How did you know that social research was the career for you?
I think it is one of those things that was just meant to be! I remember doing ‘projects’ when I was younger (including some very important research about chocolate) and in one of my first jobs was as a claims advisor in an insurance company where I asked if I could carry out an evaluation of the efficiency of internal work policy and processes.
Where do you work at the moment?
At the Business School inCardiffUniversityin the Research Office. I work with academics to develop research funding applications and support the strategic development of research activity across the School.
Most of my career has been spent working in the Welsh Government in its various guises. I’ve worked as a funding and research manager in economics, health & social care and corporate research. I also spent two and a half years working in the voluntary sector, coordinating aWaleswide health and social care research network. Much more on the research administration side, rather than as an actual researcher which has its frustrations, but I have to say I have loved all my jobs.
What has been your greatest achievement in your social research career?
Whilst working for the Welsh Government I set up and ran a new grants programme for Wales. Although there had been previous schemes, there hadn’t been a funding call for a number of years, so it was a highly anticipated scheme and had a huge response of nearly 200 applications. I set up an internal review process, an external peer review and an academic review panel, and from the successful applications, was able to very neatly profile £1million of funding over three years – all within 12 months!
Who is your social research hero/heroine?
There are so many! I have been inspired by a lot of people though I would have to say Richard Thurston, head of research in education and skills in the Welsh Government. He was the one who took me to one side and made me realise that I wanted a research career and advised me what to do. He was also the driving force behind establishing research and evaluation within the Welsh Assembly Government (as was). And as well as being hugely influential inWales, he is also a really lovely chap!
How did you hear about the SRA?
Early in 2002/03 I became aware of the potential value in linking to the SRA. At the time there was limited capacity to do very much in Wales, but eventually, in 2006 SRA Cymru was launched and I was invited to chair a parallel session on data about Wales. There has always been a strong sense of community between researchers inWales, so I’m proud to have been part of it at the start, and hope that I can help support that community as part of the UK Board.
What motivated you to join the SRA board?
I was invited to join the SRA Cymru Organising Committee in 2006 when I worked in the voluntary sector. I jumped at the chance as it was a great opportunity to develop links between my network and a wider research community. In 2011 I started working atCardiffUniversityand I put myself forward as a potential co-Chair of the branch inWales(and therefore UK Board member) because I could see that there was huge potential to strengthen links with academia.
What do you enjoy about your involvement with SRA? Are there any bits you prefer to avoid?
I really love meeting new people and finding out about all the different research that is happening all over the place. The only frustration I have is from how much I want to try and achieve as part of the organisation and how everything takes time. 30 hour days and 10 day weeks would help a lot!
Which of the SRA plans are you particularly excited about?
Everything! I do have a particular vision of how the SRA presence inWaleswill develop, and I really hope that over the next couple of years people will look forward, talk about and want to be part of what we are doing.
What are the key challenges facing the SRA over the next few years?
As a membership organisation, in difficult financial times we are vulnerable to a variable funding situation. My hope is that people will see personal value of being part of the organisation, not just because of any particular employment role they have, but because they value the opportunities available for their career more generally.
And where would you like to see the SRA being in 5 years time?
I would love for the Social Research Association to be seen as the place for individuals to turn to when they want an independent perspective on social research issues, whether it be about the quality of research in the media, to know what the important issues within the profession are, or simply for finding some like-minded people.
Where was your last holiday?
My husband and I went to New York for our wedding anniversary earlier this year. I’d never been before and was very excited to see the sights – and eat a giant pretzel! We went to 11 Madison Ave, one of the top restaurants in the World. They knew we were celebrating our anniversary and invited us into the kitchen where they made delicious cherry brandy cocktail using liquid nitrogen. I’d never seen it before in real life and luckily managed to resist the temptation to dip my finger in!
What do you do in your spare time?
I love keeping fit – it helps me justify eating a lot of flapjacks and scones – and having done a few 10k races and half marathons, last year I tried out triathlon. I managed to finish a half iron distance in July 2011 (total of 73 miles covered between swimming, cycling and running), which introduced me to a love of swimming in the river (!) as well as making me realise how much I enjoy running. I now have my sights on a marathon in November which I am very much looking forward to.
Interview by Gillian Smith