COMPASS seminars 2010

2010 Seminars

Performance and Quality of Primary Care: Research at the Gateway to the Health Care system

Hood Fellowship Visiting Professor Gert Westert
29 October 2010
Professor Westert talked about performance measurement in primary care and about why it is important that Health Ministries in our countries know exactly what is going on in primary care, in access, quality and costs. The presenter used examples from the Netherlands, a health care system with a strong focus on primary health care. While referring to the 2nd Dutch National Survey of General Practice (NIVEL/ RIVM), a research project conducted every decade the Netherlands, he also introduce QUALICOPS a new and recently started EU project that describes the state of PHC in 31 EU countries. His institute is partner in this project.

The New Zealand Social Science Data Service - a work in progress

Gerry Cotterell and Martin von Randow
3 September 2010
Set up in 2007, the NZSSDS was intended to provide a space for the maintenance of data and metadata related to past surveys of note from the social sciences in New Zealand. The service was established following international best practice and currently holds 50 data sets, all available for perusal and secondary analysis, covering political studies, health and social science topics.

Recent developments have seen the incorporation of NZSSDS into the teaching of courses at The University of Auckland. In the same timeframe, materials were prepared to enable the presentation of ‘enhanced publications’ through Nesstar. The seminar discussed the development and current state of the data service and proposed future developments and invites interested parties to contribute to the discussion.

Causal analysis in the non-experimental social sciences. A conference report

Professor Peter Davis 27 August 2010
There is growing interest internationally in the question of whether causal inferences of any strength can be drawn from non-experimental data of the kind that is typically being analysed by empirical social scientists (that is, sociology and political studies in particular, but also human geography and anthropology, and perhaps non-experimental psychology and management studies as well). At COMPASS we have been experimenting with the use of social simulation techniques to craft “what if” causal and policy statements.

However, many investigators are using techniques derived from econometrics with longitudinal data to draw much more convincing causal stories from non-experimental data. In this talk I rehearse some of the work of our research group and then move on to report on presentations in the general area of causal analysis that I attended at the ESRC Research Methods Festival in Oxford and at the ISA congress in Sweden. Contributions and discussion welcome.

Can Honours students analyse social survey data after just five lab sessions? Yes they can!

Martin von Randow, Annika Richterich, Renee Jaine, Ben Gilmore
6 August 2010
There is a significant “quantitative deficit” in the social sciences in New Zealand. For example, there are almost no sociology and political science departments in the country with more than one staff member having significant quantitative skills, and in almost all such departments students can get to honours level and beyond without ever having been exposed to any “non-qualitative” research skills. We have tested the use of a computer-based, laboratory approach to the teaching of basic analytical and computing skills with social survey data at the honours level in Sociology. Over the course of just five laboratory sessions spread over a standard semester, all students were able to copy down international social survey data sets and present credible analyses of issues of substance. In this seminar we presented work from three students on the following topics:

Is New Zealand becoming a more secular society?
Does national identity in New Zealand affect people's attitudes to migrants?
Do women in New Zealand have different friendship networks from men?

All the data are drawn from the International Social Survey Programme (ISSP).

Indigenous Transformation through Research Excellence

Professor Charles Royal
11 June 2010
In this presentation, Charles presented views and ideas concerning the notion of 'indigenous transformation through research excellence'. This is the proposed by-line for Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga, one of New Zealand's eight centres of research excellence. In the Ngā Pae context, 'indigenous transformation' encompasses the following four interconnecting themes:

  • addressing needs, issues and problems facing Māori peoples (educational underachievement, for example);
  • seizing upon opportunities and yielding the 'creative potential' of Māori peoples (distinctive cultural creativity, for example, such as whare wānanga, whare tapere, tā moko, taonga pūoro and so on);
  • connecting with and relating to indigenous peoples throughout the world;
  • fostering indigeneity in the world at large.

Charles discussed each of these themes and look how these might find expression in the work of Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga.

Te Ahukaramū Charles Royal was recently appointed Professor of Indigenous Development in the Faculty of Arts, University of Auckland, and Director of Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga, one New Zealand's eight centres of research excellence.

Statistics, why do we need it? – and if we do, How should it be taught?

Chris Triggs 4 June 2010

The first question is, of  course, both rhetorical and ironic.  There is a huge and unmet demand for courses in Statistics particularly for postgraduate and professional audiences.  In this talk I will discuss recent changes in both the subject matter and the pedagogy of Statistics. I am interested to hear views as how Statistics should be taught to social scientists

The HealthStat service for public health surveillance and managing population health

Dr Barry Gribben
28 May 2010
HealthStat collects data from about 2.2 million patients every week providing a rich source of information on the content of primary care, population health status, and the incidence of infectious diseases. With links through from population overviews to live patient data HealthStat closes the gap between public health and primary health care. Barry Gribben will describe the HealthStat system and its potential uses.

Barry worked for 20 years as a GP in Otahuhu and was Director of the Auckland RNZCGP Research Unit. He now runs CBG Health Research. CBG provides research and evaluation services, household health surveys and primary health care intelligence. Recent projects include the evaluation of the Primary Health Care Strategy and the Meningococcal B Vaccination Programme, the NZ Oral Health Survey and the Alcohol and Drug Use Survey.

Proportional Representation and Strategic Voters

Arkadii Slinko
21 May 2010
This paper was initially motivated by a desire to explain the behaviour of voters at the New Zealand general election held September 17th, 2005. The New Zealand electoral system is mixed member proportional (MMP). Anecdotal evidence has suggested that some voters voted insincerely even though their doing so could have cost their most preferred party seats. We analyse the election and present two models that account for the behaviour observed in the election.

