Research Projects

Browse projects that our researchers are involved in

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Diversity and Productivity from Education to Work | Aliya Rao | 2022-2025

This ESRC-funded project will advance understanding of the barriers to creating a diverse workforce and provide new evidence on the benefits of diversity to business performance. The role of education as the ‘leaky pipeline’ will be considered, in which individuals from under-represented groups lose access to career opportunities, creating a substantial ‘lost potential’ of highly qualified individuals.

A multidisciplinary team will tackle the project’s questions using cutting edge qualitative and quantitative methods from several disciplinary perspectives. The team will work with businesses to design, test and implement the recommendations from its research, directly affecting practice and hence workplace diversity. This will allow for an immediate impact on improving the opportunities of under-represented groups, in addition to increasing diversity in a way that maximises the benefits to firms.

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The police drone experiment: Using virtual reality to simulate a new mode of police surveillance | Jonathan Jackson2018-2023

Trust and legitimacy are essential to a functioning legal system. To secure legal compliance, police need to demonstrate that they are a moral, just and appropriate institution that has the right to enforce the law. When people willingly abide by the law, this reduces the need for costly and minimally efficient modes of policing based on force, deterrence and intrusive surveillance.

Yet, AI and new technologies are increasingly being used by the police, raising issues of fairness, ethics and privacy. When police use drones to stop and scan people for facial recognition and a search for illegal goods, they turn everyday situations into moments of surveillance. How do people react? Does the experience damage trust and legitimacy?

In this ESRC-funded project the researchers use virtual reality to study the impact of drone surveillance on public attitudes. Virtual reality allows us to run a large-scale psychological experiment, recreating situations that would otherwise be impossible to recreate in a realistic, immersive way. After an initial priming experiment, research participants find themselves in a mundane cityscape—one designed to represent a US city, the other designed to represent a UK city—in which they are stopped by a drone and scanned for facial recognition and a search for illegal goods. By manipulating key aspects of the experiments—such as whether the encounter accords to principles of procedural justice—we test a psychological theory about the subjective experience of fairness and legitimation in the context of police use of surveillance technology.

One defining featureof this ambitious study is the photo-realistic quality of the VR experience. Another distinctive aspect is the use of Steam and directed advertising to recruit research participants at scale in the US and UK.

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Studying social security in a (post) pandemic context | Kate Summers | 2022-2026

This project will develop qualitative methodological tools to investigate some of the most pressing issues relating to working-age social security benefits that have been exacerbated (or less often created) by the coronavirus pandemic.

The research programme is funded by the British Academy and motivated by two major, interrelated, challenges:

a) The policy challenges for the working-age social security system that have been revealed or exacerbated by the pandemic, with a particular focus on key groups, including: disabled claimants or those with a long-term health condition; and claimants balancing paid and unpaid work.

​b) The methodological challenges for researchers brought about by physical and social distancing, and the wide-ranging socioeconomic aftereffects of the pandemic, with a particular focus on: the challenges of physical remoteness; lack of inclusive practices in existing methods; ongoing and increased time scarcity of some research participants; and the lack of participatory practices in existing methods.

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Contestations of citizenship in contexts of democratic backsliding: lessons from post-communist Europe (CITDEM) | Eleanor Knott | 2022 onwards

While post-Communist European countries have been the site of stalling democratization and rising backsliding, the consequences of backsliding on the evolution of citizenship regimes have remained largely unexplored. The collaborative CIVICA project on ‘Contestations of citizenship in contexts of democratic backsliding: lessons from post-communist Europe’ brings together EUI, LSE and CEU. Using case-studies and comparative research, we unpack how citizenship regimes change during periods of democratic upswings and downswings, and in particular when democratic governance becomes a façade veiling populist and authoritarian political objectives.

This project focuses on post-Communist Europe, as a site of recent state formation, democratization, and more recently democratic backsliding. But, in western Europe and North America, we are also observing the waning of democracy, rise of populism, and mounting concerns of political corruption and rule of law accompanied by threats to citizenship. Not only does the CITDEM project provide implications for studying the intersections of democracy and citizenship beyond post-Communist Europe, but it also holds potential to broaden collaboration to include, engage, and collaborate with scholars of western Europe, as another, albeit newer, site of democratic backsliding.

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Developing Latent Hierarchical Network Models for Cross-Cultural Comparisons of Social and Economic Inequality | Eleanor Power | 2021-2022

This project will develop network models that fully exploit the various facets of the information typically contained in social network datasets. In doing this, the researchers depart from prevalent models in contemporary social network analysis that treat an observed network data set as representing the "true" network. Instead, they assume that the true network is "latent" and, therefore not empirically observed, and further frame the observed network data as an imperfect measurement of what they are modelling. In proposing this probabilistic framework, they will first account for the various individual-level biases that shape who people name (and who they do not). They will then extend their model to allow for nodes (here, people) to form into hierarchically nested groups (for example, households) and thus capture units at the different levels that are present in the system. Finally, they will expand this model to account for changes over time of both the individual units at different levels of the hierarchy and their relationships, thus capturing relevant time evolution.

The grant has been awarded by the ESRC and the project is grounded in the analytical needs of the "ENDOW project," a US National Science Foundation-funded project. The models that will be developed here will help them understand (and potentially then rectify) some of the drivers of social and economic inequality around the world.

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ENDOW | Eleanor Power | Ongoing

This project is a cross-cultural, comparative and longitudinal study of social and economic inequality, co-directed by Eleanor Power. Called by the acronym “ENDOW” (Economic Networks and the Dynamics Of Wealth [Inequality]) and funded by the US National Science Foundation, this project has enlisted anthropologists working in over thirty countries around the world to gather comparable social network data in over forty communities.

The ENDOW project is aimed at investigating the economic consequences of social network structure, both for individuals and for the larger communities they comprise. This is a fundamentally comparative project, as we expect that the variation we observe in the structure of social networks will help to explain some of the cross-cultural variation in wealth inequality. The unique data gathered by the ENDOW team members will allow for fruitful investigations into the social and economic dynamics of these communities.

Read more, including publications that have drawn upon ENDOW data


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What constitutes ‘good policing’? Improving police interactions with victim-survivors of rape and other sexual offences (method: survey) | Jonathan Jackson | 2022-2023

Project context: Operation Soteria–Bluestone is a comprehensive academic-police programme that aims to radically and sustainably improve procedural justice and outcome justice for rape and other sexual offences.

Part of Operation Soteria-Bluestone focuses on what ‘good’ policing looks like from the point of view of the victim-survivor. We expand procedural justice theory to include a wider array of relational signals that police officers send through their actions, decisions and demeanour in the context of rape investigations.

Breaking down police actions along various dimensions, we test whether justice is experienced by victim-survivors along various behavioural and identity-relevant dimensions, including being treated with respect and dignity, being believed, kept informed and taken seriously, being shown that society cares about justice in the context of gender-based violence, and signalling that they could get some kind of closure—that they are not defined by their experience.

In addition to documenting people’s subjective experiences, we also explore some of the factors linked to secondary traumatisation (where the police response creates further distress and emotional pain) and people’s willingness to report gender-based violence in the future.

This survey-based study sits alongside further the work on “Victim engagement” carried out by "Pillar 3" of Operation Soteria-Bluestone, led by Kelly Johnson (University of Glasgow).

Read more about the study or see coverage in The Guardian