Independence: What it means to us

Oxford University’s Migration Observatory was launched in March 2011 to provide an independent source of expert analysis of data on migrants and migration issues in the UK, set in an international context. Our aim is to inform media, public and policy debates and to provide a strictly evidence-based resource for all contributors to the migration debate, regardless of their views on migration. Drawing on the expertise of over 30 migration researchers at Oxford University, we offer commentaries, briefings, policy primers and a wide range of downloadable charts.

Independence is key to our work. For us independence means striving at all times for analysis that is rigorous, comprehensive, transparent and not aimed at supporting any particular interest group, political party or policy agenda. How are we aiming to achieve this in practice?

All materials that the Observatory produces are based on the most authoritative data and research evidence available. We always make it clear where the data and research evidence have come from. We aim to cover all major migration issues. All our analysis is peer reviewed and subject to rigorous editorial guidelines. We also work hard to ensure that the evidence gaps and limitations of the sources we work with are spelled out. We make clear what is known and not known about a particular migration issue. 

Our analysis informs public and policy debates without saying what policy should be. Immigration policy inevitably involves trade-offs between different impacts. Many immigration policy decisions require judgments about values and interests, issues that do not have one “right” answer. The same people may agree on how immigration impacts on the economy and society but disagree about policy implications. In assessing policies, we do not make these value-based judgments, but try to make clear what trade-offs are at stake.

The Observatory’s work includes analysis of the policy choices being made by successive Governments. Our materials look back at migration data over time and allow users to consider and scrutinise the impacts of policy interventions on patterns of migration to and from the UK. The Observatory also looks at the international context of our materials, so comparisons can be made between the UK’s migration data and that of other countries.

Full transparency about not only the Migration Observatory’s data and analysis but also our funding, advisory board, affiliations and staff is important, as it allows users to scrutinise all aspects of our work. A detailed overview can be found on the About Us section of the Migration Observatory’s website. 

The Migration Observatory was set up by the Centre on Migration, Policy and Society (COMPAS), an ESRC funded research centre that sits within Oxford University’s Social Sciences Division. Information on the  Migration Observatory team is available on the website. We also draw on the expertise of researchers on migration from departments across Oxford University.

The Migration Observatory regularly meets with a wide range of organisations with interests in migration. We were not set up to discredit any particular organisation or individual. Sometimes our analysis will be in tune with that of other groups, while at other times it will not. We always endeavor to ensure that it considers the many complexities and facets of any debate.

It is encouraging that since our launch this approach has repeatedly proved successful, with media outlets from all sides of the political spectrum using our materials to draw vastly differing conclusions.

The UK’s migration debate can be heated, so any organisation claiming to be independent can expect, at some point and for a range of potential reasons, to be accused of bias. We encourage anyone who is concerned about migration to visit our site, read our materials and decide for themselves.

8 September 2011