Chair appointed for UK’s biggest study of babies and young children

18 October 2011

The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and the Medical Research Council (MRC) are delighted to announce that Professor Dame Janet Finch has been appointed as Chair of the Birth Cohort Study Governing Board.

This pioneering study will track the growth, development, health, wellbeing and social circumstances of over 90,000 UK babies and their families - from all walks of life - and will initially cover the period from pregnancy right through to the early years. Recruitment is due to begin in 2013.

Professor Paul Boyle, Chief Executive of ESRC said:

"I am pleased to welcome Professor Dame Finch as the Chair of the new Birth Cohort Study Governing Board. With Professor Finch’s exceptional academic credentials and interdisciplinary experience, this appointment will further strengthen the opportunities for this ground breaking study to have an impact on the quality of life within the UK"

Sir John Savill, Chief Executive of the MRC, added:

"I am delighted that Professor Dame Finch has accepted the important position of Chair of the new Birth Cohort Study Governing Board. Large cohort studies are a vital resource for providing a life course perspective on human health, and I have no doubt that Professor Finch’s contribution to this endeavour will be invaluable."

Professor Finch, one of the country’s leading social scientists, is currently Professor of Sociology at Manchester University and was formerly Vice Chancellor at Keele University. Her research expertise lies principally in studies of family relationships, especially relationships across generations. She has been involved at national level in a range of policymaking bodies related to higher education, including Research Council funding, work with the NHS and equal opportunities.

She was awarded a CBE in the 1999 New Year’s Honours List for services to Social Science. She was also awarded a DBE, Dame Commander of the British Empire, in the 2008 Queen's Birthday Honours List, for services to Social Science and Higher education.

Professor Finch said:

"I am delighted to be given this opportunity to Chair the Governing Board of the new Birth Cohort Study, which is more than five times larger than earlier cohorts and will address important questions for children’s health and wellbeing. I look forward to working with the study team, academic colleagues, the Government and the Research Councils."

The appointment is for 3 years beginning October 2011 and ending September 2014.

The new Birth Cohort Study, is the largest ever UK-wide study of babies and young children, having received a landmark £24.25 million commitment from the Department of Business Innovation and Skills. This investment adds to the £4.25 million by the ESRC and the MRC, awarded to scientists led by Professor Carol Dezateux at University College London.

For further information contact

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Notes for editors:

  1. The new Birth Cohort Study is a £28.5 million study forms the major part of the £33.5 million Birth Cohort project - that includes the additional £5 million for the new cohort facility.
  2. This appointment has been made in accordance with the requirements of the Code of the Commissioner for Public Appointments. Professor Finch has not been involved in any relevant political activities in the last five years. All appointments are made on merit and political activity plays no part in the election process. However, in accordance with the original Nolan recommendations, there is a requirement for appointees' political activity (if any declared) to be made public.
  3. The appointees hold no other ministerial appointments.
  4. This appointment carries an honorarium of £9,110 per year.
  5. The appointment is for three years beginning October 2011 and ending September 2014 and there may be a renewal for an extra three years.
  6. For almost 100 years the Medical Research Council (MRC) has improved the health of people in the UK and around the world by supporting the highest quality science. The MRC invests in world-class scientists. It has produced 29 Nobel Prize winners and sustains a flourishing environment for internationally recognised research. The MRC focuses on making an impact and provides the financial muscle and scientific expertise behind medical breakthroughs, including one of the first antibiotics penicillin, the structure of DNA and the lethal link between smoking and cancer. Today MRC funded scientists tackle research into the major health challenges of the 21st century.
  7. The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) is the UK's largest organisation for funding research on economic and social issues. It supports independent, high quality research which has an impact on business, the public sector and the third sector. The ESRC’s total budget for 2011/12 is £203 million. At any one time the ESRC supports over 4,000 researchers and postgraduate students in academic institutions and independent research institutes.