About the SPO

The University of Portsmouth Social Perceptions Observatory (SPO) will collate and make available to University of Portsmouth academic researchers pools of volunteers for surveys in Portsmouth and surrounding areas.

Potential participants will provide basic demographics, indicate their availability for involvement with different types of research, and include additional (voluntary) information on their lifestyle and general circumstances.

This information will form the basis for aiding selection of relevant participants for each survey. We hope that this will be a resource to enable more efficient data collection, completion of pilot studies, and boosting of grant applications.

The SPO will enlist members of local organisations – including University of Portsmouth – and support recruitment of hard to reach groups, help shape a local research agenda, and support projects that aim to benefit communities in Portsmouth and Hampshire.

In addition, we hope the SPO can act as a hub for groups of researchers with shared interests and methods across the University, promoting collaboration and cooperation across Schools and Faculties.

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Taking part in the observatory gives you a chance to answer key research questions that could impact on how policies – such as those concerned with the environment, social issues and economic change – are developed and implemented.

Too often, major policies are developed without first asking for the opinions and insights of the members of society who are most likely to be affected by it. By doing this, we believe that more effective decisions can be taken.

For that reason, we're keen for the pool of volunteers in the observatory to come from across society, and we would actively encourage all parts of the community to register and volunteer for the observatory.

You can register for the SPO and take the initial volunteer survey here.

It's up to you which surveys you answer.

When you sign up to be a volunteer, we'll ask you a few questions to ensure that only surveys of interest are sent to you – such as environmental issues, or health and social issues – but you can decide to take a survey or not. You're under no obligation and if you decide not to answer a particular survey, it won't affect you being asked again.

Any online research survey that you are asked to participate in will have details of what the survey is about, an indication of how long it will take to complete and the details of what will happen to your information, how it will be analysed and aid the researcher, and how it will be securely stored.

Many of the surveys can be taken online and the researcher involved will not be given any personal information about you, such as your name, email address or postcode.

Some researchers may need to complete follow-up focus groups or longitudinal surveys, where you'll have individual contact with the researcher, and where further details may be taken – but again, there's no obligation to take part in such surveys.

However, if you are willing to take part in a particular focus group or longitudinal survey, the researcher will send you details directly. You can still change your mind if you subsequently decide not to take part.

All surveys sent out by the SPO to volunteers will have had to gain appropriate ethical approval from within the University, to ensure that the questions they ask and the information they gather are appropriate, that procedures follow GDPR guidance and that any data collected is securely stored.

We'll try to keep the number of surveys sent to each member of the volunteer pool to a maximum of four per year, although you can indicate a preferred number on the sign-up form.

No, taking part in the observatory is voluntary. For specific focus group or longitudinal research projects, however, there may be funding for participants expenses, but this will be indicated when requests for these surveys are sent out and then discussed between potential participants and the researchers involved.

Personal data will be treated in the strictest confidence, and all data from the registration and survey will be stored on a password protected Google drive, behind the University's firewall. 

This folder is only accessible by the three SPO coordinators. This limits the number of individuals involved in handling personal and sensitive data.

At the end of the SPO, all data will be securely destroyed.  Please remember that you can ask for your name and details to be removed from the observatory at any time without providing any reason.

Our online surveys are also secure and password protected, and in line with University’s Research Data Management Policy, after 10 years the storage of the data will be reviewed. 

Yes, any researcher using the SPO to recruit people to their survey will have to agree to produce a short summary of the outcomes from the research project, including why the survey was important to their findings. The researcher will also need to inform volunteers when this report can be expected as part of the survey. These short reports will be made publicly available on this web page. 

Academics in a meeting at University of Portsmouth

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The Social Perceptions Observatory (SPO) is a pool of individuals in Portsmouth and the surrounding area who have indicated that they might be willing to participate in research projects developed at the University of Portsmouth.

This might involve expressing their opinion and experiences through anonymous online surveys, or, if they so wish, also interviews or focus groups. The questions respondents could be asked may range from concerns about the environment, to how they think the police managed the lockdown restrictions.

Our aim is for the SPO to evolve into a hub for survey-based research at the University.

