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Cathie Marsh Institute for Social Research (CMI)

Institute Away Day report

5 May 2017

The Institute Away Day was held on 1 March 2017 in the rather fine surroundings of Dalton Ellis Hall. This was my first Away Day as incoming Director and I was really pleased that attendance was so high and discussion proved so constructive.

The tables were unexpectedly but very attractively festooned with bunting by the Dalton Ellis Hall staff and their generous afternoon tea kept the participants' energy levels from dipping. Attention focused on two key areas - strengthening and promoting our identity and staff/student engagement.

On the first front we took the decision to adopt the new shorter acronym CMI and developed a new structural organisational chart which outlined our four main research themes – Quantitative Methods and Data Science; Data Capacity Building; Social Inequalities and Civic and Political Participation – and the research groups that sit within them. A lively debate ensued around results of the Word Cloud map which had been generated prior to the Away Day using keywords sent by staff to describe the work of the Institute.

Cathie Marsh Institute for Social Research word cloud
Cathie Marsh Institute for Social Research word cloud

Based on this feedback it was clear that inter-disciplinary quantitative social science lies at the heart of what we do and during the course of the discussion we identified three main foci in our QSS expertise - methodological development and innovation, application to substantive social challenges and training and capacity building within the research community. This central message will form the basis for our future internal and external communication strategy and promotional material.

More practical changes involved changing the frequency and focus of staff meetings to place more emphasis on providing channels for research communication within the Institute. We will now run a weekly research seminar that will feature local staff and students along with external speakers nominated by our research groups. In addition we will now hold 2 ‘All Hands’ research meetings to promote the sharing and exchange of ideas across themes, generate input for important upcoming strategic reports/meetings, and feedback the outcomes of those meetings. An annual research ‘showcase’ event will be held in the summer that will promote Institute work within the School and Faculty.  Finally, we plan to hold a biennial public facing event in the Spring which will centre around a timely topic relevant to the work of one of our themes.

Looking forward to next year several major goals were identified. Perhaps the most important of these was increasing our profile and membership within the School, Faculty and University and also to promote our reputation as a centre for excellence in Quantitative Social Science nationally and internationally. Plans for new publicity materials, greater outreach to other parts of the University based on our research agenda and also development of our current short courses training programme are in place to meet these goals. The addition of a new strategic investment fund to help support Institute staff promote our work overseas is also seen as an important step to delivering on these aims.

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