Social science and consumer research

Many aspects of the Agency’s work depend on societal factors and the social sciences have an important role to play in helping the Agency consider challenging and complex issues. The Agency has a strong history of using the natural sciences to underpin policy-making and in recent years we have increasingly looked to the social sciences to help us to develop, implement and assess our policies.

Social science research uses scientific enquiry to measure, describe, explain and predict changes in social and economic structures, attitudes, values and behaviours, and the factors that motivate and constrain individuals and groups in society. The Agency uses a range of approaches to gathering social science evidence – from the collection and analysis of statistics, the collation of responses to questionnaires and interviews, to the systematic observation of human behaviour.

To help ensure the Agency develops and delivers a programme of high quality and policy specific social science research its in-house team of researchers in the Social Science Research Unit are members of the Government Social Research service (GSR). This is the professional body for social scientists in government and ensures all research by its members abides by its Code of Practice. The Agency also uses the expertise of the Social Science Research Committee (SSRC). The SSRC help strengthen the Agency’s access to external social science expertise and develop its capacity for social science research.

Social science mailing list

Sign up to our mailing list to receive email notifications when the Agency publishes social science research evidence (including economics), hosts events, publishes papers from the Social Science Research Committee and other social science research information that may be of interest.

If you would like to join the mailing list please email:

How we commission social science research

The FSA commissions a range of social science research, analysis and evaluation to address policy needs across the Agency.

The Agency’s social science research is compliant with the Government Social Research service (GSR) Code of Practice and these reports are published with the GSR logo.

The FSA commissions social science research using a variety of approaches including: advertisements in the Official Journal of the European Union, open tender advertised on our website, a government research framework agreement, or limited tender. The exact mechanism is determined by the nature of the requirement and is designed to ensure we achieve the highest quality and most cost-effective outcomes.

As well as this social science research the Agency also conducts a range of consumer, market and business research, which may include mystery shopper exercises.

Find out more about the Agency's ongoing and published social science research at the links below.

More in this section

  • Cross-cutting social science research

    Monday 17 May 2010

    Cross-cutting research focuses on issues that affect multiple policy areas and/or are multidisciplinary in nature.

  • The 'Food and You' survey

    Tuesday 25 May 2010

    Food and You is a biennial survey that collects robust quantitative data to allow us to compare reported attitudes and behaviours between different groups within the population, and how these change over time. The survey is an important vehicle for measuring progress against the FSA strategy.

  • Food safety social science research

    Monday 17 May 2010

    Food safety research investigates areas such as food hygiene, novel foods and emerging technologies.

  • Balance of competencies review: consumer research

    Tuesday 2 July 2013

    The Agency has carried out consumer research in order to gain an understanding of consumer views on food safety law.

  • Biannual public attitudes tracker survey

    Monday 23 September 2013

    The FSA conducts a tracking survey with consumers, in order to monitor changes in consumer attitudes towards the FSA and food-related issues.

  • Economic and Social Research Council partnership

    Tuesday 10 August 2010

    The Food Standards Agency and the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) formed a strategic partnership in 2008 to fund activities, which aim to develop the social science evidence base on issues around food.

  • Paris Risk Group – International Meeting of Social Scientists Working in Risk Agencies agenda

    Friday 17 January 2014

    18 and 19 March 2014, Aviation House, London

  • Social science research framework

    Tuesday 5 April 2011

    The Food Standards Agency has developed a framework of researchers who will carry out social science research to support the development, monitoring and evaluation of food policy. The framework will allow the Agency to commission social science research more effectively in future.