Tom Huskinson, Associate Director of Social Research at Ipsos MORI, spoke at the recent SSPP panel.
Why did you want to work in social research?
Tom’s PhD in social psychology at Cardiff led him to a deep interest in his subject, but also the knowledge that he wasn’t interested in staying on in academia. He enjoyed and want to improve his skills in statistics, literature reviews and sampling. Applying to both Ipsos and MORI (separate organisations at the time), he was more interested in MORI because of its pedigree in policy and policy research. He had thought about applying to work in smaller organisations, but figured that there would be more variety in a larger one.
How does your PhD help you?
His PhD has helped more as he has gone through his career. Initially, the project management skills he learned helped in his work, and some of the research subject areas he worked on in his PhD were useful. More latterly, as he moved into the Research Methods unit, knowledge around bias in structure and order of questions has come useful. When bidding for contracts, it is important to show an academic grounding and to be able to incorporate current academic thinking into project design. His role now includes responding to internal queries and sharing expertise, while occasionally conducting primary research and speaking at conferences.
What do you like in your role?
Tom cites the variety of his role – doing pitches, speaking at conferences, doing robust, expensive research – as the main thing he appreciates. The atmosphere and working methods of an organisation are important to him and he likes the ‘think tank’ style of his current place.
What is not so good are the bureaucracy that come with working in a large organisation – the time sheets, audits and jargon! In common with researchers in other organisations, it is frustrating if your research is not actually used meaningfully; and deadlines and long hours can be difficult to navigate.
Where might you move on to?
Tom might find a research role in a different organisation – the Civil Service, Coco-Cola!, or into think tanks or policy areas. Equally, he could move into academia.
The market in social research is slightly growing, particularly in measurement and evaluation as organisations look to be able to demonstrate value for money.