Top honours for Lancaster University statistics experts

Professor Philip Jonathan (left) and Professor Brian Francis
Professor Philip Jonathan (left) and Professor Brian Francis

Two Lancaster University professors’ outstanding work to the development and application of statistics has been honoured by the Royal Statistical Society.

It was announced this week that Professor Brian Francis will receive the Howard Medal and Professor Philip Jonathan the Greenfield Medal.

Both professors are members of the University’s Department of Mathematics and Statistics.

Professor Francis’s work in social statistics, predominantly with crime data, has earned him the Howard Medal, established in memory of the prison reformer John Howard (1726-90).

The medal is awarded every three years to a Fellow of the Society for outstanding contributions to the development or application of social statistics.

Professor Francis’s research into quantitative criminology – both methodological and substantive problems – centres on the criminal careers of offenders and social and developmental change.

Focusing on both administrative and survey data, he has published on analyses relating to violence and serious offending, including sexual offending, homicide, trafficking, organised and cyber-crime, and acted as advisor to the Home Office and the Government Statistical Service.

Recent work has focused on quantitative work relating to high frequency victimisation and gender-based violence. More generally he has also worked with psychologists, sociologists, historians and economists on complex data problems.

Professor Francis, a Londoner, was educated at Imperial College and Sheffield University, and was a medical statistician before moving to Lancaster University in 1979.

Professor Francis said: “I am honoured and delighted to receive this prestigious medal from the Royal Statistical Society, not least as some of my work aligns closely to issues of criminal justice.  The medal is one of the oldest offered by the RSS, and shows the importance that the Society places on the role of statistics in understanding social problems.”

Professor Jonathan, Chief Statistician at Shell and Chair of Environmental Statistics and Data Science at Lancaster University, will receive the Greenfield Industrial Medal.

This medal award was established in 1991 by Professor Tony Greenfield (1931-2019), author and research consultant in business and industrial statistics. It is presented every three years for outstanding contributions to the effective application of statistical methods to the manufacturing and allied industries.

Professor Jonathan’s work has made innovations in the modelling of physical systems, particularly the use of extreme value theory in ocean engineering.

He has championed the value of statistics across industry and within Shell, where he has fostered a talented statistical team promoting the application of statistical method and practice to business and industrial processes.

Professor Jonathan is from Godre’r Graig in the Upper Swansea Valley. He was educated in applied mathematics and physics at Swansea University.

Professor Jonathan said: “I enjoy working on the interface of academia and industry, combining statistical and physical models to provide useful solutions in engineering and physical sciences. I’m honoured to receive the Greenfield Medal.”

Both professors will be presented with their medals at a ceremony during the RSS annual conference in Manchester this September.   

Head of the Department of Mathematics and Statistics at Lancaster University Professor Alex Belton said: “These awards are due recognition of the tremendous work over many years of both Brian and Philip. They reflect the excellent statistics research being carried in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics at Lancaster University and the impact it has far beyond academia.”

Founded in 1834, the Royal Statistical Society is one of the world’s leading organisations advocating for the importance of statistics and data and is the British learned society for statistics.


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