Venue: Geoffrey Manton, Location: Room 104 | Wed 25 November 2015


Evaluation in the UK: Exploring the Possible Interface Between Evaluation and Social Research

Speakers: Prof Helen Simons, Prof Tony O’Sullivan, Prof Jon Bannister

5.00 pm – 7.00 pm

Venue: Manchester Metropolitan University, Geoffrey Manton Building, just off Oxford road, room 104
Campus map:

Drinks reception immediately after the workshop (approximately 6:30pm)


In this International Year of Evaluation, evaluation is on everyone’s agenda. However what people mean by it by can differ widely. Sponsored by the UK Evaluation Society, the Policy Evaluation and Research Unit (PERU), in collaboration with the Research Centre for Applied Social Science (RCASS), both based at Manchester Metropolitan University, propose a workshop that will explore the interface between evaluation and social research in the UK context while providing a platform upon which scholars can think strategically about its future trajectory.

Evaluation and social science research are two fields of activity that are strongly intertwined. In practice, evaluation draws on techniques from the social sciences, and some social scientists undertake evaluation work. In the US evaluation research is considered as a distinctive field in the social sciences (Rossi et al., 2004), which has become a discipline taught in higher education at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels (Patton, 2013). Evaluation appears less embedded in the UK, although widely practiced. This relatively new practice is becoming increasingly important in our society as a social and political activity supporting modern norms and values of accountability.

It takes place in various arenas (health, community development, criminal justice, cultural policy, international development, etc.), conducted by professionals from a wide range of backgrounds, possessing varying expertise (sociologists, economists, psychologists, etc.). Yet, perhaps because of the diversity of its experts and its applications, the remit of evaluation remains unclear.

In order to promote evaluation activity, a better understanding of where evaluation sits within the social sciences is required. This entails grasping the reasons for the emergence of a contemporary field of evaluation, the various purposes for which evaluation is conducted, its methodologies and ethics, and the impact of socio-political contexts. The workshop will explore the possible links and boundaries between evaluation and the social sciences and social policy research. The intention is to create a space where three experts debate the academic identity of Evaluation Research. Participants will have an active role, taking part in facilitated discussion during the second part of the workshop.


Workshop objectives:

  • To prompt a theoretical discussion that clarifies the position of evaluation in the UK, as a distinct discipline or as a transdisciplinary practice
  • To start to interrogate the relation between evaluation and ontology, and evaluation and epistemology


Anticipated outcomes:

  • Participants will leave with a clear understanding of what differentiates evaluation and other social science disciplines, contributing to the grounding of their epistemological positions while locating and reinforcing their professional identities.
  • The discussion will inform recommendations for how evaluation teaching should be introduced in higher education. This would partially underpin the establishment of evaluation as a field of expertise in its own right.



PATTON, M. Q. (2013). The Future of Evaluation in Society, Top Ten Trends Plus One. In: DONALDSON, S. (ed.) The Future of Evaluation in Society, A Tribute to Michael Scriven. Charlotte: Information Age Publishing.
ROSSI, P., LIPSEY, M. & FREEMAN, H. (2004). Evaluation: A Systematic Approach, Thousand Oaks: Sage.