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Special lecture: Tim Blackman, The Open University

Event information

START DATE 21 May 2015
START TIME 12:00pm

Room HG19, Hatchcroft Building, Middlesex University, The Burroughs, Hendon, London, NW4 4BT

Researching complex causality: an argument for case-based methods in policy-related research

Professor Tim BlackmanDuring this special lecture, Professor Tim Blackman will present a paper which argues that conventional quantitative and qualitative research methods, such as regression analysis or case studies, have too often failed to provide policy practitioners with the actionable knowledge they need for decision-making and designing policy interventions. 

This is because most policy problems have multiple causes, not single causes, and solutions have multiple pathways, not single pathways. In particular, both problems and solutions are characterised in the real world by interactions, with these interactions a key reason for policy failure, especially thinking that a solution that has worked in one context will work in another. 

Interactions mean that relationships are non-linear and that the conditions in which causes operate can radically alter how they operate and with what the outcomes. The paper argues for greater use of the technique of Qualitative Comparative Analysis to address these issues, illustrating the argument with a number of examples.


Tim Blackman is Professor of Sociology and Social Policy and Acting Vice-Chancellor at The Open University. In July 2015, he takes up the post of Vice-Chancellor at Middlesex. Previously he was Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research and Quality at the OU. Tim is a graduate in Geography with a PhD in Urban Sociology, and has held Chairs in Sociology and Social Policy since 1997. His research has primarily been in the fields of housing, planning, urban policy, health inequalities and social care, with particular interests in community development, research methods and evidence-based practice. He has worked as a government advisor on neighbourhood renewal and tackling health inequalities, and is a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences.

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