Today I attended a couple of talks at the Social Impact Festival at UWA. One in particular left an impression on me. The talk was called Measuring Social Impact in Challenging Real World Contexts. One of the speakers preluded the talk by stating that they would not be giving “piles and piles” of results in this talk, in fact they wouldn’t give any at all. This is quite contrary to the usual university talk, and was actually to its benefit, as the discussion revolved around the challenges of doing research in the real world. It certainly differs from what is done in laboratory settings and what is more often seen in published journal articles, thus emphasizing the point that the speakers were trying to make: the quantitative results in the end aren’t the only things that matter.
The talk delved into the many issues that can arise when doing fieldwork, when oftentimes the perfect plan that has been set out in the lab doesn’t work for the context of the field. They highlighted that sometimes you have to resort to plan E in order to keep the project going. This talk very much emphasized that it is important to think of how things will work in the real world and how the work you are doing will benefit those people in that context. Oftentimes research is published in scientific journals that the vast majority of the population will never read, never mind the people that it would benefit.
The speakers were just as concerned with statistics as they were with “The people behind the stats… and the power of stories”. Often our research will try to compartmentalize all answers into a simple format that is as standardized as possible and although this is great in terms of reliability, important information can get lost along the way. In this lost data we sometimes lose the personal factor that makes the information relatable to others, especially those that could benefit from the information.
In terms of the ongoing Scouts research that has been done, it was in the personal quotes from current scout volunteers that I felt I could get a real sense of their perspectives. Having even just a short sentence or two about why that individual has responded to a survey question in a certain way can give great insight as to what needs to be changed and maybe even as to how to change it.