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ADDRESSING THE QUANTITATIVE METHODS SKILLS DEFICIT Michael Bright, ESRC
Summary n The need n Building a world-class social science research base – a national strategy n A strategy across the educational life-course n Next steps n Delivering change n Why important
The problem is well documented n Smith Inquiry of Post 14 Mathematics – fewer students seeking qualifications in maths related subjects in schools n The Royal Society Study – Degrees of Concern – highlights how between 1992 and 2005 the number of A-level entries in mathematics dropped by almost 20%. n Subject specific studies such as BSA study highlights problems in breadth, depth and uptake of quantitative methods teaching at undergraduate level. n ESRC and Funding Council scoping studies and reviews of Vulnerable Subjects illustrate weaknesses at postgraduate level. Mirrored by subsequent analysis conducted by National Centre for Research Methods (NCRM). n Problems extend across academic base where there is a ‘critical deficit in quantitative skills within the UK’ - Commission on the Social Sciences n Similar shortages across government research sector as identified in the Adding UP study.
Building a World-Class Social Science Research Base – A National Strategy Three key aims: n create a comprehensive and co-ordinated training framework in quantitative methods at each level of the educational life course. n integrate training across each level to create a coherent multi layered national training infrastructure which builds quantitative skills development at each subsequent stage of the educational life course. n create a framework which is flexible enough to meet the particular skill requirements of individual researchers. ESRC working in partnership with the Funding Councils, and Others.
A strategy across the ‘educational’ life course n Schools – co-ordinate lobbying activities alongside a range of other interested parties including Royal Statistical Society and Learned Societies n Undergraduate level – enhance teaching to improve the supply of quantitatively literate students for postgraduate studies n Postgraduate – strengthen training and enhance incentives to extend the uptake and application of quantitative tools and techniques n Mid-career – encourage researchers to deepen or refresh their quantitative skills and apply new skills in the teaching of undergraduate and the supervision of postgraduate students (‘training the trainers’)
Undergraduate Support n Commissioning of five pilot studies aimed at exploring innovative ways of enhancing the teaching of quantitative methods through problem focussed curricula development. n Commissioning of an International Benchmarking Review to establish how quantitative methods in the social sciences are taught at undergraduate level in other countries. n Scoping of other projects that might be used as innovative platforms for the delivery of undergraduate teaching of quantitative methods. n Workshop to assess emerging evidence and advise on ways forward. Going Forward: n £ 2 m provisionally allocated to support further commissioning. n Plans to appoint a Strategic Advisor.
Undergraduate Pilot Projects n Increasing the use of Large Scale Social Surveys in Undergraduate Dissertations in the Social Sciences. A Pilot Project. Professor Angela Dale, University of Manchester. n The Development of Undergraduate Curricula in Quantitative Methods. Dr Sean Carey, University of Sheffield. n SIMPLE: Statistics Instruction with Purposeful Learning Emphasis. Dr Catherine Fritz, Lancaster University. n Enhancing the Integration of Quantitative Methods Skills in Undergraduate Social Sciences Curricula. Professor Jane Falkingham, University of Southampton. n Increasing the Use of Quantitative Methods in Social Science Undergraduate Dissertations. Professor Jane Falkingham, University of Southampton.
Postgraduate: current strategies n Strengthen the generic requirements for training in quantitative methods, as specified in the Postgraduate Training Guidelines. n Increase the volume studentships whose doctoral research is focussed on quantitative methods. This has doubled since 2005. n Enhance the stipend for students who undertake doctoral research centred on the use of quantitative tools and techniques. This is £ 3 K above the standard stipend. Currently this enhancement means a annual stipend of £ 15. 5 K. By 2010 -11 this will represent an annual additional investment of £ 1. 5 m n Interim evaluation of the impact of the introduction of the enhanced stipends on the uptake of advanced quantitative methods.
Mid-career re-skilling: current strategies n Researcher Development Initiative: Includes 14 generic and subject specific projects focussed on advanced training in quantitative methods. E. g. Longitudinal data analysis, multi-level modelling, micro-economic forecasting. n National Centre for Research Methods: training programme e. g. Bayesian methods, statistical modelling, survey design and analysis. n Research Methods Programme: 39 projects disseminating new methods through workshops and events e. g. Event history analysis. n Early discussions with Scottish Funding Council about possible co-funding of a Scottish Quantitative Methods Network. n Total investment in advanced training between 2002 – 2008 around £ 4. 1 m.
Next steps n Build a more coherent strategy at undergraduate level. Incentive structures? Selective investment versus general development. Institutional champions/regional incubators v general institutional roll out. Accreditation frameworks? n Deepen generic quantitative methods requirements at postgraduate level, whilst simplifying subject specific requirements. Build a coherent network of students currently in receipt of enhanced stipends. Foster this group through targeted advanced training. n Develop a more coherent portfolio of advanced training opportunities in quantitative methods. Integrate these into an accredited qualification recognised by the ESRC and Government research functions. Modularise the course so it is flexible and can be delivered through CPD for contract researchers, government researchers and mid-career academics. n Concentrate capacity building (studentships, Postdoctoral Fellowships) and training around known centres of excellence and build these into a co-ordinated national network. Grow base from these known centres of strength.
Delivering change: national and regional networks n Backbone for co-ordinating change: National Centre for Research Methods. National network of research and capacity building ‘nodes’ and linked centres of excellence. n Deeper integration of RDI training projects with work of NCRM to create co-ordinated advanced training infrastructure. Further consultation required to identify gaps in provision and how these will be filled. n Delivery of training arising from NCRM network and RDI supported by UK wide Regional Training Centres. These can facilitate national and regional training events. n NCRM nodes act as regional incubators supporting capacity building in local research environment. n On-line delivery: roll out of current pilot work to sustain the development and use of high quality training resources and support distance learning.
The strategy will help to ensure that the UK: n commands a world class social science research base in advanced quantitative methods. n sustains its top 2 international ranking in social scientific research. n strengthens its position as a global leader in such areas as e-social science and research methods, building on previous SR investments. n commands an in depth research base to meet the national and regional demands of the wide range of policy makers.