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Improving access to research

Posted on 04 August 2015 by ScotCen, Research .

Increasingly, dissemination and improved accessibility are playing more of a central role to our research.

Modern media environment

As part of the last year’s iteration of the Scottish Health Survey (SHeS), our client the Scottish Government asked that alongside our report we deliver a summary report of key findings that was digestible, audience focused, and essentially a more user friendly way of disseminating key results to stakeholders and the wider public.

The survey’s main report was designed largely for an audience familiar with social research and hence provided considerable depth and detail, was relatively long and not suitable for say reading on a tablet or mobile.


After detailed discussions with the client and consideration of the views of other stakeholders considerable work was undertaken by our in-house design team on a summary report outlining key findings and using creative infographics. Emphasis was put upon ensuring the infographics were not just visually eye-catching but were presented in the best possible way to communicate clearly the key information rather than being used gratuitously.

The results were more than pleasing and were externally recognised when the report won the runners-up prize in the Communicating Analysis Award at the Scottish Government recently.


From our point of view this was a major success. It shows that not only have we been able to deliver the excellent research for which we are best known, but we’ve added a new element to what is expected by our clients in terms of delivery.

Perhaps even more importantly we’ve helped to better inform the public around issues relating to the health of the nation, which is central to our mission as a charitable organisation with the objective of helping society through social research.

Creativity improves usability

Another of our studies, the Scottish Social Attitudes survey, notes that there’s been a considerable increase in the amount of interest the public say they have in politics in recent years. While on the one hand the nature of major political issues such as the referendum on independence is likely to have had an impact on this, so too is the extent to which the public are now able to engage with evidence based research online.

The functionality of our WhatScotlandThinks website gives the public tools and insight that haven’t previously been available. It consolidates all the data and allows users to interact with it, and thus draw their own conclusions. Needless to say it was extremely popular (so popular we had to upgrade its servers to handle all traffic!).


We are publishing a new website in the autumn, again funded by the ESRC, which follows a similar vein. In this case public attitudes to the referendum on Europe, rather than Scotland, which will offer the public the tools they need to analyse polls and ultimately be better informed as the referendum approaches. 


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