Roger Jowell

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Sir Roger Mark Jowell, CBE (26 March 1942 – 25 December 2011) was a British social statistician and academic. He founded Social and Community Planning Research, now known as the National Centre for Social Research, and the Centre for Comparative Social Surveys at City University.

He played a leading role in the establishment of several of the UK's leading social surveys, most famously the British Social Attitudes and the British Election Study. He made a major contribution to the development of robust comparative research through the International Social Survey Programme and the European Social Survey.

Early life[edit]

Roger Mark Jowell was born on 26 March 1942 in South Africa, the second son of Emily Katzenellenbogen and Jack Jowell. In his youth, he was active in left-wing politics becoming President of Cape Town's Student Representative Council and Vice-President of the National Union of South African Students.

"As soon as I graduated from the University of Cape Town in 1964, I came to Britain – initially just to gain a broader perspective on my life. It wasn't that I had to leave, although as President of the Students' Union I'd been heavily involved in student politics and anti-apartheid activities. At that time students were more or less immune from prosecution. But then things changed, and a few months after I arrived in Britain I got word that many of my close friends had been arrested. I realised then that I couldn't go back – it wouldn't have been safe. Once I got my British passport, I was able to go back fairly regularly."[1]

Research career[edit]

In Britain, Jowell was active in anti-apartheid activities and in the Labour Party, becoming Alderman in Camden. He began his research career at Research Services Limited, mentored by Mark Abrams. In 1969, with Gerald Hoinville he founded the London-based Social and Community Planning Research, which became the National Centre for Social Research, He led the organisation for over 30 years.[2]

At Social and Community Planning Research, Jowell established the long-running survey series British Social Attitudes and was closely involved as author and editor in its first nineteen annual reports. He co-directed the British Election Study from 1983 to 2000 and was the founding chair of the International Social Survey Programme from 1984 to 1989. His interest in high quality comparative research grew and in 2002, he and Max Kaase established the European Social Survey alongside a group of leading international experts.[3]

Academic life[edit]

In 2003, Jowell became Research Professor and Founder Director of the Centre for Comparative Social Surveys at City University (now City, University of London), London from where he continued to lead the Central Coordinating Team of the European Social Survey until his death. The success of this ambitious 34 nation comparative study was recognised in 2005 when it was awarded the Descartes Prize for excellence in collaborative scientific research, the first time a social science venture has won Europe's top annual science award. Jowell lectured and published widely.

Social science community[edit]

He made significant contributions to the social science community. In 1978 he initiated the establishment of the Social Research Association. In the 1980s he played a key role in developing a professional code of ethics through the International Statistical Institute.[4] , insisting that it should be an educative rather than a prescriptive code. In 2008 he became Deputy Chair of the board of the UK Statistics Authority advising on the promotion and safeguarding of the publication of official statistics.[5]


Jowell was appointed a CBE in 2001 and was knighted in the 2008 New Year Honours for services to social science.[citation needed] He served for two years as Vice-President of the Royal Statistical Society and was awarded the Market Research Society Gold Medal.[6]

City, University of London holds the annual Professor Sir Roger Jowell Memorial Lecture in his honour.

Personal life[edit]

In 1970 he married psychiatric social worker and fellow Camden London Borough Councillor, Tessa Palmer in Hampstead, London. She went on to become a member of parliament and minister in Tony Blair's and Gordon Brown's cabinets. They divorced in 1977.

In 1979, he married Nighat (Rani) Gilani in Camden. They have two sons, Marco and Adam, and divorced in 1995.

In 1996 he married Sharon Witherspoon, who was Director of the Nuffield Foundation, and had previously been a colleague at SCPR, in the Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire.

External links[edit]


  1. ^ Profile, Retrieved 7 April 2016.
  2. ^ Profile, Retrieved 7 April 2016.
  3. ^ The History of the ESS ERIC, Retrieved 26 February 2018.
  4. ^ The Codification of Statistical Ethics, Journal of Official Statistics. Retrieved 26 February 2018.
  5. ^ Obituary, The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 7 April 2016.
  6. ^ MRS Gold Medal Awarded to Dr Barry Leventhal, Retrieved 26 February 2018.
  7. ^ "Professor Sir Roger Jowell Memorial Lecture [2015]". City University.
  8. ^ "Professor Sir Roger Jowell Memorial Lecture: Sexual health and lifestyles in Britain: a window on a changing society". City University.
  9. ^ "Professor Sir Roger Jowell Memorial Lecture 2017: UK in a changing Europe". City University.