achievements include Hillyard (1996, 1999), Knox (1998, 2000), O'Connor (1998 (2)), Offer (1999 (3), 2000) O'Halloran (1999) and Osborne (1996). There are two full-time research students, one contract researcher and about £35,000 of external income (ESRC and BA) principally associated with this theme.
Osborne's work in higher education has expanded with a particular emphasis on widening access. Research has included collaboration with the European Access Network in a CVCP/Funding Councils project. The report ‘From Elitism to Inclusion’ published by CVCP in 1998 received national and international recognition. A second phase of this research is underway while an evaluation of the Irish widening access programme has been completed for the Higher Education Authority (HEA). Other work includes Nuffield Foundation funded research examining equal opportunities provision for students in UK and Irish Universities. The NI Education Department, the NI Higher Education Council and the private sector have supported research on higher education participation in NI, concentrating on social inclusion, graduate skill development, student finance and student migration. Higher Education in Ireland: North and South represents the first comparative monograph in this area. Dunn has continued his analysis of conflict, community relations and education in NI through seeking to explore comparative policy lessons. He has collaborated with colleagues in Psychology and History on the impact of integrated schools on cultural values and social identity. Donnelly is establishing work on how recent education policy has impacted on NI’s divided school system mainly at the primary level. She has been funded by the Nuffield Foundation (with Hughes) to examine aspects of community relations in primary schools in Israel and NI. Byrne has analysed recent policy developments with a particular concern with evaluating the implementation of the Local Management of Schools reforms in secondary schools. The Nuffield Foundation has funded Gray and Robinson to survey attitudes to the structure and social significance of education in NI between 1999 and 2004 (part of the NI Life and Times Survey, see below). Biggart’s research has been particularly focussed on the upper secondary school and occupational choices of young people involving comparative research with Finland. Two full time research students and one research officer (currently being replaced) are associated with this theme. Grant income in this period is approximately £100,000.
Governance and Regulation
Carmichael has been a member of an ESRC project led by Rhodes at Newcastle concerned with the historical development, contemporary and future trajectories of the civil services in the UK and Ireland. He has continued his interest in metropolitan governance in collaboration with Midwinter at Strathclyde. Carmichael, Gray and Knox received ESRC funding to examine local governance structures after devolution to NI. The research is likely to lead to significant involvement with the review of administrative structures recently announced by the First and Deputy First Ministers. Birrell has continued research on the local government systems in the two parts of Ireland and assessed the degree of cooperation between the two jurisdictions in social policy. Cook's work on cross-border census analysis has highlighted the methodological repercussions of poor harmonisation of data collection and release. Robinson is part of a team funded by the ESRC Devolution and Institutional Change programme to monitor attitudes to devolution and its new institutions. Erridge and Fee have developed a substantial area of research on public procurement that has gained national and international recognition. Together they have examined potential conflict between UK and European social and public procurement policy in relation to CCT and ‘best value’ and developed critiques of procurement practice in a range of circumstances. Erridge received a substantial ESRC award to examine UK central government procurement policy. There are two research officers associated with this strand. Grant income since 1996 exceeds £300,000.
Service Delivery in Housing and Health
Housing research is led by Paris as the senior academic specialist (other staff associated are Heenan, Hillyard, Mackay and formerly Murtagh). Special areas include Australia, Hong Kong and South Africa and Ireland, locality research and planning processes, interactions between public policies and market processes, and women and public housing. Staff have collaborated with colleagues in the School of the Built Environment to develop new perspectives on local housing markets. In addition Morrissey is co-director of the Urban Institute in Belfast, an essentially applied research unit, focusing on the capital city’s metropolitan infrastructure and evaluation of the initiatives of the Making Belfast Work scheme but also developing comparative research perspectives. Important achievements drawing on sustained research are Mackay’s publications comparing housing policy in South Africa, Hong Kong and NI, Paris and Beer on housing and problems of regional development in Australia, and Morrissey (1999) on dilemmas facing large cities such as Belfast. There are three full-time research students. One contract researcher is in post. Health research as a theme has been significantly strengthened since 1996 and it is envisaged that output will continue to develop substantially. In part its enhancement has resulted from a clear signal from the user community (DHSS) which has flagged a demand for high quality research. O’Neill and McCallion are developing evidence-based health research with a particular emphasis on economic evaluation. O’Neill, who came from Nottingham, has a strong track record and extensive research collaborations in Britain. His research has attracted funding from the MRC, and informed debates on intensive neonatal care and GP remuneration. A Harkness Fellowship for 2001/2 allows him to develop his research further whilst based in the US. Morrissey’s analysis of the health dimension of the ‘Costs of the Troubles’ work provides a definitive assessment of the last 30 years. Research grant income for housing and health research (including the Urban Institute) exceeds £720,000.
