The School of Geography, Politics and Sociology

Research Impact

Research Impact

Our Research

Much of our research aims to make an impact in the wider world. In particular, we aim to:

  • raise awareness, enhance understanding and provoke critical reflection about important social, economic and political issues
  • inform and shape important debates in the public sphere
  • influence policies and practices of political actors, including civil society organisations, political parties, statutory bodies, and government departments and agencies


We have a number of different audiences for our research.

The public

Our research is presented directly to the public through lectures and talks as well as blogs, websites and Twitter. For example, we are regular contributors to the Newcastle Café Politique and Café Philosophique and have co-ordinated a series of Café Politique talks on key ideas in political philosophy.

We have popular staff research blogs, including Kyle Grayson’s and CSI-Newcastle on the popular e-IR blog to discuss our research on culture, security and identity. Our work is also presented to the public through traditional print and broadcast media. Nick Randall and Alistair Clark regularly offer expert commentary on British politics for local and national media.

Civil society organisations

We contribute to think tanks and campaigning non-governmental organisations (NGOs). For example, the French (IFRI) and German (SWP) equivalents of Chatham House and the Flemish Peace Institute have used Jocelyn Mawdsley’s research on European security policy.

Graham Long’s research on the legitimacy of NGOs and the institutions of global justice has informed a review of current strategy by Save the Children. It has also informed a core principles and processes document developed by Beyond 2015 (an NGO umbrella group promoting a successor to the Millennium Development Goals).  

Political parties, politicians and party activists

The Scottish National Party has sought Alistair Clark’s advice on strategy at local elections based on his research on the introduction of the single transferable vote. Nick Randall’s research on the strengths and weaknesses of the Conservative Party in the North of England led to discussions with party activists about the challenges facing the party.

National and international statutory bodies

The Northern Ireland Community Relations Council has used Ian O’Flynn’s research on shared education. The Northern Ireland Equality and Human Rights Commission invited him to act as a policy advisor.

Michael Barr was invited to present his work on biosecurity and bioethics at the United Nations Biological Weapons Convention experts meeting.

National government departments and agencies

Jesse Ovadia has undertaken research on the political economy of the oil industry in Nigeria, funded by the UK Department for International Development (DFID) and shared with the Nigerian Government.

Michael Barr’s work has been funded by the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO). 

Jocelyn Mawdsley’s research has informed briefings for the French, German and Icelandic defence ministries as well as European National Armaments Directors.

Ian O’Flynn’s research has enhanced understanding of effective consultation methods in the Department for Education Northern Ireland.

Case studies

The following case studies show how our research is making an impact in the wider world:

Electoral Change

How political parties and voters react to electoral reform is an important aspect of national and local representative politics.

When reforms occur it is essential that politicians, policy-makers and the public understand the potential impacts and are in a position to respond appropriately, says Politics Lecturer Dr Alistair Clark.

Dr Clark has been at the forefront of research into the introduction of the single transferable vote (STV) system in Scottish local elections. The local elections in May this year were the second since its introduction in 2007.

"STV is used in relatively few countries and its extension to the Scottish case has important ongoing implications for political behaviour", explains Dr Clark.

"The STV system brings the potential for parties to put forward multiple candidates in one electoral ward. The main problem with the 2007 local elections was the reluctance of most parties to put forward multiple candidates, which stemmed from a lack of experience with the new electoral system.

"Yet despite greater familiarity with the system in 2012, many parties and local campaigns failed to utilise this opportunity with the significant exception of the Scottish National Party (SNP) and, to a lesser extent, Labour," notes Dr Clark.

Dr Clark’s research has provided important insights into how parties and voters have adapted to STV rules. This important work led to engagement with parties and their candidates over the operation of STV.

Read the full case study - Informing electoral change in Scottish party politics (PDF: 258KB)

Common Security and Defence

Following the democratic uprisings in the Arab world, several European companies have found themselves under criticism from non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and the media for being careless about where their online surveillance technologies end up.

This has led to controversies about the export of strategic 'security' goods by firms based in European Union (EU) member states to regimes which then used them to repress protests during the Arab Spring.

Dr Jocelyn Mawdsley, Lecturer in EU and European Politics, has been carrying out extensive research on European security and defence policy for more than a decade.

Through ongoing engagement with EU and national policy advisors, parliamentarians and NGOs, Dr Mawdsley’s research has had a significant impact influencing the wider debate on the development of a common security and defence policy in the EU.

Her work has been published through key European think tanks, she’s also provided policy advice to the European Parliament and European Commission and is currently pioneering a 12-month project focusing on the homeland security industry for the Flemish Peace Institute.

Read the full case study - Influencing common security and defence policy in the EU (PDF: 180KB)

Educational Integration

Integration in Northern Ireland is a controversial subject. The divide between Catholics and Protestants is rooted in a long history of conflict and the segregation of these communities continues in modern society today.

This divide is particularly prevalent in the education system.

Dr Ian O’Flynn, Senior Lecturer in Political Theory, led a unique research project which aimed to unite Catholics and Protestants through deliberation about their children’s education.

"This was the first ever deliberative poll in a 'divided society' and the impacts have been both far-reaching and significant," said Dr O’Flynn.

"The research process and the report itself have affected the attitudes and behaviour of those involved in the study and those who learnt about it through the media. It’s also had a direct impact on educational policy in Northern Ireland and the effects of the poll are still evident today."

Read the full case study - Fostering educational integration in Northern Ireland (PDF: 180KB)