An innovative LSE research project, which attempted to understand the roots of and responses to the 2011 riots, has been shortlisted for the Times Higher Education (THE) ‘Research Project of the Year’ award.
Reading the Riots, a joint project between LSE and The Guardian, sought to show how large-scale, rigorous social research could be launched, undertaken and reported in a timescale that would parallel the fast-moving political and public debates about the disturbances.
The project was announced in September 2011, one month after the outbreak of trouble in Tottenham, north London, and aimed to better understand why riots then spread to other parts of the capital and cities across England.
Professor Tim Newburn (pictured), head of the Department of Social Policy at LSE, gave the academic direction to the project. It was supported by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and the Open Society Foundations.
Professor Newburn said: ‘Reading the Riots sought both to understand the nature of the riots and to use its findings to participate in public and political conversations about the appropriate policy response to the worst disorder in a generation. If it was in any way successful, we hope it may also offer some insight into new ways of conducting social research in the public interest.’
Fieldwork began in early October 2011 and ran for five weeks. In-depth interviews were undertaken with 270 people involved in some of the most serious violence and looting in all the major cities affected, only a minority of whom had been arrested.
Initial results were published in The Guardian in early December. Coverage ran for six days across 21 pages of the newspaper and online. Media coverage included major current affairs and news outlets in the UK but also the US, Russia, China, Japan, and much of Europe. Public figures including the Home Secretary, Shadow Home Secretary, Leader of the Opposition, senior police officers and the Archbishop of Canterbury all responded to its findings, which included the frustrations felt by alienated and disenfranchised youth, together with widespread distrust of the police as major causes.
A second phase of the study began in early 2012, and this focused on the communities affected by the riots and also looked at events through the eyes of criminal justice professionals. Almost 300 further interviews were conducted with police officers, across all the major cities affected, with the prosecution and defence lawyers who staffed the courts in the aftermath of the riots, and with victims of the disturbances.
These results were published over three days in The Guardian in early July 2012, and were accompanied by a Newsnight special and a BBC verbatim drama. In total the study will have run for 10 months, with the researchers interviewing over 600 people.
The award winners will be announced at a ceremony on Thursday 29 November at the Grosvenor House Hotel, London. For more information, visit www.the-awards.co.uk
For more information about Reading the Riots, click here or visit The Guardian.
Posted on 6 September 2012