Research Officer

This is a core post and exists in every type of local authority.  Research is required in all the local service directorates.  This particular example profiles the work of a research officer with the geographical information system in the department for Social & Housing Services.  It can be taken as a general guide to similar posts in other areas of council functions.  The research officer is a key part of the development team in housing and residential services whose role is to provide research and information in support of their remit but the officers have a more active role to play too.

Work Environment
Though this is almost entirely office-based it is not a desk-bound job.  At times it will be necessary to do field research, surveys for instance, and the officer is also required to make presentations to groups of people in the normal course of work.   The main tasks include telephone work and searching through the many and various sources of information - in libraries, archives, web sites, personal observation and questionnaires.  The hours are 37 per week, with some overtime.  This particular post can be filled by secondment and job share arrangements are possible.

Daily Activities
As well as providing research, the officer will be involved with the design and implementation of geographical information system (GIS).  Duties and responsibilities may include:

  • undertaking broad-based social science research and survey work in support of the council's housing strategy; 
  • designing and applying GIS to the analysis and communication of housing needs in support of housing policy; 
  • identifying, assessing and auditing data in terms of its relevance to the aims above; 
  • providing advice on the limitations of any data as regards statistical reliability;
  • advising on selection of software to meet the above responsibilities; 
  • providing an information service for department officers on relevant housing surveys, statistics and so on to support bids and report back on them; 
  • being involved in the training of other staff involved in general research and GIS; 
  • liaising with other council departments and external agencies - housing associations etc - to make sure that information is shared and duplication does not arise; 
  • presenting results of analyses in a clear and concise manner, orally, in writing and graphically; 
  • assisting in the transfer of data to and from outside agencies; 
  • preparing reports for senior management and appropriate council committees.

Skills & Interests
A research officer with the geographical information system in the department for Social & Housing Services should have:

  • more than 2 years' experience in housing and planning policy research; 
  • at least 2 years' experience in the use of one or more geographic information systems; 
  • a sound knowledge of (a) research methods in the public sector, especially housing and planning, (b) sources of social and demographic information and (c) Microsoft Windows; 
  • proven ability in the fields of information management, especially spatial analysis of statistical data (e.g. census data); 
  • proven ability in the interpretation of statistical information; 
  • proven ability in training non-specialist staff; 
  • proven ability to produce effective clear and concise presentations to groups; 
  • ability to work with a minimum of supervision; 
  • good written and oral communication skills; 
  • the ability to work within corporate policies and an awareness of equal opportunities.

It is desirable that you have experience of the development and use of surveys and questionnaires, knowledge of central and local government housing policies and housing finance and be able to liaise effectively with representatives from a wide a range of organisations.

Entry Requirements
A qualification to degree level in an appropriate discipline is required - in this case, geography, planning information studies or social science.  It would help if you also had a relevant Master's degree.

Future Prospects & Opportunities
There is a chance to advance your career by working towards senior management posts in this area of work, such as Town Planner or Training Manager, for example. There is always the need for scientific research in any service.

Further Information & Services
Chartered Institute for IT
Institute for the Management of Information Systems
Market Research Society
Office for National Statistics

You may find further information about this area of work through Careers Wales ( or in your local library, careers office or school careers library.

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