Spotlight on: Insights from Understanding Society

Insights is produced in collaboration with the Understanding Society

Throughout August we will be throwing a spotlight on our podcast productions from the 2022/23 academic year. We continue with Insights produced in collaboration with Understanding Society.

In the latest series of Insights, our Senior Producer Catherine McDonald and Chris Coates spoke to experts on and who have used the UK Household Longitudinal Study and discussed what insights it can offer us on the challenges and opportunities for people living in the UK.  

In the first episode Catherine spoke with Jeevun Sandher, an economist from King’s College London; Xiaowei Xu, Senior Research Economist at the Institute for Fiscal Studies and Mike Brewer, Deputy Chief Executive and Chief Economist at the Resolution Foundation. Their discussion covered the UK’s geographical inequalities, the influence of government spending on inequality and poverty and why the UK is so unequal.  

Jeenvu made an important observation about the impact of inequality on the very foundation of democracy –

“Regional inequality is endangering democracy itself, because there is no reason to have a stake in the system when the system doesn’t make you better off.”

Jeenvu Sandher, Insights (Nov 2022)

In episode 2 Chris spoke to Dr David Buil-Gil from the University of Manchester, Roisin Ryan-Flood, Professor of Sociology and Director of the Centre for Intimate and Sexual Citizenship at the University of Essex and Prevent and Protect Fraud Officer for Essex Police David Gillies. They discussed the problem of romance fraud – where people are scammed by someone they thought they were in a relationship with. 

The conversation interwove real life experiences with research leading David to argue that

“It always important to continue discussion around consent, improving education around those topics and also as society embrace more conversations around intimacy and emotion.”

David Buil-Gil, Insights (Nov 2022)

In episode 3 Catherine spoke to Dr Daniel Wheatley from the Department of Management at the University of Birmingham, Dr Kiron Chatterjee, Professor of Travel Behaviour at the University of the West of England and Pete Dyson, Principal Behavioural Scientist at the Department for Transport. They discussed the impact of commuting and working from home on transport policy in the UK and COVID’s impact on commuting dynamics.  

In a post-COVID world, if there is such a thing, we are now more used to working from home and hybrid approaches. Daniel argues that relationships between employers and employees is crucial to its success;

“The other priority is on the employer-employee relationship side. Both these parties need to understand and talk to each other about what they want. It shouldn’t be that an employer needs a researcher like me to tell them what their own workforce wants… how that relationship moves forward is integral to getting the best out of that relationship.”

Daniel Wheatley, Insights (Nov 2022)

Episode 4 saw Catherine discuss the experience of ageing in the UK with Dr. Matt Barnes, Senior Lecturer in sociology at City University London, Jemma Mouland, Deputy Director for Research Impact and Voice at the Centre for Ageing Better and Stephen Pudney. Stephen is a professor of econometrics at the University of Sheffield and Understanding Society’s topic champion for ageing and social policy. They discuss concepts of pensioner poverty, disability costs, geographical inequality and policy recommendations. 

Jemma Mouland, representing Ageing Better, argued that England needs an Older People’s Commissioner to protect and promote the rights of older people.

“We recommend an Older People’s Commissioner for England… that is about us protecting and promoting the rights of older people now and in the future.”

Jemma Mouland, Insights (Nov 2022)

In episode 5 Catherine was in conversation with Dr. Sarah Knight from the University of York, Professor Brendan Burchell from Magdalene College, Cambridge, and Chief Executive of Groundwork Graham Duxbury about the physical environment effects on our health and wellbeing.

Sarah suggests that harnessing the natural environment is a cost effective way of achieving environment and health care benefits;

“It’s a priority for loads of different government departments and bodies connecting people with nature, harnessing nature connection to really leverage health and wellbeing benefits from green infrastructure from environmental interventions. It’s a really cost effective way of achieving environment and health care benefits.” 

Sarah Knight, Insights (Nov 2022)

Rounding off the series episode 6 dealt with the impact and potential solutions to the cost-of-living crisis. Chris spoke to Hamish Low, the James Meade Professor of Economics at the University of Oxford, and Rebecca McDonald, the chief economist of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, which works to solve poverty in the UK.  

Hamish’s closing comment referred to the need to build a more resilient economy and society;

“I’m just going to reiterate is that we do go from crisis to crisis of one form or another. And it is about how do we make the economy more resilient, rather than reacting to what the latest problem is.” 

Hamish Low, Insights (Dec 2022)

The Insights podcast is produced by Understanding Society in collaboration with Research Podcasts. 

If you are interested in our production services contact our Managing Director, Chris Garrington, for more information at

Research Podcasts offer podcast consultancy, production and training for researchers and academics. Check out our various training workshops including an introduction to podcasting workshophow to launch your podcast and our more advanced courses on podcast presentingpodcast editing, and how to build a podcast brand

Freya Peake, Research and Administration Assistant at Research Podcasts