CRESR at 30: 1987-2017

CRESR at 30The Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research (CRESR) at Sheffield Hallam University was established in 1987. Over the last thirty years we have undertaken more than 500 projects for UK government departments, research councils, research charities, devolved administrations, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the European Commission, and many other organisations, exploring relationships across policy, people and places. There are two reasons why we think now is an especially apt time to reflect on that experience.

First, at a time of political, economic and social turmoil there is an inevitable tendency to focus on the here and now. However, creative solutions rarely emerge from short-termism and political expediency. We are witnessing a marked break with long-run post-war trends, the intensification of long-standing issues and problems, and the emergence of new challenges. Now is not the time for collective policy amnesia. It is a time to take stock, reassess and reconsider; to take the long view and reflect on lessons to be drawn from previous policies, strategies and initiatives in order to chart a way forward.

Second, there is an urgent need to discuss the role of evidence in the formulation of public policy. Policy making rooted in evidence and analysis is out of favour. Political debate appears more interested in appealing to emotion, speculation and imagery. Facts are seen as irrelevant and experts as dour pessimists. This rejection of evidence in favour of supposed 'common sense' thinking in practice risks distancing policy from the lived realities of the people and places it should be serving. The result is policy that misunderstands what is going on, does little to make things better and can often make them worse.

Over the last 30 years, we have teased out a rich evidence base, often working in partnership with other researchers. Much of this work has been commissioned directly by government departments and agencies: it is perverse that findings emerging from publicly funded research should be so rapidly discarded. In response, we are publishing a series of themed reviews that reach across CRESR's expertise between November 2016 and summer 2017. Each will address a broad area of policy within which CRESR has operated. The particular slant they take will vary, but the reviews will be united by a commitment to bridge the gulf that has opened up between the ostensibly ambitious rhetoric of many government initiatives and the harsh realities of life for many places and people who are increasingly becoming the 'unconnected'.

We hope readers enjoy these reviews; we welcome comments and feedback on them.

CRESR Directors: 1986-2016

Professor Paul Lawless: 1986–2003
Professor Ian Cole: 2003–2010
Professor Peter Wells: 2010–2013
Professor David Robinson: 2014–2016
Sarah Pearson: 2016-2017
Professor Edward Ferrari: 2017-Present

CRESR 30th Anniversary reports

Beatty, C. and Fothergill, S. (2016) Jobs, Welfare and Austerity: How the destruction of industrial Britain casts a shadow over present-day public finances. Sheffield: CRESR, Sheffield Hallam University.

Fothergill, S., Gore, T. and Wells, P. (2017) Industrial Strategy and the Regions: The shortcomings of a narrow sectoral focus. Sheffield: CRESR, Sheffield Hallam University.

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