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On Thursday Pope Francis will have completed a year as Bishop of Rome, a year in which he has begun to transform the Church. But be in no doubt, argues our Rome correspondent, of just how wide and how deep go his aims for change
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After 30 years of designing and conducting research of various types, I know the frustrations and challenges first hand. I also know the missed opportunities. Perhaps this is why I am more sanguine than some of your correspondents about the survey on the family.
Yes, it has problems. Yes, the questions were really designed for detailed and prayerful reflection rather than as a research instrument and yes undoubtedly this brings problems.
But that doesn't mean the responses cannot be assessed and common themes found from them. This is a qualitative research challenge many of us would relish, even if it arose in a way other than we would ideally wish.
I have now had approaches from, and given advice to, four dioceses on the analysis of the responses from the survey. I have chosen not to begin with “Well, I wouldn’t start from here.” What I have done is discuss with them strategies for analysis of what people have said. If we care about these issues, we should seek to help, not criticise. Several dioceses have had thousands of responses. That's cause for celebration even if it presents an enormous (avoidable) methodological headache.
We need to take this as a sign of enormous interest and opportunity, rather than a cause to bewail the lack of research design.
Some will think this hopelessly naive. I prefer to think of it as doing what I can to help.
Jim McManus, Director of Public Health for Hertfordshire, Member, Public Health Advisory Board, National Institute for Health Research (Writing in personal capacity)