There's several other areas in which I've either done substantial work in the past, or I've started developing my ideas reasonably seriously for future work. I've divided it here into three main areas: evidence & policy, alcohol research, and other Social Policy.

Truth, power and critique: the role of social science

I have a continued interest in the relationship between evidence and policy – both in terms of how it works in practice, and how it should ideally work according to practical considerations and ethical principles. I think this is a crucial area for researchers to think more about, so I teach aspects of this Masters students on the research methods course I teach on (SO832)

I’ve presented some initial thoughts on this at the Social Policy Association conference in 2008 and 2009, titled ‘Against evidence-based policy: over-claiming social research and undermining effective policy’ and ‘Should researchers make policy recommendations at all?’ respectively; and am presenting at a workshop in Edinburgh in June 2014. The best starting place, though, is the Queens' Anniversary Prize lecture I gave at York in Feb 2014, available via YouTube. I’m planning to conduct future research in this area, and I’m always interested in speaking to potential collaborators on this too.

Alcohol work

Cover of Alcohol in Europe report

From 2004 to 2008 I worked as the Policy and Research Officer at the Institute of Alcohol Studies (IAS), and since then I’ve done further work with the IAS and the World Health Organization (WHO)’s European Office as well as within academic research teams. I was lucky enough that I began working at the IAS when they had been commissioned by the European Commission to write a report on the health, economic and social impact of alcohol in Europe, which became the 450-page volume ‘Alcohol in Europe’ (Anderson and Baumberg 2006). You can listen to a podcast about the process of writing the report on Libby Ranzetta's Alcohol Policy UK blog.

Since then I have primarily worked on four different areas of alcohol policy:

  1. Alcohol, wellbeing and pleasure

    Pursuing a long-standing ambition of mine to look robustly at all aspects of drinking, both good and bad, I'm currently just completing an analysis of the relationship between drinking, happiness, and pleasure. Parts of this work are empirical (are heavy drinkers happier?), while other parts look at the implications for policy. This is a small part of a much larger MRC project led by Prof Petra Meier (see also below).

  2. Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and the role of 'addictive' industries'

    By 'addictive industries' I mean alcoholic drinks producers and retailers and the similar enterprises for gambling and tobacco. The IAS funded me to conduct a project on alcohol in 2007, which (because of the demands of my PhD thesis) included some working papers then I never had time to turn into journal articles. although the first part of this has been published in Alcohol & Alcoholism and can be accessed here.

    My main work on this, however, is leading on a €1m work package within the EU-funded ALICE RAP project that - with partners from the UK, Italy, and the Netherlands - will develop this work tobacco, alcohol and gambling during 2012-2015. The first publications should emerge from this project during 2014; please check any of academia.edu, this website and the ALICE RAP website to keep updated.

  3. Economic aspects of alcohol policy

    The ‘Alcohol in Europe’ report reviewed social cost studies to try and estimate the cost of alcohol in the EU, and since then I have maintained an interest in economic contributions to alcohol policymaking. The two main publications I have done on this are the 2006 paper in Drug and Alcohol Review and a World Health Organisation (European Office) best-practice guide to economic cost studies on alcohol. I also wrote a paper titled ‘The value of alcohol policies’ that was commissioned to support the WHO Expert Committee on Alcohol Problems in 2006. I continue to do small amounts of work on this topic, partly linked to valuing alcohol and pleasure (see previous point), but also collaborating with other researchers, including ongoing work with the RAND Corporation following on from a Home Office report.

  4. International trade law and alcohol policy

    There have been suggestions that international trade agreements (like those that constitute the EU, or the World Trade Organisation agreements) constrain countries in making effective alcohol policies. I have two 2008 publications co-authored with Peter Anderson that look at this: a paper on the WTO in the journal Addiction, and a paper on the EU in the European Journal of Public Health.

I am also involved in a more minor way in other areas of alcohol research. Firstly, I am involved (as a co-applicant) in a current MRC project on ‘Alcohol Policy Modelling and Evaluation’, which is being led by Prof Petra Meier at the University of Sheffield (and incorporates the work on alcohol and pleasure above). Secondly, the EU-funded ALICE RAP project (see under CSR above) also includes a work area that tries to look in an interdisciplinary way at addiction, again led by Prof Petra Meier.

Other ideas in Social Policy

As seen in my founding/co-editing of the Inequalities blog, I'm keen to find better ways to theorise the nature of inequality. I presented at a British Sociological Association post-graduate symposium on 'Do we need a grand theory of inequality?' in 2011, and some of my embryonic thoughts are available in blog posts here, here and here. I'm currently developing a proposal with others at LSE to develop this both theoretically and as a blueprint for empirical work.