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Professor Richard Smith and Professor Lee Elliot Major 

Leading experts in public health and social mobility made fellows of the Academy of Social Sciences

Leading University of Exeter experts in public health and social mobility have been made fellows of the prestigious Academy of Social Sciences.

Professor Richard Smith and Professor Lee Elliot Major have been recognised for their pioneering work on the links between health and the economy, and improving understanding of social mobility and the prospects of disadvantaged young people.

New fellowships of the Academy of Social Sciences are awarded after a peer review process, for the excellence and impact of work and their contributions to the social sciences for public benefit.

Professor Smith, who is Deputy Pro-Vice Chancellor for the University of Exeter Medical School, is an internationally leading health economist, working to extend the reach of social science in health, including pandemics, antimicrobial resistance, and diet-related health. He has pioneered methods of macro-economic modelling of communicable and non-communicable diseases, the economic analysis of the impact of trade, and assessment of fiscal measures related to public health, including the UK “sugar tax”.

Professor Smith was previously Head of the Department of Global Health and Development and Dean of the Faculty of Public Health & Policy at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. He has acted as expert advisor for numerous organisations, including the WHO, WTO, World Bank, and the OECD. Professor Smith is an honorary member of the Faculty of Public Health, fellow of the Royal Society of Public Health, and a principal fellow of the Higher Education Academy.

Professor Smith said: “Peer recognition is always immensely humbling so I am incredibly proud to have been elected as a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences.  As an economist working in health and healthcare, I see it as important also to promote the critical contribution that social sciences make to improving population health.

“As social beings, the study of how we behave, interact and live with each other is fundamental to making our ‘society’ healthier.  Social sciences are critical to preventing and treating illness by understanding environmental settings, interpersonal relationships, cultural factors and economic systems that support engagement in healthy behaviours and effective health systems.”

Professor Elliot Major is the country’s first Professor of Social Mobility, based in the University’s Graduate School of Education. His UKRI and HDRUK supported research is investigating learning loss suffered during the Covid pandemic and its consequences for social mobility for current generations.

His award winning books on social mobility and education have attracted attention across the world, and his work summarising education evidence has benefited hundreds of thousands of teachers. Professor Elliot Major is former chief executive of the Sutton Trust and was awarded an OBE for services to social mobility. His work is focused on impacting on policy and practice, and he is one of the country’s most prominent expert voices in education, impacting on a range of Government policies. He was a vocal champion for the National Tutoring Programme recently announced by the Government.

He said: “Being the first in my family to go to university, understanding and improving social mobility is both a personal and professional passion. Research on widening inequalities in society will become even more important as we recover from pandemic.

“The social sciences must aspire to the most rigorous approaches to explain the patterns that shape our world, but I believe we also have a responsibility to try to improve society for the better. It is an honour to be awarded a fellowship of the Academy of Social Sciences.”

Professor Roger Goodman, President of the Academy of Social Sciences, said:“We are delighted to welcome 37 talented fellows to the Academy this Spring. Our new Fellows have been selected for the excellence of their research, impact, thought leadership, and the practical application of social science to real world problems. I congratulate them all and look forward to collaborating with them in promoting high quality social science in the UK and across the world.”

Date: 17 February 2021

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