A scoping study for the SPO has been funded by the theme directors for Democratic Citizenship, Risk and Security, and Environment and Sustainability. A team of three academics – Dr Rob Inkpen (SEGG), Dr Alessandra Fasulo (Psychology) and Dr Brian Baily (SEGG) – will run the SPO, and a Steering Group will be developed to ensure that users of the SPO have a voice in how the SPO develops.

As the SPO grows, it's our aim to develop a more formal organisational structure, to ensure appropriate representation among both users and volunteers.

We are currently are limiting use of the SPO to academic researchers. For more information, please contact Robert Inkpen.

For guidance on using the SPO, please read the eight 'Key Points for Data Protection and Ethics' below.

  1. INITIAL RESEARCH PROJECT FROM RESEARCHER – The researcher has an initial research idea that maybe suitable for gathering data via the SPO. This will include a reminder that, for a survey, the SPO will not be able to provide information that will identify a specific individual. The SPO will indicate the potential sample size that the pool can supplied given the requirements of the research proposal. If the proposal is for unfunded research then there is no need to include a costing for use of the SPO within the proposal. If the proposal is for funded research then there will be an expectation to include a costing for use of the SPO to cover maintaining the resource. The costings are not meant to be prohibitive and can be discussed when the SPO is initially contacted.
  2. SUBMISSION TO APPROPRIATE ETHICS COMMITTEE All research proposals must be submitted and assessed though the appropriate channels of ethical review. The SPO does not judge the ethics of a proposal, it only provides information on type of information it can offer for a project and limitations on this information. Any research proposal should indicate that they intend to use the SPO within the ethics form and that they have received SPO advice. If the research proposal is rejected then the researcher will need to think again. If the research proposal is approved then the proposal will proceed to the next stage.
  3. SURVEY ASSOCIATED WITH RESEARCH PROJECT SUBMITTED TO SPO The survey should be constructed in the platform of either Online Surveys, Google Forms of Qualtrics or some other approved survey platform. Once complete the researcher and SPO member assigned to the project can check through the questions to ensure that there is no errors in the type of information being sought, i.e. information that can identify an individual. It is important to remember that postcode information on respondents will not be provided as this could enable the identification of individuals. However, information associated with postcodes such as deprivation indices could be attached to the final data file returned to the researcher. Initial discussions with SPO in step 1 above should include whether the potential linked data that may be required for the project should be outlined and agreed.
  4. SPO: SELECT SAMPLE FOR SURVEY FROM POOL OF RESPONDENTS The SPO member assigned to the project will then send the survey to the respondents selected from the pool according to the criteria outlined by the project. Respondents will be contacted by email and asked to undertake the survey in the timescale indicated.
  5. RUN SURVEY AND COLLATE RESULTS Where appropriate, the SPO will run and provide the survey results will be provided in Excel or SPSS format (Online Surveys) and in Excel format (Google Forms). This will be the case where personal information needs to be collated and removed before the researcher can receive the results. Alternatively, if no personal identifying information, such as postcode, is required in the survey then, once the volunteers have been contacted, the researcher can run and collate the results themselves.
  6. RETURN ‘CLEANED’ DATA FROM SURVEY TO RESEARCHER Where personal information is included within the survey, this will be ‘cleaned’ out and then clean data provided to the researcher. No information likely to identify an individual will be returned to the researcher in the final data file.  The response rate to the survey will be provide to the researcher as well as the sample size to enable the researcher to assess the robustness of the survey results.
  7. SUMMARY OF RESULTS In addition to these steps, any researcher using the SPO will be expected to provide a summary of the results of the project, highlighting the importance of the survey for the results and their interpretation. This will be made publically available on the website for the SPO to ensure that the volunteers see how their responses have helped to advance research.
  8. FFOCUS GROUPS AND OTHER FORMS OF SURVEYS WHERE THE RESPONDENT IS KNOWN TO THE RESEARCHER Where the survey is the type where the respondent will be known to the researcher, then the SPO can act as a recruitment agent as the pool of volunteers will include those who have indicated that they are happy to take part in such surveys. In this case, once appropriate ethical approval has been granted, the SPO will email potential volunteers with information about the research project and contact details for the researcher. It is then up to the volunteer if they wish to take part in the survey or not. If they do they will contact the project researcher directly.