Spotlight on Joanna Soraghan

This week, we hear from one of our new colleagues Dr Joanna Soraghan.

Joanna Soraghan works as a Data Analyst at the Centre for Excellence for Children’s Care and Protection (CELCIS) within the University of Strathclyde. She joined both CELCIS and SCADR in March 2022, where she works as part of our Children’s Lives and Outcomes research strand. Her research interests are around the care and protection of children and young people, and how data can be used to drive improvements within the sector.

We asked Joanna some questions to get an insight into her career and new role.

Why did you decide on a career in data?

From a young age I had always enjoyed maths and didn’t really consider many other options when it came to applying for university. After my undergraduate degree I went on to complete a PhD in Statistics at the University of Glasgow, where my research focused on the statistical analysis of medical images with a view to improving surgical outcomes.

I have always been driven to have a positive impact with my work and wanted to apply my analytical skills within an organisation striving to make positive change in society rather than going into something such as the financial sector. Having worked with children and young people in a variety of roles over the years, the opportunity to work on data in a way that could positively impact the lives of young people felt like a perfect fit.

What does your job entail?

Within SCADR, I am currently involved in two projects. I primarily work on the ‘Growing Up in Kinship Care’, a project which seeks to gain more knowledge about the journeys, experiences and outcomes of young people who are unable to live with their families and are placed in the care of a family friend or relative - known as kinship care. There are a growing number of children and young people placed in kinship care and this study aims to provide insight that will help government and others to consider how best to meet their needs.

The second project I contribute to is ‘Stability of patterns of care for children in Scotland’. This project has a wider focus on the care journeys of all children placed in the care of their local authority, regardless of the type of setting they actually live in.

What challenges have you had to overcome with your latest project?

As is probably a fairly common theme, the main challenge with my main research project has been the wait for access to data. There are (rightly) lots of steps for any project to go through to ensure that it is an appropriate and ethical use of people’s data, and there are lots of parties involved in both this part of the process and the actual data linkage itself. As such, timeframes from project conception to project approval to actually being able to carry out the work can be very long. Through organisations such as ADR Scotland and Research Data Scotland, however, there is a lot of work being done in order to improve and streamline these processes and enable faster access to valuable datasets for public benefit.

What do you like most about your job?

I really enjoy taking a large and unwieldy file of numbers and letters and managing to turn that into digestible and useful information, especially with the knowledge that this information can then be used to drive important change in people’s lives. This whole process - from data cleaning through to analysis - involves a great deal of problem-solving, something that I find both challenging and rewarding. I also enjoy working within a network such as SCADR as it is nice to know that there are other individuals up against the same challenges and issues, and to have colleagues to be able to share ideas and advice with.

What do you like to do when you aren’t working?

I love being active and outdoors, and spend my free time either running by myself or running after my two little girls at the park. I also love music and try to catch some live shows as often as I can.

What’s a fun fact about you many people may not know?

I really enjoy travelling and after completing my PhD undertook a solo cycling expedition from Canada to Chile. It was an absolutely incredible experience, and something I’d like to try again in a different part of the world someday.


This article was published on 05 Aug 2022

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