Alexandra Albert


'Developing Approaches for Citizen Social Science and Public Anthropology'

PhD summary

Alexandra is an ESRC CASE PhD student looking at developing approaches for citizen social science and public anthropology. The PhD is based in the Cathie Marsh Institute for Social Research (CMIST) at Manchester University with co-supervision from the Mobilities. Lab at Lancaster University and in collaboration with the Mass Observation Archive Trust.

She seeks to explore whether citizens can become fieldworkers of their own lives. Using available digital technology to collect data as they go about their daily activities in a directed and structured way. Many people are increasingly creating digital data from their own daily activities and communications. For example, through online searching and purchasing records and social media communications.

However, to what extent can volunteer citizens be mobilised to work in collaboration with trained social scientists to systematically gather data about the world they observe around them?

The role of being a volunteer observer is a form of civic involvement or responsible citizenship.

Citizen social science could bring a renewed idea of public sociology and a radical, emancipatory and social justice driven social science. The volunteer observer methodology might empower the citizen in the social research process and also facilitate the researching of issues where resources are limited and populations are hard to reach.

Citizen data archives could be set up with people automatically copying their observation data alongside blogs and social media for social science research. Empowered citizens could have greater control over data and provide scope for social science research use. Citizen social science could lead to the tackling of intractable social issues.

The PhD examines new digital methods for emancipatory social science research, where citizens are research contributors while being researched. It will also examine the ethics behind such methods.

A mixed-methods approach will be used, including:

  • a citizen science evidence review;
  • a longitudinal follow up of previous Mass Observers;
  • a series of pilot data-gathering case studies; including
  • the cross-validation of observation data and consultation with key stakeholders in social science.

It will produce valuable evidence to develop our understanding of new methods and data and the potential for transformative social science.


September 2014 - September 2017


  • Kingsley Purdam
  • Monika Buscher
  • Gillian Evans


Before starting her PhD, Alexandra worked as a social researcher for seven years. Undertaking primary and secondary research, using qualitative and quantitative research methodologies. Such as in-depth interviewing and qualitative data analysis, to designing citizens’ juries to survey design and statistical analysis.

She also worked for the Grantham Institute for Climate Change at the London School of Economics, Arts Council England and The Work Foundation.

She is interested in:

  • notions of citizenship and citizen participation;
  • expertise;
  • communities of practice, how these are sustained and the rate at which they grow;
  • the DIY/maker scene; and
  • the implications of big data for identity and everyday existence.


  • Reid B, Albert A & Hopkins L (2010) A Creative Block? The Future of the UK Creative Industries The Work Foundation
  • Sullivan J, Wong W, Adusumili D, Albert A, Blazey L, Huggett M (2010) Deal or No Deal: An exploration of the modern employment relationship The Work Foundation
  • Wong, W, Sullivan J, Blazey, L, Albert, A, Tamkin, P & Pearson, G (2010) The Deal in 2020: A Delphi study of the future of the employment relationship The Work Foundation
  • Tamkin P, Albert A (2010) A Policy Review of Skills Utilisation, A report prepared for the UK Commission for Employment and Skills, UKCES
  • Tamkin P, Cochrane L, Williams M, Wong, W, Albert A (2010) High-Performance Working: Employer Case Studies, UKCES
  • Tamkin P, Albert A, Reid B, Hopkins L, Blazey L (2010) Skills Utilisation Case Studies: Analytical Report, UKCES
  • Wong W, Albert A, Huggett M, Sullivan J (2009) Quality People Management for Quality Outcomes The Work Foundation.

Contact details

Twitter: @bun81