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How our evidence team investigates equality and human rights

by Ewan Devine-Kennedy

Published: 26 Nov 2021

What is your role at the Equality and Human Rights Commission?

I am one of the Research Principals here at the Commission. With Gwen Oliver (also a Research Principal), I coordinate and provide oversight for the research conducted at the Equality and Human Rights Commission, and manage the analytical support provided by the evidence team.

How would you describe the work of the evidence team?

The work of the evidence team ensures scientific rigour when developing the evidence which underpins the work of other functions at the Equality and Human Rights Commission - such as policy, human right monitoring and our compliance work.

We do this either through specific research projects or through advising on and quality assuring the evidence that is used by teams across the organisation.

Everyone in the Commission develops evidence for their work and we are there to ensure that it is accurate and stands up to scrutiny.

What does a typical day look like for a member of the evidence team?

There are range of different roles in the evidence team. Our social researchers manage our research projects, leading on the different stages of each project, from liaising with contractors to writing or checking the development of our reports. We have published work on human rights education, attitudes to transgender people, and recruitment in low paid work in the past year.

A typical day for our statisticians is focused around processing data. The statisticians process huge datasets that are produced across government by running a large amount of complicated code through special software. By doing this, the datasets are translated into understandable information which we can use in our Is Britain Fairer? programme and other work.

Our librarian manages our library service and ensures that everyone in the Commission has access to relevant sources of evidence or information on research when they need it.

What are the current priorities for research and evaluation?

There are projects to complete this financial year which we are contributing to, such as our inquiries into racial inequality in health and social care workplaces and challenging decisions about adult social care. More broadly we are planning the next round of our Is Britain Fairer? programme, and also developing our internal ‘What Works?’ programme, which uses evidence and evaluation to understand how the Commission has impact.

How do you evaluate evidence and make sure it comes from robust sources?

There are a range of methods for evaluating evidence. Some apply specifically to large surveys and analysis and we use different techniques when assessing small samples of interviews or other methods.

Research of a high standard will be transparent about how it has been delivered, so the first step is understanding whether the research we are evaluating is transparent about its method, its own biases and the limitations of the research.

We also corroborate with other research, so if a finding is exceptionally different to the evidence provided by other research we would ask why and would expect authors to be able to explain.

How does your Is Britain Fairer? research inform the strategy of the Equality and Human Rights Commission?’

Our Is Britain Fairer? programme of work is underpinned by our measurement framework. This provides us with a systematic way to go through a wide range of evidence and highlight where there are changes in experiences of different groups, or when some groups are experiencing poorer or better outcomes than others.

For example, in 2020 we published a report summarising the evidence on the equality impacts of coronavirus. We use this method of the Is Britain Fairer? programme to inform our internal discussions on our strategic plans which we implement every three years.

How can I find out more information about the work of the evidence team?

The research pages on our website give an overview of what we do, our latest work and a library of our research reports.  You can also email us to join our research database and receive a concise quarterly bulletin about our latest news, developments and reports.