Alexandra Albert


Developing Approaches for Citizen Social Science and Public Anthropology


September 2014 – September 2017


Alexandra is an ESRC CASE PhD student looking at developing approaches for citizen social science and public anthropology. The PhD is based in the Cathie Marsh Institute for Social Research (CMI) at Manchester University with co-supervision from the Mobilities.Lab at Lancaster University and in collaboration with the Mass Observation Archive Trust.

The PhD seeks to explore whether citizens can become fieldworkers of their own lives, using readily available digital technology to collect data as they go about their daily activities in a more directed and structured way. Many people are increasingly creating digital data from their own daily activities and communications such as, for example, through on-line searching and purchasing records, as well as through social media communications.  However, to what extent can volunteer citizens be mobilised to work in collaboration with trained social scientists to systematically gather data about the world they observe around them? The role of being a volunteer observer in this sense is as a form of civic involvement or responsible citizenship.

Citizen social science could bring a renewed idea of public sociology and a radical, emancipatory and social justice driven social science. The volunteer observer methodology might enable and empower the citizen in the social research process and also facilitate the researching of issues where resources are limited and where populations are hard to reach. Citizen data archives could be set up with people automatically copying their observation data alongside other data such as blogs and social media for social science research. Empowered citizens could then have greater control over such data and provide scope for social science research use. Citizen social science could lead to the tackling of intractable social issues.

The PhD will examine new digital methods for emancipatory social science research, which has citizens at the centre as both research contributors and researched. It will also examine the ethics behind such methods. A mixed methods approach will be used, including a citizen science evidence review, a longitudinal follow up of previous Mass Observers, a series of pilot data gathering case studies which will involve the cross validation of observation data and consultation with key stakeholders in the social science research field. The PhD will produce valuable evidence to develop our understanding of new methods and data and the potential for a transformative social science.


  • Kingsley Purdam
  • Monika Buscher
  • Gillian Evans


Prior to starting her PhD Alexandra worked as a social researcher for seven years, undertaking primary and secondary research, deploying a range of qualitative and quantitative research methodologies from in depth interviewing and qualitative data analysis, to designing citizens’ juries to survey design and statistical analysis. She has previously worked for the Grantham Institute for Climate Change at the London School of Economics, Arts Council England and The Work Foundation.

She is particularly interested in notions of citizenship and citizen participation, expertise, communities of practice and how these are sustained and the rate at which they grow, the DIY/maker scene, and the implications of big data for identity and everyday existence. 

Previous publications

  • Reid B, Albert A & Hopkins L (2010) A Creative Block? The Future of the UK Creative Industries The Work Foundation
  • Sullivan J, Wong W, Adusumili D, Albert A, Blazey L, Huggett M (2010) Deal or No Deal: An exploration of the modern employment relationship The Work Foundation
  • Wong, W, Sullivan J, Blazey, L, Albert, A, Tamkin, P & Pearson, G (2010) The Deal in 2020: A Delphi study of the future of the employment relationship The Work Foundation
  • Tamkin P, Albert A (2010) A Policy Review of Skills Utilisation, A report prepared for the UK Commission for Employment and Skills, UKCES
  • Tamkin P, Cochrane L, Williams M, Wong, W, Albert A (2010) High Performance Working: Employer Case Studies, UKCES
  • Tamkin P, Albert A, Reid B, Hopkins L, Blazey L (2010) Skills Utilisation Case Studies: Analytical Report, UKCES
  • Wong W, Albert A, Huggett M, Sullivan J (2009) Quality People Management for Quality Outcomes The Work Foundation

Contact details


Twitter: @bun81