Professional standards and guidance for GSR members
Government Social Researchers are bound by the Civil Service Code and its core values of integrity, honesty, objectivity and impartiality. Commitment to these values is required of all members of the Home Civil Service. As an addendum to the Civil Service Code, the GSR Code sets out specific principles to guide the work and behaviour of government social researchers.
The GSR Code is a clear articulation of GSR’s professional standards. It is a demonstration of GSR’s commitment to transparency and openness. It sets out seven principles to guide the work and behaviour of the Government Social Research Service. Adherance to the Code ensures high quality social research and analysis for government that is rigorous, relevant and valued. GSR organisations use the Code to self-assess their social research capability and to develop plans for improvement.
There are two elements of the GSR Code: products and people. Together they contain the seven core principles of the Code.
GSR Code: products
Government Social Research is the application of social scientific knowledge with the aim of improving the impact and efficacy of government policy and delivery. To achieve this its output will be:
- Based on sound methodology and established scientific principles
- Quality assured
- Based on best design, given constraints
- Conclusions are clearly and adequately supported by data
Social science research output must be based on sound methodology and established scientific principles. It must be designed, conducted and produced/published to high research standards, and be objectively judged as meeting these standards. It must be impartial and objective and based on the best design available, given constraints.
Research must not be undertaken with a view to reaching particular conclusions or prescribing particular courses of action; it must strive to be objective, and any limitations to objectivity should be made transparent.
Departments/devolved administrations must ensure that they have appropriate quality assurance processes in place, with clear and transparent scruitiny mechanisms from design stage to the point of use, to guarantee the quality of their output.
- Anticipates future policy issues as well as addressing current ones
- Answers clear and researchable questions
- Contributes to all stages of the policy and delivery process
- Delivers solutions that are viable, actionable and represent value for money
Social science research must be aimed at informing and improving policy formulation, analysis and delivery, clearly contributing to the strategic priorities of government and informing the strategic priorities of the future.
Research should be planned to fit with policy timescales, whether short or long term, maintaining quality and robustness.
It must answer clear and researchable policy questions.
It must represent value for money and must not replicate existing work.
Research should both address current policy issues and identify issues of the future.
To have most impact, social science research should be considered at all stages of the policy making cycle.
- Data are made available wherever possible
- Clear and concise
- Related to existing work in field
If social science research output is not accessible, it will not be used. It must be easy to draw out relevant information, key findings and messages. The limitations of evidence must be made clear, but caveats must not drown out key messages. As well as maximising use, communicating findings in as clear a manner as possible will also guard against their misinterpretation. Key audiences that should be considered include Ministers, Officials, parliament, policy delivery agents, the wider research community, and the general public.
Social science research output should reflect the needs and constraints of the user, be written in clear, consise and jargon free lanugage and set within existing work in the field, and knowledge of the broad policy area, so that the sum of knowledge and new evidence’s contribution to that knowledge can be easily understood.
There is a presumption that the products of Government social science research will be published.
- Complies with relevant legislation
- Complies with GSR’s ethical guidelines
Social science research must comply with relevant legislation and maintain the highest ethical standards.
It must comply with:
- The Freedom of Information Act 2000
- The Data Protection Act 1998
- Relevant national and EU procurement law
It must be conducted in line with GSR’s ethical guidelines.
- Data Protection Act 1998 (OPSI website)
- Freedom of Information Act 2000: England, Wales, N. Ireland (OPSI webstie)
- Freedom of Information Act 2000: Scotland (OPSI website)
- Procurement of Government Social Research (PDF 88KB)
- GSR ethics checklist (PDF 40KB) - to use the checklist, download the document and save it as a Word document
- Ethical assurance for social research In government – GSRU, HM Treasury, 2006 (PDF) (GSR Professional Guidance)
- Ethics in social research: the views of research participants
- Ethics in social research: the views of research participants – technical report
- Framework agreement guidance – GSRU, HM Treasury, 2009
You can download a printable version of the GSR Code: Products diagram from the downloads section of this page.
GSR Code: people
GSR is the professional membership organisation for social research in government. To ensure they deliver high quality research, evaluation and analysis, GSR members must (be):
- Make best use of available resources
- Give appropriate methodological and impartial evidence-based advice, challenging where appropriate
In all aspects of their work GSR members must act to maintain the integrity of the Government Social Research profession and work to gain the trust and respect of users of government social science research, research participants and the wider public.
GSR members have a duty to make the best use of available resources, and to ensure value for money in work they undertake and commission. They must advise when social science research input would not be appropriate, for instance because it would duplicate existing work.
GSR members must keep up to date with methodological developments and existing knowledge of the broad policy area.
GSR members must act with honesty and fairness in dealings with colleagues and contractors.
- Recruited and promoted in line with GSR Recruitment Protocol
- Committed to continuous professional development in line with the CPD Handbook
GSR members must be highly skilled and possess competencies set out in the GSR Competency Framework and develop these in line with the Framework and CPD workbook.
Departments/devolved administrations must ensure that GSR members are recruited and promoted in line with the GSR Recruitment Protocol and must provide appropriate budget and opportunities to support the CPD of GSR members
GSR members must take opportunities to develop their skills and expertise.
- Establish effective links with the external research community
- Actively collaborate with policy/delivery colleagues
- Actively collaborate with other analytical professions within and across departments
GSR members must act as ambassadors for GSR. They must operate as knowledge brokers within Government, maintain effective links with the external research community, other analytical professions and policy and delivery colleagues and promote the effective use of research and analysis , including international evidence, within government.
GSR members must influence and effectively use external research programmes and, where possible, make research data available to other researchers.
GSR members must constructively challenge the formulation of policy questions and identify key areas and issues of the future; they should look beyond departmental boundaries to cross government issues.
GSR members need to understand the contribution of other analytical professions and be able to signpost colleagues to sources of relevant knowledge, both in terms of research output and other analysts; they should be effective communicators.
You can download a printable version of the GSR Code: People diagram from the downloads section of this page.