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Dr Julie Newton meets Tony Blair. Photograph taken from Number 10 website © Crown copyright material is reproduced with the permission of the Controller of HMSO and Queen's Printer for Scotland.
Dr Julie Newton meets Tony Blair

Press Release - 12 March 2007

Bath researcher invited to discuss work with Tony Blair

Local ‘wellbeing’ researcher, Dr Julie Newton, has been invited to meet Tony Blair at a reception for young researchers to be held at 10 Downing Street today (Monday 12 March).

The reception at Downing Street, to be hosted by Tony and Cherie Blair, is to celebrate the work being done by young researchers, scientists and engineers for the future economic prosperity and quality of life in the UK.

Dr Newton works closely with the Government on improving communication between academics researching wellbeing issues and policy makers in the UK.

She is part of the ESRC Wellbeing in Developing Countries research group (WeD) based at the University of Bath. The group argues that the concept of wellbeing provides new and innovative insights into how we are to understand and then create policy to deal with the challenges of poverty and development.

Dr Newton is one of the first researchers in the country to be awarded one of the new Economic & Social Research Council placement fellowships. The fellowship provides social science researchers with the opportunity to spend time working with policy-makers and undertake policy-relevant research.

Dr Newton said: “WeD looks at how people’s values, needs and quality of life are constructed and influenced in four developing countries - Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Thailand and Peru. My role is to look at these results, interpret how the wellbeing approach might be of use to current UK policy, and communicate that to the policy makers.

“For example, WeD has conducted research into how people’s values and goals impact on their sense of wellbeing. This has important implications for sustainable development policy in terms of changing people’s behaviour towards achieving environmentally sustainable wellbeing goals.

“I am really excited about the opportunity of meeting Tony Blair and visiting Downing Street. This event reflects the growing importance the Government is putting on the issue of wellbeing and quality of life.”

Each of the researchers awarded a fellowship specialises in a different area of social policy - Dr Newton spends three days a week at the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra), the department that aims to promote sustainable development across the Government so as to improve current and future quality of life in the UK.

The 2005 Sustainable Development Strategy, Securing the Future, identifies wellbeing as being at the heart of sustainable development and stresses the importance of developing appropriate wellbeing indicators. The strategy commits the Government to getting a better understanding and focus on wellbeing and sponsor cross-disciplinary work to bring together existing research and international experience, and explore how policies might change with an explicit wellbeing focus.

The commitment was made in the light of concern among respondents to the consultation on the strategy that traditional measures of economic progress, such as gross domestic product, dominate policy decision making at the expense of wider quality of life issues that are central to sustainable development.

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