The Children’s Research Centre 1995-2016
The Children’s Research Centre (CRC), Trinity College Dublin, was established in 1995 as a joint initiative of the School of Psychology and the School of Social Work and Social Policy. With its multidisciplinary approach and collaborations with other members of college and with policy makers and international colleagues, it developed significant partnerships with numerous statutory, voluntary and community bodies concerned with children and young people.
Its Mission Statement was to:
- Conduct policy and practice relevant research on children and young people and on the family, community and other contexts in which children live their lives
- Promote child centred research that gives voice to the children's and young people's experience and perspective
- Integrate perspectives on children and childhoods from relevant disciplines
- Build capacity for research on children within the University and within Ireland more generally
- Build effective links with colleagues in the field of children's research internationally
- Maintain effective links with services and organisations concerned with provision for children
- Contribute to policy debates relevant to the work of the Centre.
Professor Sheila Greene, School of Psychology, and Professor Robbie Gilligan, School of Social Work and Social Policy had, for several years prior to the inception of the CRC, discussed their interests in collaborating on child-centred research. Being located in different departments and in different faculties made collaboration difficult.
The idea to establish a Children’s Research Centre coincided with Trinity’s quatercentenary in 1992. The events planned for this celebration appeared limited in their community outreach and in a lack of involvement of children, despite important child policy developments that took place in Ireland in 1991. These included the Childcare Act and Ireland becoming a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Around the same time in Nordic countries and in the UK, new ideas about childhood were emerging through the new sociology of childhood that critiqued the dominant paradigm of socialisation of children (children as becomings) to children being viewed as agentic (children as being).
In Ireland in the early 1990s there was a dearth of research on Irish childhood and Irish children. Many children were excluded and did not have their basic needs met or understood. The shared motivation of Professors Greene and Gilligan was to bring the resources of the university to bear on issues concerning children.
The CRC was officially designated as a research centre in 1995. Prior to this was a two-year planning process that aimed to secure funding for its operation. Tara Consultants (Atlantic Philanthropies) facilitated this process and provided support with business planning. The Centre got off the ground with its first grant from Tara. This supported the appointment of a Programme Director, Barry Cullen. Professors Greene and Gilligan occupied the roles of Joint Academic Directors. The first Research Fellow, Diane Hogan, was appointed in 1996. In 1998 President Mary McAleese publicly launched the Centre.
Governance and management
AIB Chair in Childhood Research
Professor Sheila Greene took up the post of AIB Professor in Childhood Research and Director of the Children’s Research Centre in March 2005 with her academic attachment in the School of Psychology. This position constituted a fully endowed Chair supported by a benefaction of €5m, donated equally by the Atlantic Philanthropies and Allied Irish Banks (AIB).
The Director maintained overall executive responsibility for all operations, including management, staffing and allocation of resources. Professor Robbie Gilligan was designated as Associate Director.
From 2004 to 2012 the Centre operated an Executive Committee composed of the Director, senior research staff, and staff from the host schools who had responsibility for major projects, and who were appointed as senior research fellows. The Executive Committee, through its monthly meetings, had decision-making responsibility for resource allocation of projects; for planning and development of the programme of activities; and supporting the Director in the development of the CRC’s strategy.
A CRC Board operated from 2005 to 2010. The Board comprised eight members, four College representatives (including one from the CRC) and four from external organisations that aligned with the Centre’s mission. Board members had responsibility for the strategic direction of the Centre:
- Ensuring the CRC remains focussed on its objectives
- Determining the strategic direction
- Ensuring that activities are directed in support of core objectives
- Ensuring that resources are applied to the pursuit of objectives and that proper financial oversight is provided
- For publishing an annual report and accounts
In addition to the funded Chair in Childhood Research, the CRC received core funding from Atlantic Philanthropies (AP) of up to €300,000 per year to support administration and other activities. Core funding from AP ceased in 2007. In 2007 and 2008 Professor Greene raised €300,000 to replace the AP funding core funding from the Office of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs.
In 2008 Professor Greene secured a grant of €100,000 from the OMCYA that allowed the development and support of a new Structured PhD in Child and Youth Research. This activity aligned with the CRC’s strategic objective to build research capacity nationally in child and youth research. This programme was delivered in a partnership with NUI Galway until the partnership formally ceased in 2014.
Further financial support of €63,000 per annum was achieved through Professor Greene’s work as Co-Director on the Growing Up in Ireland study. This supported CRC operating and staffing costs.
Research project grants
The CRC demonstrated an excellent track record in achieving competitive research funding. The largest and most significant social science research programme in the State, the National Longitudinal Study of Children in Ireland (Growing up in Ireland/GUI), was led for Trinity by Professor Sheila Greene in partnership with the Economic and Social Research Institute.During the period 1996-2014, the CRC received competitive research grants from organisations as outlined in Table 1:
- Dr Barry Cullen (1995 - 2000)
- Prof Robbie Gilligan (2000 – 2003)
- Dr Jean Whyte (2003)
- Prof Sheila Greene (2004 - 2011)
- Dr Michelle Share (Acting) (October 2011 - January 2014)
- Prof Trevor Spratt (February 2014 - September 2016)
Since its inception the CRC hosted students undertaking postgraduate research in child/youth issues with supervisors based in the School of Social Work and Social Policy or School of Psychology. The CRC provided a supportive research environment for these students and, in turn, the students contributed to the work of the Centre by assisting with Centre research and events, presenting their research at ‘in-house’ seminars, and citing affiliation with the Centre when presenting or publishing their work.
Structured PhD in Child & Youth Research
The Structured PhD in Child & Youth Research programme began in 2009 and was delivered by the CRC, as a joint initiative of the School of Psychology and the School of Social Work and Social Policy, in an institutional partnership with the Child and Family Research Centre, School of Political Science and Sociology and the School of Psychology, NUI Galway. The Programme aimed to inform students about key theoretical, methodological, policy and practice areas relating to children, to prepare them to conduct high quality policy and practice-relevant research and programme evaluation with children and young people, and provide graduates with the set of generic work-skills to facilitate their successful entry into the full range of employment settings.
The final cohort enrolled in autumn 2013. In its six years the Programme had 17 graduantes from Trinity.
The CRC disseminated its work through commissioned reports, peer reviewed publications, conference presentations, and through its membership of national and international networks. In 2011 the CRC celebrated its 15th anniversary. This event, launched by the Provost, showcased the work of the Centre and was attended by funders, colleagues, policymakers, past and staff.
In the 25 years of its existence the CRC had considerable impact. It established a focus for children’s research in Trinity and was influential in taking undertaking research projects with a concern for the health and welfare of children in Irish society. As importantly it was critically important in taking establishing children’s rights by facilitating the voices of children to be heard in research and policy in Trinity and across Irish society
The interdisciplinary foundations established by the CRC were of critical importance in the establishment of its successor, the Trinity Research in Childhood Centre. A Children’s Research Forum was established in 2014 to develop a consensus approach as to how best to develop children’s research across College to include researchers across Schools and Facilities. The decision was to build on the solid foundations provided by the CRC in established a new Centre.