Professor Rory Fitzgerald wins Slovakian prize in the field of social and cultural sciences.

By Hamish Armstrong (Senior Communications Officer), Published

Professor Rory Fitzgerald, Director of the European Social Survey (ESS) which is hosted at City. University of London, has been awarded the Scientific Council of Slovak Academy of Sciences’ (SAS) International Prize in the field of social and cultural sciences.

Professor Fitzgerald, who joined City in 2004 as Senior Research Fellow in what is now the School of Policy and Global Affairs, has been recognised for his significant contribution towards enhancing and ensuring continuity of the Survey project in Slovakia.

The European Social Survey was established in 2002 to examine opinions and attitudes of European citizens towards a range of life and society. As many as 40,000 interviews are conducted every two years on a variety of topics.

Rory Fitzgerald

Professor Fitzgerald said the award was a great personal honour, but also recognition of the impact of ESS and social science in general.

“I am extremely proud to receive this prize,” he said.

“The issue of transition of post-communist countries in Europe has been of particular interest to me since I was studying for my postgraduate degree, so being able to provide high quality data on that topic for countries like Slovakia is really rewarding.

“The award also indicates the success of the ESS programme and that wider social science infrastructure is being recognised at the highest levels.

Most importantly, the award is great news for the ESS team in Slovakia who have worked so hard to ensure the high quality of the survey and their national participation in the infrastructure.

The Survey plays a major role in Slovakian data collection, with 600 registered users of ESS information in Slovakia. Data on Slovakia was included in 40 per cent of the near-6,000 publications in which ESS figures were used.

Professor Fitzgerald acknowledged the crucial support and influence the country continues to have on the growth of the project.

“Slovakia has played an active role in the ESS since 2004, taking part in most survey rounds,” he continued.

“My team and I are currently working with the Slovakia colleagues on the transition of the ESS from a face-to-face survey to self-completion in the local context.

“The role of ESS data has also been used by Slovak government organisations. In 2018, for example, the National Centre of Culture and Further Education, an agency of the Ministry of Culture of the Slovak Republic published a report on the values perception in the Slovak public using our survey data.

Professor Fitzgerald will collect the award at a special ceremony in Bratislava in September, with the British embassy in attendance.

Reflecting on what lies ahead for survey data collection, he said the industry needed to continue evolving and finding new methods to overcome a challenging period.

European and US face-to-face data collection capacity is in sharp decline, and requires either significant new investment or a move to more modern methods.

“As a vehicle for this, the European Social Survey will move to self-completion – both online and offline – in 2027. This raises challenges as member countries have very different levels of experience with such methods along with other issues like varying literacy levels.

“Surveys also face issues stemming from increasingly polarised societies and differing interpretations of ‘facts’, as well as increased distrust for government among some. This can make ensuing participation in surveys and designing questionnaires more challenging than in the past.

“That said, moving data collection increasingly online offers opportunities to provide a more confidential environment for answering surveys – and the chance to engage more with Artificial Intelligence developments and more frequent and timely data collection.”

Find out more about the European Social Survey, hosted at City, University of London.

Read more about Professor Fitzgerald’s award and ESS in Slovakia.