‘Data, Science and Policy’ – 50 years of the 1970 British Cohort Study

9 Nov 2020
Public lecture

As part of our celebration of 50 years of the 1970 British Cohort Study (BCS70), we hosted a live panel that looked at the huge impact of the study on policy in the UK. From social mobility to adult numeracy and health outcomes, how has it influenced policy-makers now and how can it contribute in the future?

A free online lunchtime panel debate

BCS70 is a birth cohort study that has been following the lives of around 17,000 people born in England, Scotland and Wales in a single week of 1970.

  • But how has it contributed to data, policy and practice on issues as diverse as the gender pay gap, early years education provision and the benefits of reading for pleasure?
  • What are the challenges when looking to influence policymakers?
  • How can BCS70 (and longitudinal research) continue to affect policy in the future?

We were joined by the authors of some of the most influential research to have come from the study as well as current policy shapers and experts.


Introduced by Alice Sullivan, Professor of Sociology and Head of Research for the Social Research Institute. Alice is author of influential BCS70 research on inequalities in education and society.

Chaired by Dr Lee Elliot Major, OBE, Professor of Social Mobility, University of Exeter.


  • Professor John Bynner, former BCS70 director, who conducted the literacy and numeracy research that informed the Skills for Life initiative (2001-2011).
  • Jenny Dibden, Head of the Government Social Research Service and Co-Director Cities and Local Growth Unit.
  • Professor Leon Feinstein, University of Oxford, author of one of the most well-known BCS70 studies, which influenced New Labour policy on early years education provision.
  • Dr Praveetha Patalay, Associate Professor, UCL Centre for Longitudinal Studies and author of influential longitudinal research looking at mental health and health-related behaviours.

The debate was concluded with an audience Q&A. Over 100 people attended live. A recording of the event is available here.

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