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Government social research officers provide research input for the analysis required to develop, implement, review and evaluate new and existing government policies. This research evidence helps inform the policy decisions of ministers.

Government social research officers account for more than 1,000 members of the workforce, spread over 20 government departments. They liaise closely with civil servants and other government analysts, such as operational researchers, economists and statisticians.

The role involves responsibilty for the research and analysis of policy, as well as commissioning and managing research. It is a challenging, fast-moving and diverse role that has a direct impact on many government activities, often at a high-profile level.

Research officers are also employed in local government, working for local authorities.


Typical work activities : Job activities vary significantly according to department and policy area and whether research is conducted in-house or commissioned from external researchers.

Tasks are likely to include :
  • working on a wide range of research projects and employing a range of different research methodologies (if undertaking research internally);
  • discussing and agreeing project requirements with clients (policy officials, ministers),
  • drafting research specifications,
  • agreeing the terms of reference for research;
  • commissioning and project-managing research projects,
  • commenting on draft research instruments, such as questionnaires, and editing draft reports,
  • conducting, or commissioning then analysing, in-depth interviews with members of the public and large-scale data sets,
  • managing junior staff (supervising, encouraging and mentoring),
  • ensuring that research is conducted within a set time frame to meet policy requirements,
  • managing competitive tendering exercises,
  • ensuring quality control of research,
  • providing information and analysis on a policy issue and its development,
  • providing information on what research is already available in a policy area,
  • working in close partnership with external research contractors, other government analysts, and policy colleagues during the course of the research,
  • producing both written and oral briefs for policy colleagues and ministers, based on reviews of research evidence;
  • responding to external and internal research enquiries from colleagues, government departments, academics, local councils, regional development agencies and members of the public,
  • explaining complex ideas and findings in a way that can be easily understood,
  • keeping up to date with developments in policy and social issues, as well as qualitative and quantitative research methods,
  • delivering presentations at conferences.
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