Big Talk about Big Data: Discourses of ‘Evidence’ and Data in British Civil Society

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This seed-funded pilot project looked to identify how a small group of civil society organisations (CSOs) use the terms ‘data’ and ‘evidence’ in their public materials in order to critically examine the values that inform how they use social research. Specifically, it aimed to document whether there were any perceived advantages of data ‘bigness’ (volume, variety, and velocity) for these organisations’ work.

The research had two objectives: (1) to examine the discourses around ‘evidence’ and ‘data’ in CSOs, particularly those working in issue areas related to migration or social welfare; and (2) to relate these discourses to perceptions about what social research accomplishes in civil society or voluntary sectors contexts. By linking textual analysis with semi-structured interviewing, this project aimed to reveal the different ways that these concepts are discursively employed and perceived.

Principal Investigator

Will Allen


Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council
Communities and Culture Network+