Ben Baumberg

I am currently a Lecturer in Sociology and Social Policy at the School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research (SSPSSR) at the University of Kent, where I teach social policy, sociology and research methods to postgraduates and undergraduates - and in particular, where I jointly run the University of Kent's Q-Step initiative. I am also a member of the Exec of the Social Policy Association, the editorial board of the Journal of Poverty and Social Justice, and I regularly write articles at the collaborative research blog Inequalities that I set up (with others) in 2010.

I have a wide range of research interests, with my current work/future plans focused on (i) disability, the workplace, and the benefits system; (ii) public attitudes around benefits and 'scroungers'; and (iii) the relationship between evidence and policy. The site has separate pages for my past/current research on (i) disability & work; and (ii) alcohol; other areas of research are covered under general social policy. A complete list of all my academic publications, non-academic writing, qualifications and positions is available here. And if you want to actually see me discussing some of these ideas - and typically waving my hands - then you can see me discussing the ALICE RAP addictions project and why bad working conditions are stopping people working later in life.

These pages provide more details about my past and current research, as well as details of how to get in touch with me; however, please go to the Inequalities site if you are interested in being part of the Inequalities blog community. I'm also happy to co-supervise research students on any of my research interests - information on PhD bursaries at Kent is available here, and just send me an email if you want to explore this.

Getting in touch

I'm always happy to hear from potential collaborators / research students, or from people who are just interested in my research. You can email me at b dot p dot b...berg at kent dot ac dot uk (click here to see a spambot-protected email address in plain English), or get in touch via Inequalities. To hear about any new research/writing, then follow me on Twitter or academia.edu.

Latest updates

The £2m 'Q-Step' centre - innovation in teaching quantitative methods

5/10/2013 - As it stands, social science undergraduates across the UK rarely have good quantitative skills (outside of Psychology or Economics) – that is, skills for interpreting or creating statistical analyses to help understand the social world. This causes problems for academia, for employers, and more broadly for having a citizenry who can critique the ever-increasing barrage of statistical information they face in their daily lives. The Nuffield Foundation, the ESRC and Hefce have therefore put nearly £20m to create 15 'Q-Step' centres across the country, which were awarded this week after a highly-competitive process.

Kent was one of the successful centres - and after writing the bid, Trude Sundberg and I are now coordinating the initiative itself. Over the next five years, we - our great existing team at Kent, plus two posts that we are now advertising for (in Sociology/Criminology and in Politics/International Relations) - will make this vision a reality, giving students new skills not just in quantitaitve methods but also in qualitative methods and wider critical thinking skills, as well as experience in applying this to the world around them. See our press release as the initiative launched, and for further details please don't hesitate to get in touch with me or Trude!

Successful research bids on disability (ESRC, MRC/ESRC and JRF)

5/10/2013 - I've recently been successful with several research bids that link in some way to my research interest in disability, work and benefits. This includes (i) a three-and-a-half year ESRSC fellowship (2014-2017) looking at how work-related disabilities have greater impacts on those with other disadvantages, and further probing public and elite opinion (working with the think-tank Demos) on whether this should be reflected in incapacity assessment itself; (ii) a small Joseph Rowntree Foundation project on disability and poverty, led by Tom MacInnes at the New Policy Institute; and (iii) a major MRC/ESRC project on ageing and employment, led by the Head of SSPSSR, Prof Sarah Vickerstaff. Please get in touch if you're interested in finding out more about any of these, and I'll put details of the outputs up here as they become available.

The stigma of claiming benefits

20/11/2012 - Is there a stigma to claiming benefits? If so, why, and does it matter? In a nutshell, these are the questions that I am looking at in a collaborative project with Kate Bell and Declan Gaffney, funded by the charity Elizabeth Finn Care, who run the advice line/website Turn2us. The project isn't that big, but despite this we're squeezing in a new survey, an unusually deep media analysis, analysis of existing data, and a few focus groups. You can also the report itself, a quick note on a figure used in a Guardian article, and the appendices to the report.

Aside from our one-page summary in the report itself, you can also read short blogs on several different bits of the report - we've written on perceived fraud in the benefits system (on Inequalities), the role of the media (on the New Statesman blog, and a longer version here), and how benefits stigma is misunderstood (on LSE Politics & Policy). Other people have written about the report in the Guardian (including on their Datablog), and the TUC's Touchstone blog (also reposted on Liberal Conspiracy).

One part of this that some people seemed to have found useful is our 'mythbusting' briefing (mainly a fantastic job by Declan), building on our earlier version for Red Pepper (version with footnotes). I'm currently developing my thoughts on this, with another paper focusing on this hopefully coming out later in 2013.

How many qualitative interviews are enough?

1/7/2012 - I was asked to provide a single page of reflections on 'how many interviews are enough?' for a a publication by the National Centre for Research Methods, edited by Sarah Elsie Baker & Rosalind Edwards, and including some great news in qualitative research (as well as other early career people like me). You can download the report from the NCRM repository.

Non-academic writing

1/7/2012 - Other than near-weekly posts on the Inequalities blog, I'm occasionally writing for other blogs - the full list is available here, but the one that drew most attention was Let's all be open about what we earn on the Guardian's Comment is Free blog. In this, I argued that one of the reasons that people are relatively relaxed about inequality is that we don't tell each other what we earn. [In the interests of disclosure and not being a complete hypocrite, I'm now on about £38k. Also, for anyone wondering about the role of political ideologies in research, my views are covered here].

Comments and critiques are always welcome - this is what blogging is for!