How OERs can help a Strategically Important and Vulnerable Subject Area - Quantitative Social Science
Jackie Carter, University of Manchester and SCORE, The Open University, UK
Conference Theme: Collaboration
Summary: Social scientists need to be able to use data to answer real world questions. How can OERs help them do this?
Abstract: The 2010 Royal Statistical Society campaign - getstats - and the Economic and Social Research Council in the UK have identified a pressing need to promote the use and understanding of statistical data and quantitative methods (QM). The ESRC recognise a QM skills deficit in UK Social Science, despite excellent research data infrastructure such as the Economic and Social Data Service and the UK Census of Population Programme. Attempts to improve data and statistical literacy have largely focused on developing good practice at institutional level and have revealed pockets of excellence in UK social science departments. Progress in ‘capacity building’ has been made at the postgraduate level and attention is now turning to the undergraduate level. A project in the UK, funded through the Open University's SCORE (Support Centre for Open Resources in Education) aims to find and share open educational resources (OERs) and good practice in those universities already working to upskill students in QM; and to focus on resources that address global issues by using real-world data. The resulting OERs will be accompanied by 'stories' or narratives of exemplar usage, engaging social science learners with QM. The focus will be away from economics and psychology which are the best served in QM in social sciences. The project, entitled 'Sharing OERs for Statistical Literacy using Real World Data' provides the subject of this paper. The work builds on a series of case studies collected from academics in the UK who use real world secondary data resources in their courses, with data made available through the Economic and Social Data Service International macrodatabanks, provided by Intergovernmental Organisations including the World Bank, the IMF and OECD. Students and teachers reported that using secondary data in their courses helped provide employable skills, In turn this led to a project undertaken with the World Bank's Head of the Data Development Group to explore how educators in the UK use data in the classroom to give students real world skills, by introducing them to realistic problems accompanied by exercises with data. The work to date has predominantly uncovered good practice in economics and econometrics. The SCORE project seeks to take this further by extending this to other social science disciplines. The paper will describe the case study approach taken, provide examples of good practice across a number of universities and departments in the UK including sociology, political science and criminology, and discuss the benefits of sharing good practice openly. The barriers to sharing OERs will also be discussed.