News, Announcements & Press Releases

12. January 2012 16:39

Professor Sir Roger Jowell, Principal Investigator of the European Social Survey, died on 25th December 2011, following a heart attack, at the age of 69.

We at the European Science Foundation were saddened by the recent news of the untimely passing away of Professor Sir Roger Jowell, co-founder and director of the European Social Survey (ESS), which has received support over the years from the ESF Standing Committee for the Social Sciences (SOC (formerly SCSS)).

Please, find below a message from Professor Sir Roderick Floud, chair of the Standing Committee for the Social Sciences.

"Roger Jowell left his native South Africa in the 1960s, having been warned that his active opposition to the apartheid regime made it dangerous for him to remain there. Although he had a distinguished academic career – and also made a significant contribution as a local politician in London – his main contribution was to surveys and survey research. In 1969 he, with Gerald Hoinville, set up Social and Community Planning Research, later NATCEN, in which he demonstrated his “burning interest in designing and carrying out surveys that accurately reflected people’s views and beliefs, and elucidating the distinction between the two” (David Walker The Guardian 9/1/2012). Roger was also interested in voting behaviour and acted for 17 years as the co-director of the British Election Studies, as well as leading in the 1980s the National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles. He moved from NATCEN in 2003 to become a professor at City University.

Roger was co-founder and director of the European Social Survey (ESS), which has received support over the years from the ESF Standing Committee for the Social Sciences (SOC (formerly SCSS)). The ESS initiative derived from the ESF’s Research Network Programme Beliefs in Government, which led to another Programme called “Blueprint for the European Social Survey” that ran from January 1997 to December 1999. Once up and running with the turn of the century, the ESS was the first comprehensive and methodologically robust study into various European countries’ different social values, attitudes, attributes and behaviour patterns. Under the direction of Roger Jowell the European Social Survey earned in 2005 the Descartes prize, Europe’s top annual science award honouring the scientific excellence in research. It was the first time social sciences were awarded the prize. ESS is about to become one of a very small number of European research infrastructures and has attracted the support and participation of over 30 European nations.

Roger gave freely of his time to many organisations and was also glad to advise younger scholars. He was deputy chair of the UK Statistics Authority from 2008, was awarded the Gold Medal of the Market Research Society, helped to establish the Social Research Association and assisted the International Statistics Institute to develop a code of ethics. Very unusually for a social scientist, he received a knighthood from the Queen in 2008.

Roger Jowell was not only one of Europe’s leading social scientists when it comes to his scholarship, he was also the necessary entrepreneur for the European Social Survey and other research institutions. At the European Science Foundation, and in particular at the Standing Committee for the Social Sciences, we are truly grateful for having had the opportunity to collaborate closely with such a charismatic person as Roger and for his long-standing support of the ESF.

Our sincere condolences go to his wife, Sharon Witherspoon (deputy director of the Nuffield Foundation) and to his two sons."

Professor Sir Roderick Floud