Last week the 6th Annual Wales Institute of Social & Economic Research, Data & Methods (WISERD) Conference took place at Cardiff’s iconic Millennium Stadium. The WISERD Conference is the largest of its kind in Wales, and brings together practitioners, policy makers and social scientists to discuss and debate a range of topical themes such as health; social care; wellbeing; education; culture & values; environment; labour markets; devolution; and civil society.
Established as an important event in the social science calendar, academic and non-academic researchers, from a diverse range of disciplines, shared their research at the conference; an event which is a must for anyone concerned with social, economic and political issues in contemporary Wales. This year over 120 papers, posters and panel sessions were included in the programme, encompassing a wide range of topics including: the UK gender pay-gap; the future of the Welsh language in Wales; palliative care for people with dementia; labour market experiences of young people; and e-cigarette use among young people.
WISERD’s Director, Professor Ian Rees Jones, shares his reflections on another superb event:
The WISERD Annual Conference came and went in a whirlwind of presentations, keynote addresses and research workshops, with some opportunities to socialise and catch up with colleagues in between. We were fortunate to have wonderful weather and a great setting in the Millennium Stadium and I would like to extend my thanks again to the WISERD hub staff for all their hard work and especially to Victoria Macfarlane who has kept the show on the road for six years and is now taking up a new post at Nottingham University. We wish her well in her new role.
The conference has grown year on year and with over 200 delegates a day this year it was a privilege be involved. I was very impressed by the excellent presentations across a range of substantive research areas and particularly by the work of the PhD students from across the WISERD Universities. I am very grateful to the Wales DTC, the Learned Society of Wales and the Wales Council for Voluntary Action (WCVA) for their continued support for the conference and for their sponsorship of awards and prizes.
This year we were fortunate to have three excellent keynote speakers. Ann Keane, former HM Chief Inspector at Estyn, opened the conference with reflections on her work in Welsh education. At a time when there are increasing concerns about social mobility, Anne provided new perspectives on areas of achievement and suggested areas where improvements can still be made.
On the second day we were given fascinating and challenging insights into the research and policy concerns of the Karl Wilding, Director of Public Policy at the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO). Karl’s speech was hugely entertaining, but he also pushed us as an academic community to think more about working with third sector organisations to produce research. I found his talk incredibly informative and it left me thinking that a critical and independent stance is more important than ever in the face of political rhetoric that attempts to divide the third sector into ‘good and ‘bad’ charities.
After a two day heatwave Guardian columnist, writer and economist Will Hutton arrived on the conference’s final day in the middle of a rainstorm. His keynote speech was based on his new book ‘How Good We Can Be’ and combined a forensic critique of government policies with new policy ideas and proposals that offer an alternative to the austerity agenda. Questions came thick and fast from the audience and I wish we could have had more time to discuss the many issues raised by his talk, particularly his views on the Greek crisis.
I am writing this blog on the Monday after the results from the Greek referendum have been announced and it would be good to have Will back to reflect on a fast moving situation. My fear is that democratic movements are increasingly threatened by the combination of global economic forces and the interests of unaccountable elites and ordinary working people are paying a terrible price. But I also believe in hope and optimism in spite of present difficulties. My optimism was buoyed by the research and scholarship presented at WISERD last week and although we are only a small country on the western periphery of Europe I think we can, and do, make a difference to policy through the kind of critical social science we produce.
Note: The WISERD 2015 Annual Conference took place on Tuesday 30th June to Thursday 2nd July at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff. The 2016 Annual Conference will take place in Swansea in July, dates to be confirmed. Please visit the WISERD website for further details.
A selection of our favourite photos from the event can be found here.