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Professor Jennifer Symonds appointed Director of CLOSER

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Professor Jennifer SymondsDr Jennifer Symonds from University College Dublin has been appointed as Professor and Director of CLOSER at the UCL Social Research Institute. She takes up the role today, Monday 4 September 2023.

A social scientist of young people’s psychological development and longitudinal population studies, Prof Symonds has been the Director of Growing Up in Digital Europe (GUIDE) for the past three years and the Joint Director of Ireland’s national cohort study of primary schooling, Children’s School Lives, for the past five years. She has also represented child and youth wellbeing in international organisations, including as Secretary of the European Association of Research on Adolescence and as Member of the Irish National Wellbeing Framework Expert and Stakeholder Group. Prof Symonds acts as scientific advisor for national cohort studies of child and youth wellbeing in Ireland and the United Kingdom and is a Fellow of the Geary Institute for Public Policy.

Prof Symonds’ research considers how individuals develop their motivation, engagement, and wellbeing from childhood to young adulthood, the role of educational and occupational contexts in this process, and the longer-term outcomes of those earlier life experiences in adulthood. She has designed several intervention programmes for supporting educational engagement in schools and for unemployed young adults.

Prof Symonds said of her appointment:

“I am delighted to be appointed Director of CLOSER. For over 10 years CLOSER has played a vital role in increasing the visibility, use and impact of the UK’s longitudinal population studies, data and research and I look forward to leading and inspiring the team to build on its many successes and secure long-term funding.

I am excited to work with the diverse range of talented specialists in the CLOSER team, our partner studies, and the wider research community to deliver resources, support, and training, increase the impact of longitudinal research, and equip the next generation of longitudinal researchers.

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank Professor Emla Fitzsimons for supporting the CLOSER team during the interim period and serving as acting Principal Investigator.”

Stian Westlake, Executive Chair of the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) said:

“The UK is home to the largest and longest-running longitudinal population studies in the world and CLOSER plays a vital role in increasing their visibility, use and impact. We are delighted that Professor Jennifer Symonds has been appointed as CLOSER’s new Director and are confident that her expertise will be invaluable in shaping its future activities.”

Prof Lynn Ang, Pro- Director for Research and Development at the IOE said:

“Professor Symonds brings a wealth of experience and expertise to her new role at the IOE leading the CLOSER team. There are huge opportunities to build on and develop the work CLOSER has achieved since 2012 and I look forward to working with Jennifer as she leads this important investment.”

Prof Bobby Duffy, CLOSER Advisory Committee Chair, said:

“CLOSER has established itself as a hugely valuable centre of excellence in making longitudinal population studies data more easily accessible to researchers and working with policymakers to ensure research insights inform decision-making. Professor Symonds is a fantastic appointment and I look forward to working with her as CLOSER continues to go from strength to strength”.