The importance of the statistically trained researcher in the social sciences has increased dramatically over recent years, with a huge range of opportunities for exploration and understanding that have risen from the enormous amount of data becoming available. To help realise such opportunities, however, there is a need to provide up-to-date, effective training in quantitative methods, enabling applied researchers to tackle data with skill and understanding. Furthermore, computers have revolutionised the process of data analysis over the last fifty years. Nowadays, statistical software can be used to fit complicated statistical models, which has allowed less statistically-literate researchers to access very powerful modelling tools. But as is widely acknowledged, easy access does not bring about understanding, or lead to the close integration of research question and data analysis that marks out high-quality social science research.
The aims of this project are to provide computer-assisted support to increase the skills and understanding of quantitative principles and techniques of researchers in UK social science, and to create innovative tools for reproducible research. Our project proposes a radical solution to these objectives based on interactive electronic books (eBooks) that can be used both for training and research purposes. By building on our work on Stat-JR, carried out under the ESRC Digital Social Research (DSR) programme in our node (eStat), we will take forward the development of eBooks in three distinct but interrelated directions, which have the potential to revolutionise quantitative methods training and research in UK social science. These three objectives are summarised as follows:
(1) Developing eBooks to assist the researcher throughout the process of performing a statistical analysis in a manner tailored to their research questions and the features of their dataset. The eBook environment will reinforce important statistical concepts and good practice in the context of writing high-quality reports.
(2) To make the goal of reproducible research a reality by using eBooks to create a record of how published results were obtained, which can be used by the original researcher (e.g. to revise analyses in response to referees’ comments) or by other researchers wishing to replicate the findings: in short to consider the use of eBooks as enhanced journal articles.
(3) To train the social science research community in the use of quantitative research methods and statistical software via interactive eBooks, producing an online environment within which researchers can search and find accredited eBooks and published papers as templates for high-quality analyses.