ARK (The Northern Ireland Social and Political Archive) is a collaborative programme of research and research resource development with Queen's University, Belfast (QUB) (www.ark.ac.uk). Robinson is director, Gray co-director. External grant income of over £740,000 in the RAE period is associated with UU staff included in this submission. Aimed at facilitating world-wide access to the social and political knowledge base on NI, it has three key components. The Conflict Archive on the Internet (CAIN) facility provides an extensive range of information and source material on ‘the Troubles’ in NI from 1968 to the present. The NI Life and Times Survey (NILT) facility has established an extensive database on public attitudes to a range of policy-related themes. Run yearly, the survey monitors attitudes to devolution, pensions, education, gender issues and the environment as core areas. With the emphasis on ease of access and the provision of research support secondary use of this data is becoming routine among students and researchers nationally and internationally. Life and Times is a major development initiative building on the success of the earlier NI Social Attitudes Surveys (Robinson, Heenan, Gray 1998 etc). The ESRC, Wellcome, Nuffield, Gulbenkian, BUPA and government agencies are funders. The Online Research Bank (ORB) is the most recent development and provides a database of summaries of social policy research focused on NI. An example of NILT research which will lead shortly to published outputs is the Nuffield-funded module on the resources of pensioners and those approaching retirement undertaken by Evason. There are five contract research staff.
UU has a Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research) and a Research Office that have sustained and energetically promoted a research culture and established a research strategy which frames the work reported in this submission. The Research Office provides support in the submission and administration of research grants. The Research Coordinators report to the Pro-Vice-Chancellor on progress in funding applications and success rates, the numbers and progress of postgraduate students, and on publications. The coordinators disseminate information on funding opportunities to research active staff (and prospective research active staff), and meet regularly with senior staff attached to ARK and CVAS and with the leaders of other research themes. A crucial mechanism for managing research comes through the annual trilateral meeting between each member of staff, the research coordinator and the teaching coordinator to help to identify research goals in terms of publications, grants and research student supervision. The coordinators encourage postgraduate applications, allocate supervisors and monitor progress. They are responsible for a budget to support research active staff in presenting papers to international and national conferences, in making material ready for publication, in relief from teaching commitments and in research assistance. This budget assists postgraduates to attend conferences both as part of their research and to present initial findings. Resources are allocated for capital equipment to meet the requirements of new and existing staff. In each year researchers from institutions in Europe and beyond visit the research groups as a whole thereby enhancing research culture. The Faculty Research Graduate Schools support postgraduate students through ensuring adequate resources, conferences, training in methods in the first year and assessing progress each year of study. At the unit level these measures are supported through regular seminars arranged by the coordinators which combine presentations by staff and students with social events. It has been a deliberate policy to develop a positive research environment and enhance postgraduate numbers. As research students have increased we have ensured that they are guided to work in our main thematic areas. Postgraduates are encouraged to publish their work. Staff and postgraduates contribute to a wide range of meetings including conferences of the Irish Social Policy Association. (Note that NI postgraduates studying in NI are not eligible for ESRC studentships.)
From September 2000, Emeritus Professor Robert Pinker of LSE is Visiting Professor. He holds workshops with postgraduates, and works with CVAS and staff concerned with the theoretical analysis of policy and user perspectives, drawing on experience as a Press Complaints Commissioner.
The research infrastructure in respect of internal financial support, library and information technology, access to external funding, contact with researchers elsewhere, and internal co-ordination and information exchange through, for example, conferences and presentations, is well established and integrates contributions from and benefits to postgraduate students. There are nominated persons responsible for coordinating publicity about research findings/outputs in local and national media (Osborne and Robinson). Research findings are disseminated through UU's website. Within ARK, ORB provides a mechanism for researchers to disseminate their findings. In addition each thematic research group disseminates findings through specialist networks. For example, housing related research is disseminated to the Housing Studies Association and the European Network for Housing Research. CVAS has a research-based website and through AVARI produces information on new research writings. Research on widening access to higher education is disseminated through the European Access Network. A research paper series, mainly for local research and policy communities, enables research findings to be made available in advance of journal or book publications. There are frequent public launches of research projects and conferences to disseminate results, often held in Belfast and occasionally Dublin venues to maximise impact.
The University and the Faculties have effective and responsive arrangements for the development and support of the research work of staff. Paid study leave may be taken (Donnelly, Gray, Paris, Mackay since 1996) and research rewarded through promotion (Erridge, McWilliams and Offer to Chairs; Carmichael, Murtagh and Robinson to Senior Lectureships). The University (as does the group) ensures that contract researchers’ contribution to research is properly acknowledged in publications and the importance of the Concordat is being recognised through UU policies on regular appraisal of research staff and lengths of contract. There are induction courses for new staff involved in research and research-related courses for all staff provided by the Research Office and the Staff Development Unit. Since 1996 UU has funded or assisted in securing the funding of additional senior and junior 'new blood' posts including two new Chairs in Social Policy (Hillyard, and O'Connor, funded by an external philanthropic source), two new Readers in the areas of public management in health and public expenditure, and two lectureships, including one to replace Murtagh. Recognition of the distinguished and sustained research effort is demonstrated by 13 of the staff returned holding UU Chairs. UU continues to regard this unit as having a very high priority in its overall strategic research policy and invests accordingly through both a large, centrally administered strategic element and the formulaic budget allocation to the coordinators which includes reinvestment from overheads secured from external contracts.
Staff are returned as Category A except Marnoch and Murtagh (A*), and two as Category C (McWilliams, now a member of the NI Assembly, who continues to research, and Beer, Leverhulme Visiting Research Fellow).