The Australian National University (ANU) Centre for Social Research and Methods (CSRM) was established by the College of Arts and Social Sciences in November 2014 to provide national leadership in the study of Australian society.
CSRM has a strategic focus on:
- the development of social research methods;
- analysis of social issues and policy;
- training in social science methods;
- longterm maintenance of crucial ANU surveys; and
- providing access to social scientific data.
In August 2014, the ANU purchased the Social Research Centre Pty Ltd (SRC), a leading Australian social research and data collection services company, which is a major provider of consultancy and social research to the government, academic and not-for-profit sectors. As part of the acquisition, it was agreed that the University establish the ANU Centre for Social Research and Methods as a joint initiative between the ANU and the SRC. This close partnership between the two entities is unique in Australia. It enables the world-class academic expertise of the Research School of Social Sciences through CSRM – along with commercial operations of the SRC – to have a significant impact on the quality of social research being undertaken, and consequently improve social policy making at federal and state levels.
Although social surveys and qualitative research are widely used in Australia for academic research purposes, evaluating government social and health policies and programs, and ascertaining community attitudes – and despite the high costs associated with undertaking such research – there has been limited investment in advancing social science methodologies. This has significant impacts on the quality of work being undertaken and the capacity for government and the private sector to build a credible evidence base both to inform and to evaluate policy programs and initiatives. The ANU Centre for Social Research and Methods is designed to fill this gap. It is becoming increasingly difficult and costly to collect primary survey data in the social sciences. It is therefore imperative that when high-quality survey data are collected that the use of these data is optimised. Too often, data collected by individual researchers and research teams are not made available or analysed by others to validate initial findings, or to extend the analysis with new and innovative questions and methods. Thus the original conception of CSRM has included a revitalised Australian Data Archive that incorporates an open repository for data, enhancing the ANU’s reputation as a leader in this area.
These three axes – academic excellence and innovation in empirical social science research, successful commercial acumen and applied consultancy experience, and large-scale data management – underpin CSRM’s activities and demonstrate the ANU’s capacity to be an innovative and unique leader in the social sciences, nationally and internationally. CSRM has made significant contributions to a range of social policy issues in the areas of labour market programs, criminal justice and policing policy, family law, the social security system and Indigenous policy.
As Australia transitions to a knowledge and services economy, the availability of diverse data in the public and private sectors is highlighting significant workforce shortages in social research methods and data analytics. A strategic goal of the Centre is to produce a more sophisticated Australian skills base via training and educational activities. To address this gap the Centre has been actively developing and revitalising masters programs and executive education. To complement this, in late 2016 the Criminology Program was established, and the Centre took on the convenorship of the Bachelor of Criminology.
The Centre for Gambling research has recently joined CSRM. This will enhance CSRM’s ability to contribute research and social policy in these important areas, with links to criminology and the CSRM’s broader social policy remit. This report demonstrates that significant progress has been made in establishing the CSRM as a high-quality, credible research Institute that demonstrates an impact academically – on teaching and on research – as well as informing social policy development and the practice of service providers.