Three Essex social scientists awarded prestigious Fellowship

  • Date

    Thu 30 Sep 21

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Academics from the Department of Sociology, Department of Language and Linguistics and Essex Business School at the University of Essex have been appointed Fellows of the Academy of Social Sciences.

They join a select group of Fellows recognised for making a substantial contribution to the social sciences. The Fellowship of the Academy of Social Sciences (FAcSS) is an award granted to leading academics, policy-makers and practitioners.

There are 1,600 Academy of Social Sciences Fellows across the world and this week’s appointment of Professor Thankom Arun, Professor John Preston and Professor Monika Schmid brings the number of Essex academicians to 24.

Pro Vice Chancellor, Professor Chris Greer said: “I am delighted that John, Monika and Thankom have been recognised by the Academy for their stellar contributions to social sciences. A social scientific understanding of local, national and global challenges has never been more important, and the conferment of three new Fellowships at Essex reinforces our reputation as a world-leader in social science research.”

Professor Nancy Kula, incoming Faculty Dean of Social Sciences, added: “It’s wonderful to hear that three professors from the world-leading Faculty of Social Science, Thankom Arun, John Preston, and Monika Schmid have all been awarded fellowships of the Academy of Social Sciences. They fully deserve these awards in recognition of their outstanding research contributions to the social sciences. My congratulations to each of them.”

Professor Thankom Arun, from Essex Business School, has been selected in recognition for his work on global development and accountability. As well as this new appointment, Professor Arun is a Professor Extraordinaire at the Stellenbosch Business School, South Africa and a Research Fellow at IZA, Bonn. He is also chairing an academic steering group on financial inclusion in the International Cooperative and Mutual Insurance Federation (ICMIF). He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce.

Professor Arun said: “It is indeed a proud moment to join such a prestigious organisation, one of the key voices of social sciences, and I feel humbled to be nominated by distinguished peers. I look forward to engaging with this noble institution and fellow social scientists, and continuing my work to address the challenges of society.”

Professor Arun is heading a three year ESRC-ICSSR project on fintech which brings together leading research institutions, government organisations and fintech firms from India and the UK to assess current regulatory, policy and investment practices and identify what changes could be made to increase the quantity and benefits of fintech in these two countries. It will also establish the factors specific to fintech start-ups that influence their ability and appetite to promote trade between the two countries and globally.

Professor John Preston from the Department of Sociology, is being recognised for his innovative work on the sociology of disasters, emergencies and existential threat. He has pioneered a highly original stream of research in the sociology of disasters in terms of racial and class inequalities. This research has led to major inter-disciplinary, collaborations, across Government, industry and the community, extending the reach and impact of social science, funded by the ESRC and EPSRC. He has also written widely on pedagogical and skills issues. His work has influenced UK and EU Government policy.

Professor Preston said: “I am delighted and of course honoured to be joining the Fellowship of the Academy of Social Sciences. The Faculty of Social Sciences enables academics to do exemplary work, analysing, challenging and putting forward ideas for the future. I hope this award allows me to further promote the fantastic achievements of the Faculty, and the University.”

Professor Preston’s recent books include Grenfell Tower: Preparedness, Race and Disaster Capitalism (2019) which examines the role of fire safety information and procedures in the tower block fire and Coronavirus, Class and Mutual Aid in the United Kingdom (2020) with Dr Rhiannon Firth in which he critically analyses the UK government's COVID -19 policies and advocates for the role of community based mutual aid. His forthcoming book, Artificial Intelligence in the Capitalist University (2021) examines the impact of AI on the control and regulation of academic work and labour, on digital learning and remote teaching, and on the value of learning and knowledge.

Professor Monika Schmid’s appointment is in recognition of her work on the process of losing a native language, also called First Language Attrition.

Professor Schmid, Head of Language and Linguistics, said: “It is a great honour to be thought worthy of joining an organisation that unites so many wonderful and world-class researchers from different areas of Social Science. I very much look forward to meeting some of the Fellows and exploring novel pathways for collaboration to complement the great work being done by my inspiring colleagues in the Department of Language and Linguistics.”

Professor Schmid’s research interests focus on bilingual development and, in particular, on change, deterioration and stability in the native language of migrants who become dominant in the language of the environment (this process is called first language attrition). Her recent work focuses on the impact of personal factors such as the age at migration and working memory capacities on these processes. Together with Barbara Köpke of the University of Toulouse she has organised a series of conferences and conference panels and edited a number of books and special issues of journals on this topic.

Professor Schmid has been the Principal Investigator on a number of projects funded by the German Science Foundation (DFG), the Dutch Organisation for Research (NWO) and the Economic and Social Sciences Research Council (ESRC).