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Southampton Professor receives prestigious Fellowship of the British Academy

Published: 24 July 2012
Professor Neil Wrigley

Neil Wrigley, Professor of Human Geography at the University of Southampton, has been elected as Fellow of the British Academy (FBA).

Each year, the British Academy elects to its Fellowship up to 38 outstanding UK-based scholars who have achieved distinction in any branch of the humanities and social sciences.

Professor Wrigley, who has won many previous awards for his research, including the Royal Geographical Society’s Murchison Award (2008), said: “It is the greatest possible honour to join the distinguished Fellowship of the British Academy. I am particularly proud to be, to the best of my knowledge, the first geographer in the history the University of Southampton to be elected to this prestigious Fellowship.”

Professor Wrigley’s pioneering research ranks him consistently as one of the world’s leading economic geographers. Additionally, he is widely acknowledged to be the discipline’s most influential editor – having edited, with notable success, two of geography’s three highest rated research journals: Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers (1988 -93), and the cross-disciplinary Journal of Economic Geography (Oxford University Press) since its launch in 2001.

He is credited with many world-leading research and policy contributions relating to the rise and implications of retailer power in the global economy. He has written many widely-cited papers on the growth of multinational retail corporations, the management of their international investment, and the host-economy impacts of their market entry into developing countries - also on issues of retail development and finance, e-commerce, and retailer-driven global supply chains.

Over the past decade, his research has increasingly concentrated on policy-focused evidence-based research on retail access, competition and planning. In particular, research with University of Southampton public-health experts on issues of food poverty, diet-related inequalities and food retail access in deprived and underserved communities (so-called ‘food deserts’), and the potential of retail-led urban regeneration in those communities, is notable for the way its agenda diffused and was adopted by the scientific research community across the world.

Likewise, in a strictly UK policy context, his large-scale and rigorously conducted ‘before/after’ studies of the ‘impacts’ of planning-policy compliant in-centre/edge-of-centre retail development on market towns and district centres, and his studies of market entry and exit of small stores in more than 1,000 town centres and high streets, are credited with having been instrumental in broadening out and enriching policy debate which had become highly polarised.

Currently, his research group are using a similar evidence-based approach to provide a forward-looking assessment of the future configurations of UK high streets, which builds on and out from the government-commissioned Portas Review.

Earlier in his career – and also recognised in his election – Professor Wrigley made significant contributions to quantitative social science and in particular, contributions to the analysis of categorical data, longitudinal/panel data, and census data. Indeed his classic book Categorical Data Analysis (1985) has remained in print for over 25 years, being republished (2002) in the USA as a landmark text.

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