New director for CLOSER ShareThis


Alison Park has been appointed the new director for CLOSER, the consortium that aims to maximise the use, value and impact of the UK’s leading cohort and longitudinal studies.

Alison, who led the flagship British Social Attitudes Survey at NatCen Social Research for 15 years, will take up her appointment on February 2, 2015.

CLOSER is based at UCL Institute of Education (IOE) and is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and the Medical Research Council (MRC).

Until last summer, Alison was head of the Society and Social Change team at NatCen, the leading independent research institute. Her 20-strong team of researchers was responsible for Understanding Society – the annual longitudinal survey of 40,000 households across the UK – as well as the British Social Attitudes Survey and the English Housing Survey.

Alison has a deep understanding of survey design and implementation, with over 20 years’ experience of carrying out commissioned and grant-funded research.

Her particular expertise lies in communicating research findings and data using a range of traditional and modern hi-tech methods. She is regularly interviewed by the media and led the British Social Attitudes Survey’s transformation from a paper publication to a free online, interactive guide into how Britain thinks and feels, a move that stimulated much greater user engagement.

She began her research career in the early 1990s after gaining a first class degree in sociology and politics at the University of the West of England and studying for an MPhil at Nuffield College, University of Oxford.

In her new role, Alison will combine the directorship of CLOSER, a collaboration of nine birth cohort and longitudinal studies, with a senior academic position at the IOE’s Department of Quantitative Social Science.

Alison said: “I’m really honoured to be appointed as director of CLOSER, and to be joining the UCL Institute of Education. 2015 will be an important year for the CLOSER network, as it will see a number of its activities come to fruition, including the launch of its innovative data search platform. I’m looking forward to working with my CLOSER colleagues to make sure that activities like these are a success, and more generally to doing as much as I can to promote the value and use of longitudinal research.”

Her predecessor, Professor Jane Elliott, was director of both CLOSER and the IOE’s Centre for Longitudinal Studies before leaving to become chief executive of the ESRC. Professor Elliott played a key role in establishing and leading the consortium since its launch in October 2012.

Fiona Armstrong, Head of Capability at ESRC said: “CLOSER is a major collaborative investment for ESRC and MRC and its work over the coming years will help us to realise our goal of ensuring that the benefits of our data infrastructure are fully exploited. We are delighted that Alison Park has been appointed as Director and also want to thank Jude England for her excellent contribution in her role as Acting Director.”

Jude England, Acting Director of CLOSER, said: “We’re delighted that Alison is joining the CLOSER consortium. Her expertise in communicating research evidence and engaging users is underpinned by her wide-ranging experience of delivering high-quality policy research. Her practical understanding of the joys and trials of major longitudinal and cohort research will be a great asset to the existing team and our goal of promoting the potential of these wonderful resources.

“We would also like to thank Jane Elliott for her tremendous contribution in establishing the CLOSER consortium, and for her outstanding leadership through its first two years.”

For further information contact:

Katya Nasim
Tel: 020 7612 6354

Meghan Rainsberry
Tel: 020 7612 6530

Notes for editors

  1. The UK is home to the world’s largest and longest-running longitudinal studies. CLOSER aims to maximise their use, value and impact both at home and abroad. Bringing together nine leading studies, the British Library and the UK Data Service, CLOSER works to stimulate interdisciplinary research, develop shared resources, provide training, and share expertise. In this way CLOSER is helping to build the body of knowledge on how life in the UK is changing – both across generations and in comparison to the rest of the world. CLOSER has £5 million funding from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and the Medical Research Council (MRC) for the period from October 2012 to September 2017. This funding is made possible by a landmark contribution from the Government’s Large Facilities Capital Fund. Visit
  1. The nine studies currently participating in the CLOSER consortium are: Hertfordshire Cohort Study; MRC National Survey of Health and Development (the 1946 Birth Cohort); National Child Development Study (the 1958 Birth Cohort); 1970 Birth Cohort Study; Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children; Southampton Women’s Survey; Millennium Cohort Study; Life Study; Understanding Society.
  1. The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) is the UK’s largest funder of research on the social and economic questions facing us today. It supports the development and training of the UK’s future social scientists and also funds major studies that provide the infrastructure for research. ESRC-funded research informs policymakers and practitioners and helps make businesses, voluntary bodies and other organisations more effective. The ESRC also works collaboratively with six other UK research councils and Innovate UK to fund cross-disciplinary research and innovation addressing major societal challenges. The ESRC is an independent organisation, established by Royal Charter in 1965, and funded mainly by the Government. In 2015 it celebrates its 50th anniversary.
  1. 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 30 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.
  1. About the UCL Institute of Education
    The UCL Institute of Education is a world-leader specialising in education and the social sciences. Founded in 1902, the Institute currently has more than 7,000 students and 800 staff. In the 2014 QS World University Rankings, the Institute was ranked number one for education worldwide. It was shortlisted in the ‘University of the Year’ category of the 2014 Times Higher Education (THE) awards. In January 2014, the Institute was recognised by Ofsted for its ‘outstanding’ initial teacher training across primary, secondary and further education.   In the most recent Research Excellence Framework, 94% of our research was judged to be world class. On 2 December 2014, the Institute became a single-faculty school of UCL, called the UCL Institute of Education.

    About UCL (University College London)
    Founded in 1826, UCL was the first English university established after Oxford and Cambridge, the first to admit students regardless of race, class, religion or gender, and the first to provide systematic teaching of law, architecture and medicine. We are among the world’s top universities, as reflected by performance in a range of international rankings and tables. UCL currently has over 35,000 students from 150 countries and over 11,000 employees. Our annual income is over £1bn.