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What do researchers and evaluators do?

The term ‘researcher’ is fairly self-explanatory—as you’d expect, researchers are responsible for doing the research to underpin government policy.

This research can take a wide variety of forms. A researcher may work on public surveys or focus groups, talking directly to people about their concerns. An example of this might be a researcher who is using a focus group to determine how people with disabilities feel about the resources and programs available to them. Alternately a researcher may be involved in number crunching, economic modelling and statistical analysis. Or they may conduct longitudinal social science research on the trends affecting New Zealand.

Researchers may come from a variety of backgrounds, depending on the sort of research they are working on. Most will have a tertiary qualification in their field of expertise, or relevant experience. Currently, most government employers will expect that researchers can do both quantitative and qualitative research.

Evaluators do similar work to researchers—they look for evidence to understand the impact of government policy. They examine past policies to see if they have been successful or not. For example, an evaluator might look at the effectiveness of a new anti-smoking campaign and use surveys to determine whether or not the public was aware of the ad, and if it had an impact on their decision to give up or continue smoking.