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The BSG Outstanding Achievement Award 2012

Bill Bytheway

The 2012 BSG Outstanding Achievement Award was given to Bill Bytheway.

Bill’s career is an illustration of outstanding achievement. Between 1963 and 1975 he was a statistician in medical research units at the University of Aberdeen and published articles in medical and sociology journals. He moved to the Centre for Social Science Research at Keele in 1970 as Assistant Director; an interest in ageing and old age had begun to emerge and his PhD in sociology was awarded in 1973.

In 1975, Bill made the courageous move to exchange his permanent post for a series of fixed term contracts in the University of Wales and at the Open University. These fixed term contracts seemed to liberate Bill, between 1975 and 1990 he produced four edited books, twelve chapters and ten articles in refereed journals. He was eventually given a permanent contract in 2005. Arguably it was as a Senior Research Fellow at the Open University from 1997 that Bill really blossomed. His first single authored book Ageism was published 1997 (OUP) and was well recived, including a translation into Danish. Fifteen chapters appeared in edited books and 12 articles in refereed journals between 1997 and 2010, followed by a second single authored book, Unmasking Age, in 2011.

Many of Bill’s research projects were externally funded. Between 1974 and 1997 he secured 14 grants, including from the Birmingham Council for Old People the Chest, Heart and Stroke Association, Government Departments and the SSRC/ESRC. At the OU he has been a member of the Centre for Ageing and Biographical Studies and in this capacity has since 1997 secured substantial grants from the Department of Health and ESRC.

Publications and research grants are only part of Bill’s profile. With colleagues at the OU he has produced a wealth of teaching materials for courses, including An Ageing Society; Learning Disability: Working as Equal People; Health and Disease; and Care, Welfare and Community. Throughout his career, he has engaged with teaching programmes, running courses on research methods, medical sociology and social gerontology. His track record in social gerontology was formally recognised in his appointment as an Academician in the Academy of Social Sciences in 2006.

With regard to his contribution to the British Society of Gerontology? He was a founder member and sat on the Executive Committee from its foundation until 1979, being Secretary/Treasurer between 1975 and 1979, serving again as Treasurer between 1985 and 1990. From 1997-2001 he edited Ageing & Society and he is currently on the Board of the Journal of Ageing Studies. Throughout, he has been a critical friend of the Society.

The judges very conscious of not only Bill’s significant contribution to ageing research and public education on ageing but also his commitment to the involvement of older people in research- exemplified in the ROAD project – Research on Age Discrimination. This research and his seminal book ‘Ageism’ have influenced the thinking of academics and students but also policy makers and practitioners.

In sum Bill characterises everything that is best about the BSG: dedication to scientific research and teaching, commitment to the direct involvement of older people and the pursuit of public engagement to campaign against social exclusion and social injustice- in this case on the vital topic of age discrimination.

Alan Walker