Lessons from a loose researcher

Julia Park

Never trust other people’s statistics, says Julia Park. There’s always a risk someone put a decimal point in the wrong place

Research is a curious and privileged occupation that can take many forms. The Oxford Dictionary defines it as, ‘The systematic investigation into and study of materials and sources in order to establish facts and reach new conclusions’. As so much research is now commissioned by private companies or individuals, they might like to add in, ‘unbiased’, next time the definition is reviewed.

Much of what I do falls some way short of that formal definition. I am happy to describe myself as a ‘loose researcher’ not least because, like many others, I rely heavily on other people’s work. I am usually doing no more than reading, thinking, testing and writing. As that rarely involves the primary research, which tends to be difficult to find and often impenetrable, an element of Chinese whispers has to be accepted.

When I do come up with ideas, they’re usually practical, rather than inspirational. Housing policy and standards is a strange obsession for someone who is fundamentally not keen on rules at all, but having accepted that rules are often necessary because not everyone can be trusted to do the right thing (just look at what’s being produced under PDR), it’s pretty important that they are sensible and remain relevant.

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