We rigorously investigate opportunities for strategic voting under proportional representation (PR), other than those that emerge due to rounding. This talk is based on the paper ``Proportional Representation and Strategic Voters'' written jointly with Shaun White which is to appear in Journal of Theoretical Politics.

Inter-ethnic partnerships in New Zealand: a census-based approach

Lyndon Walker
30 April 2010
My thesis examined patterns of ethnic partnership in New Zealand using national census data 1981–2006. Inter-ethnic partnerships are of interest as they demonstrate the existence of interaction across ethnic boundaries, and are an indication of social boundaries between ethnic groups. A follow-on effect of inter-ethnic marriage is that children of mixed ethnicity couples are less likely to define themselves within a single ethnic group, further reducing cultural distinctions between the groups.

The main goals of the research were to examine the historical patterns of ethnic partnership, and then use simulation models to examine the partnership matching process. It advanced the current research on ethnic partnering in New Zealand through its innovative methodology and its content. Previous studies of New Zealand have examined at most two time periods, whereas this study used six full sets of census data from a twenty-five year period.

There were two key components to the methodological innovation in this study. The first was the use of log-linear models to examine the patterns in the partnership tables, which had previously only been analysed using proportions. The second was the use of the parallel processing capability of a cluster computing resource to run an evolutionary algorithm which simulated the partnership matching process using unit-level census data of the single people in the Auckland, Wellington and Canterbury regions.

Lyndon is a Senior Lecturer in statistics and finance at Unitec. He is deputy-chair of the Unitec Research Ethics Committee and the curriculum leader for the Bachelor of Business. Lyndon has been a PhD scholar at COMPASS and recently submitted his PhD thesis.

Structural equation modelling - course summary

Lyndon Walker
26 March 2010
Lyndon summarised a recent course on structural equation modelling using the AMOS software package. The seminar examined some of the basics of the software and the methodology, in a non-technical manner, and showed examples of SEM analysis.

Systematic Reviews - course summary

Peter Beaver
19 March 2010
Systematic reviews are the next step up from literature reviews. They involve the development of a research question around a topic of interest, and the subsequent investigation of that question so the answers generated take account of as much relevant research as possible. Systematic reviews are best known for their importance in evidence based practice in medicine, but increasingly they are relevant in fields such as psychology, educational research, and sociology.

This seminar was intended to provide an introduction to the seven main stages of the systematic review process. The seminar did not provide the complete tool kit in itself.

Peter Beaver graduated with an MA (first class) in Sociology in 1996 and won a prize that year for his research critically analysing the discourse of psychotherapy. After that he worked in the market research industry as a qualitative researcher, before returning to university in 2010 to begin a PhD looking at the equity performance of the hospital system.

Enhancing Hospital Outcomes – HRC-funded project

Professor Jonathan Gabe
12 March 2010
This session involved Professor Gabe in dialogue with Professor Peter Davis, Principal Investigator, and Peter Beaver, doctoral candidate.

Jonathan Gabe is Professor of Sociology in the Centre for Criminology and Sociology, Royal Holloway, University of London, UK. He has research interests in health care organisation, including the health care professions, chronic illness and pharmaceuticals and has published widely in these areas.

His most recent publications are Challenging Medicine, Second Edition, Routledge, 2006 (co-edited with D Kelleher and G Williams), The New Sociology of the Health Service, Routledge, 2009 (co-edited with M Calnan) and Pharmaceuticals and Society: Critical Discourses and Debates. Wiley Blackwell, 2009 (co-edited with S Williams and P Davis). He is currently co-editor of the journal Sociology of Health and Illness.

More than a PhD: Professional development for postgraduates

Associate Professor Martin Tolich
5 March 2010
This talk built on a dialogue with other New Zealand sociologists that Professor Peter Davis began 30 years ago.


Sociology at the University of Otago is tabula rasa. Founded in 2002, it developed its major in 2005, a BA(Hons) in 2008 and in 2010 it welcomes its first PhD students. Otago's Sociology programme is by necessity strategic, built on few staff (4), and offers a narrow range of courses focusing on social inequality, staircased social theory and mixed quantitative and qualitative methods at the 200 and 300 undergraduate levels and advanced quantitative research methods at the graduate level. The expectation is that PhD students will gain proficiency in both research techniques.

We are currently piloting a professional development model for our three-year PhD, where the thesis is only one strand of a student’s professional development. Other strands identified as necessary for a marketable PhD graduate include mentoring teaching development (tutor, head tutor, guest lecturer), getting them to their first publications, facilitating conference attendance and having them recognize the importance of service to the research environment.

Associate Professor Martin Tolich gained his PhD in 1991 at the University of California, Davis following earlier degrees at The University of Auckland. He heads the Sociology programme at the University of Otago teaching social psychology, research methods and qualitative research ethics. His recent Qualitative Health Research article establishes ground-breaking ethical guidelines for autoethnography. He is a senior consultant with Australian Human Research Ethics Consultants. His current ethnography explores the lived experience of healthy volunteers in first in human clinical drug trials.

Underpinning Transparency in Research: establishing a template for a research repository with real-world examples Modifying and Archiving Survey Data Sets for Teaching Purposes

Kaylyn Oon, Carmen Lim, Karl Parker
19 February 2010
Oon, Lim and Parker presented the results of their studentship work on preparing supporting documentation for teaching and research materials to be stored in the NZSSDS archive.

Comparing CoMedCa, WaiMedCa, NatMedCa Surveys

Thomas Evans
15 February 2010
In this presentation, Evans reported on the results of his studentship on tracking over time surveys of primary medical care.