Taking Part: What use is data?

Rachel McGuire, a Research Officer at Arts Council England, talks about our recently published regional Taking Part profiles, which look at cultural engagement across England, and the value of data in arts and culture.

We have just released a series of nine regional profiles that derive from analysis of the most recent annual Taking Part dataset (2011/12) collected via a public survey commissioned by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) in partnership with Arts Council England, English Heritage, and Sport England. These complement analysis undertaken by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).

Taking Part includes questions on attendance and participation with the arts, libraries and museums. It also explores attitudes to the arts. The survey provides useful data to aid your understanding of public engagement with the arts, libraries and museums in England, both for adults and children across the regions.

We hope the nine regional profiles we have produced will help to inform understanding of cultural engagement by region.

Indeed, data can provide an important starting point for our understanding of engagement in culture. Here are some examples of how data has been used to inform and shape resources and initiatives which support the arts and culture sector:

Arts Audiences: Insight
Arts Audiences: Insight is an arts-based segmentation of English adults. Taking Part data was used to identify the 13 arts consumer segments, and it was linked to the consumer data from TGI (Target Group Index) survey data to profile the 13 segments.

Creative People and Places
Creative People and Places focuses investment in parts of the country where people's involvement in the arts is significantly below the national average, with the aim of increasing participation in those areas.

Local authority level data from the Active People survey was used to determine the areas of low engagement eligible for the Creative People and Places fund. The Active people survey is a national telephone survey about participation in sport and between 2008 and 2010 respondents were also asked about their engagement in the arts, libraries and museums and galleries.

Case Drivers project: non engagement to engagement
This looked at the huge range of factors that predict and influence decisions to engage in culture and sport. Taking Part was used as the main dataset in modelling a journey from non- engagement to engagement ‘because it was recent, methodologically robust and contained all of the engagement types of interest and a very rich set of explanatory variables’ (Technical Report, 2010: 19).

For those interested in the more technical side of the research and reporting, please take a look at the technical report.

However to finish, as Policy Exchange argues in their report on big data: ‘particularly in the realm of public policy, we need to work with data sets that are representative, pay close attention to selection bias, and maintain a balanced perspective on the confidence we attach to data driven inferences and the limitations of quantitative analysis’ (Yui, 2012: 23).

To find out more about cultural engagement in your region and across the country, read our 2011/12 Taking Part regional profiles, downloadable from the research pages of our website.

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