How we work

Knowledge has no value unless it is put to good use, whether for a scientific or policy purpose. Understanding Society can be used to unpick and understand a particular problem, explore change over time or critically examine the effects of a policy.

The Policy Unit works through the following activities:

Direct Access

Direct Access is a research support service for Understanding Society Co-Funding departments and devolved administrations. It is one of a range of benefits that departments get by financially contributing to the Study. Bespoke support is provided to analysts and policy advisors covering:

  • advice on data analysis
  • longitudinal and cross-sectional analysis
  • compilation of data sets
  • literature search and review
  • help with proposals for an Innovation Panel (IP) experiments and Associated Studies

Use cases for support on policy research and monitoring projects include: Department for Work and Pensions analysis for their strategy to tackle worklessness amongst families and the Scottish Government’s Low Carbon Behaviours Framework - Data for Scotland.

Policy Seminars

Policy seminars bring together organisations with common or overlapping interest to provide substantive evidence, support agenda setting, debate the latest findings and consider implications for policy from different perspectives.

Investigative workshops

More moderated and focused in nature, workshops can be particularly effective for drilling into complex issues, examining particular parts of a ‘policy jigsaw’ and thinking about possible solutions. They work better with a limited number of targeted individuals and organisations.


Our publications help deliver the latest insights and evidence to you. From our annual Insights report, regular case studies and briefing papers, to the publications library with its search function, you can exploit the latest evidence as it becomes available.


For those new to Understanding Society, we run policy-specific training designed to help you use the data and exploit the evidence from it.

Why not contact us to discuss your needs.