Dr Phil Sayer

Dr Phil Sayer

Dr Phil Sayer
Lecturer

M.01, 3 Priory Road,
11 Priory Road, Clifton, Bristol
BS8 1TU
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philip.sayer@bristol.ac.uk

Telephone Number (0117) 954 6722

School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies

Personal profile

My primary research interests lie in the exploration of theoretical justifications that have been offered for different approaches towards the production of evidence for decision-making purposes. The discourse surrounding 'evidence-based policy' frequently distinguishes between better and worse forms of evidence, usually on the basis of the research methods used to produce the evidence. Randomised controlled trials, for example, are often referred to as a 'gold standard' of evidence. My PhD thesis argued, firstly, that such claims for the primacy of particular research methods are questionable and, secondly, that the extensive concern with epistemic qualities of accuracy and truth is in danger of obscuring the ultimate goal of effective decision-making. Methodological rigour is important, but its dominance of the policy-making literature marginalises other legitimate aspects of the decision-making process.

More broadly, I enjoy researching topics in the philosophy of social science and the interface between philosophy, theory and practice in the social sciences. How ought we to react when our simple, powerful models come into conflict with messy, complex realities? In which approaches or methodologies can we have the most confidence of producing reliable information in an uncertain world? Questions such as these often cut across disciplinary boundaries and require reflection on the very idea of social science.

I currently teach quantitative methods on undergraduate and postrgraduate courses. Having begun my own statistical training in economics before moving into sociology, I particularly enjoy the opportunity to engage with students from a range of disciplinary specialisms in SPAIS and the Faculty of Social Sciences and Law. 

Research

My primary research interests lie in the exploration of theoretical justifications that have been offered for different approaches towards the production of evidence for decision-making purposes. The discourse surrounding 'evidence-based policy' frequently distinguishes between better and worse forms of evidence, usually on the basis of the research methods used to produce the evidence. Randomised controlled trials, for example, are often referred to as a 'gold standard' of evidence. My PhD thesis argued, firstly, that such claims for the primacy of particular research methods are questionable and, secondly, that the extensive concern with epistemic qualities of accuracy and truth is in danger of obscuring the ultimate goal of effective decision-making. Methodological rigour is important, but its dominance of the policy-making literature marginalises other legitimate aspects of the decision-making process.

More broadly, I enjoy researching topics in the philosophy of social science and the interface between philosophy, theory and practice in the social sciences. How ought we to react when our simple, powerful models come into conflict with messy, complex realities? In which approaches or methodologies can we have the most confidence of producing reliable information in an uncertain world? Questions such as these often cut across disciplinary boundaries and require reflection on the very idea of social science.

Teaching

Principles of Quantitative Social Science

Introduction to Quantitative Research

Doing Social Research 

Key Social Thinkers 

Thinking Politically 

Conducting a Research Project Using Secondary Data 

Fields of interest

Philosophy of Social Science, Research Methods, Politics of Evidence, Risk and Uncertainty, Economic Sociology, Research for Public Policy

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