Research as a social process

Writing a book about MPs in the House of Commons has reminded that that it is impossible to make sense of the world on your own. The House of Lords in the early 2000s was easier to study because a shared ethos emerged out of conversations with peers, for instance about meritocracy in the Chamber. Peers will listen most carefully to those they deem to be most expert. To see whether or not this is true you have to watch them, but at least all regular attenders made similar claims. In contrast everything in the Commons is fragmented, contested and changeable. Conflicting views about the work and behaviour of MPs are found between parties. Factions within parties disagree about the role of the whips. Different women and men perceive the rules of debate through varying lens. Those ambitious for frontbench posts work differently from those who focus on scrutiny and the representation of their constituents. And on it goes. So I'm showing my first draft to MPs and officials and rather than thinking of this as a process of correction, it is part of the process of researching the multitude of views about what goes on in the British parliament. Their responses to my draft will help me develop a fuller understanding of these views and the contradictions between them.

Communicating research ideas

 

I was delighted last week to be filmed by Sam Mohammed in my garden shed. Researchers want to communicate their ideas beyond universities and yet many people don’t have time to read books or long scholarly articles. So I jumped at the chance to explain my research project to a movie camera. It was edited into a 4 minute video and uploaded onto an intriguing new site (www.facultimedia.com) which has physicists talking about string theory, an artist explaining the metaphorical potential of image and a report on different outcomes resulting single-sex and co-educational schools, to mention just a few.

 

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