Revised deadline and the full judging panel: update on the UK Data Service 2020 Dissertation Award

Jen BuckleyJen Buckley introduces the judging panel for the UK Data Service 2020 Dissertation Award and updates us on a revised deadline for applying.



Our UK Data Service Dissertation Award aims to encourage undergraduate students to think about using some of the rich secondary data sources available.

We also want to recognise the many students who are writing outstanding dissertations based on the reuse of data.

In previous years, we received many excellent examples of students using secondary data sources to examine varied topics including wealth and consumption patterns,  links between education and fertility, and attitudes towards immigration.

The abstracts of winning entries, which are available online for 2017 and 2016, demonstrate possibilities for undergraduate students to write dissertations on important topics.

For example, Victoria Smith, our 2016 first prize winner, examined victim reporting of partner abuse using the Crime Survey for England and Wales. Now a Senior Research Officer at the UK Home Office,  Victoria was enthused to use nationally representative survey data to examine a topic she cared deeply about.

Reflecting on the experience, she explains how winning the award increased her confidence in her data skills and helped her demonstrate competence in job interviews.

“I was overjoyed to win the award. It gave me confidence in my ability to analyse and report on data because although you receive your dissertation grade from the university, it was great to have that recognition externally as well…. I’ve been able to talk about winning first prize in job applications and interviews which has undoubtedly helped to demonstrate my competence in quantitative data analysis”

This year

This academic year, we are looking to award the three best dissertations. Each winner will receive a £300 prize and publicity via our website, blog and Newsletter.

Due to the disruption to teaching and assessment this year, we have changed the deadline to Wednesday 3rd June.

To enter, students need to submit a summary of their dissertation using our short entry form (for full details, see our website). A shortlist of full dissertations will then be reviewed by our expert judging panel.

Meet the judges

Each year we arrange a panel of judges consisting of experts from the UK Data Service and senior academic staff.

From the UK Data Service, we have Dr Vanessa Higgins who is Director of User Support and Training and a Senior Research Fellow at the University of Manchester.

She leads the UK Data Service training programme and has extensive experience of large-scale national surveys including time with the Office for National Statistics.

Her research focuses on obesity and includes studies of ethnic differences in obesity using the Health Survey for England.  Dr Higgins also teaches in the Department of Social Statistics, at the University of Manchester.


This year we are pleased to have Dr Paula Devine and Professor James Banks as our external judges.

Dr Paula Devine has extensive experience of social science data and knowledge exchange between academic and policy sectors.

She is co-director of ARK, Northern Ireland’s social policy hub and director of the Northern Ireland Life and Times Survey.

Her expertise includes research on ageing and men’s health and knowledge exchange between the age, academic and policy sectors in Northern Ireland.


James Banks is Professor of Economics at the University of Manchester and a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS).

He has expertise in using quantitative data to model individual economic behaviour over the life-cycle, including consumption and spending patterns, asset accumulation and pension choice.

He was a co-founder of the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA) and his research addresses broad issues in the economics of ageing such as the links between health and the labour market.



We are thankful for the judges for giving their time and we are looking forward to reading this year’s entries. We encourage students to apply and ask for help spreading the word to eligible students. For any queries about the award, please get in touch via email.

About the author

Dr Jennifer Buckley is a Research Associate at the University of Manchester and part of User Support and Training for the UK Data Service. She develops training to support researchers and teachers with a special interest in learning resources that support the use of data in undergraduate social science teaching.


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