Not just a linguistic resource but a unique record of humanity

robbie-love 150Robbie Love is a PhD student at the ESRC Centre for Corpus Approaches to Social Science (CASS) at Lancaster University, where he spent four years working on the Spoken British National Corpus 2014 project.

 

harry-strawson 150Harry Strawson is a writer living in London and contributed recordings to the Spoken British National Corpus 2014.

Here Robbie and Harry share two different perspectives on the Spoken British National Corpus project ahead of its release next week.

Every day billions of words are uttered in hundreds of languages all over the world. For corpus linguists, that is, people who study the form, use and function of language using specialised computer software, speech is like the golden snitch in a game of Quidditch. It appears to be everywhere around you and yet it is incredibly difficult to capture.

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Academics in ivory towers? It’s time to change the record

James_Georgalakis 150x150James Georgalakis is the director of communications and impact at the Institute of Development Studies and is director of the ESRC-DFID Impact Initiative for International Development Research.

Here he asks: are scholars really so out of touch with the real world or do we need to look again at this tired narrative that doesn’t reflect the reality of modern academia?

Explaining my work as a director of communications and impact in an academic institution can sometimes prove challenging.

A case in point was a recent conversation with a new acquaintance about work that went something along the lines of: “So, what is it you do again. Something about research isn’t it?” To which I replied: “Yes, that’s right. I work with academics helping them make sure that their research is put to good use – you know, informing policy, changing attitudes – so it doesn’t just end up in some journal that no one ever reads.”

“Getting them out of their ivory towers, then” came the reply, at which point I nodded vigorously and gave them a knowing smile. Continue reading

Propping up Parliament

Alexandra Meakin is a doctoral student at the University of Sheffield, where her research is on the restoration and renewal of the Palace of Westminster. She is a Research Associate on the Designing for Democracy project, led by the Sir Bernard Crick Centre for the Public Understanding of Politics, an ESRC Knowledge Exchange Hub.

As the House of Commons returns this week from the summer recess, MPs will be adjusting to a temporary silence from the chimes of Big Ben. The repairs to the Elizabeth Tower, which contains the Great Bell, have led some politicians and parts of the media to protest that “the very heartbeat of our democracy is falling silent”. The House of Commons Commission is due to meet this month to reconsider the programme of work to address urgent problems with the clock mechanism and the structure of the tower. But while attention has been focused on Big Ben, an anniversary this week serves as a pressing reminder about the worrying state of the rest of the Palace of Westminster.

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Marginal money, mainstream economy

Max Gallien - runner up 150Max Gallien, a student at the London School of Economics and Political Science, was joint runner-up in Making Sense of Society, the ESRC’s writing competition 2017 in partnership with SAGE Publishing. This is his essay.

As I talk to him, Ahmed pulls his chair into his store to escape the hot Tunisian sun. He is a retired teacher – the years of screaming children can be counted in the rings framing his eyes. Behind him is his merchandise. To make up for a small pension, Ahmed is selling kitchenware in a market near the Libyan border. Over 400 tiny concrete garages surround him, goods piled high – clothes, bags, microwaves. It looks like any other market, but note an invisible detail: everything sold here is illegal. Every good in this market has been smuggled into Tunisia. Ahmed, though he may not look the part, is a smuggler. Continue reading

How maternal depression affects mothers and children

bhalotra 150Sonia Bhalotra is Professor of Economics at the University of Essex. She is co-director of the ESRC Research Centre on Micro-Social Change (MiSoC) at the Institute for Social and Economic Research, and co-investigator on the ESRC-funded project on Human Rights, Big Data and Technology. Her research focuses upon health, gender and child development.

About 12-20% of women in richer countries and 20-35% in poorer countries suffer maternal depression, and 10-35% of children are exposed to this in their first year of life, according to estimate (PDF) . Maternal depression often goes undiagnosed and untreated, and in many cases is incorrectly perceived as a temporary condition. Continue reading