Access Research Knowledge

ARKAccess Research Knowledge (ARK) is a resource providing access to social and political material on Northern Ireland. Established in 2000 within the University of Ulster and Queen's University Belfast, ARK has developed a range of resource materials that inform social and political debate in the region and raise the profile of social science research on Northern Ireland. ARK is currently supported by an ESRC large grant.

ARK's mission and aims

ARK's mission is to make social science knowledge on Northern Ireland easily accessible to the widest possible audience.

ARK's main aims are to:

  • open up access to social and political information to a wide range of individuals, groups, organisations and agencies
  • encourage those with relevant information on Northern Ireland to make it available to the general public and then to take practical steps through ARK to improve access to that information - by making it available online or disseminating it in a different format
  • undertake research to produce primary information where there are perceived gaps. For example, ARK undertakes survey work, and compiles databases of information
  • build capacity within Northern Ireland for social science research to be undertaken
  • contribute to the process of recording what is occurring within the region
  • inform, improve and raise the quality of the policy debates around social issues that confront Northern Ireland society.

Key principles

As a joint Queen's University Belfast and University of Ulster resource ARK works in partnership with all sectors.
  • We provide key evidence to inform social policy and debate from our research, surveys and web resources.
  • We facilitate access to other social policy relevant information.
  • We present information in a range of formats through our website, our publications and our seminar series.
  • Our focus is Northern Ireland but where appropriate we ensure Northern Ireland is included in national and international research.
  • We seek and respond to opportunities that fit within our overall mission.

About ARK

ARK has four main areas of work:

  • surveys
  • conflict, politics and elections
  • policy research and resources
  • outreach, dissemination and training.


ARK runs three major surveys that monitor public attitudes on a wide range of social issues, from politics to pensions, and from education to the environment. Data is made freely available on the ARK website within six months of collection together with user-friendly tables of results.

The Northern Ireland Life and Times (NILT) survey has run since 1998 and focuses on the adult population. NILT includes regular monitoring of attitudes to community relations, race and political developments.

The Young Life and Times (YLT) survey of 16-year olds has run since 2003 and has covered topics suggested by the young people themselves such as social pressures, bullying and self-harm.

The most recent addition to ARK’s suite of surveys is the Kids' Life and Times (KLT) survey of all primary year 7 (P7) children in Northern Ireland. This survey is conducted through schools using a cartoon-based animated online survey. The survey gives a voice to P7 children at an important transition stage in their lives.

Working in partnership with others ARK facilitates access to other independent and government surveys. Surveys On-Line provides quick and easy access to information from a range of academic and voluntary sector social surveys. Users can view tables of results and/or the questionnaire without having to analyse the full dataset themselves. The majority of surveys are Northern Ireland based, although surveys from other places have been included to allow comparison.

ARK's Longitudinal Analysis Unit facilitates and encourages the analysis of longitudinal data.

Conflict, politics and elections

ARK provides access to a broad range of information on the Northern Ireland conflict and politics in the region, including detailed results of elections. Through its resources ARK aims to facilitate researchers and others in understanding the underlying causes of conflict and to facilitate conflict transformation and peace-building locally and internationally.

CAIN (Conflict Archive on the INternet) is the definitive online source of information and source materials about the Northern Ireland conflict from 1968 to the present day. A major new sub-section launched in 2009 focuses on 'Remembering: Victims, survivors and commemoration'.

Northern Ireland Elections is a comprehensive and unique resource relating to elections in Northern Ireland.

The Qualitative Archive on the Conflict provides a searchable online 'catalogue' of potential sources of qualitative research material on the Northern Ireland conflict.

Policy research and resources

ARK aims to support policy development and debate in Northern Ireland through providing information and critical analysis.

The Online Research Bank and its specialist Children's section contain concise and lay-friendly summaries of research on all policy areas and client groups.

ARK is working in partnership with the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) to provide a descriptive resource on social policy in Northern Ireland.

The ARK Research Centre engages in policy relevant secondary analysis.

Outreach, dissemination and training

ARK aims to build research capacity across all sectors and to facilitate debate.

The ARK seminar series has run since 2001 and has developed into a forum where policymakers, practitioners, academics students and other interested parties can discuss key policy issues in relation to latest research findings. The seminars are made available online and provide a valuable resource for those unable to attend in person.

Dissemination is a major priority and ARK produces a range of publications including the popular 'lay-friendly' ARK Research Updates.

ARK works in partnership with specialist providers to provide a wide range of introductory and more advanced research and analysis training courses.

How to access ARK

For further details visit the ARK website.

Further information

  • ARK
    School of Sociology, Social Policy and Social Work, Queen's University Belfast, Belfast, BT7 1NN
    Telephone: +44 (0)28 9097 3034
    Fax: +44 (0)28 9097 3943
  • Claire Feary, ESRC
    Telephone: 01793 442862