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Obituary for Professor Chris Skinner

It was with great sadness that we learned of the death of Chris Skinner, Professor of Statistics, who passed away on 21 February 2020. 

Chris was one of the world’s leading experts in statistical aspects of survey methodology. His research concerned questions on developing methods for sampling design, estimation and analysis, missing data and measurement error, combining survey data with other data sources, statistical disclosure control for privacy and data protection, and applications of survey data and statistical modelling in the social sciences.  He was thus active in most of the key areas of the statistics of surveys, and deeply knowledgeable about all of them. This range is well illustrated by the two influential books and a special journal issue on survey data analysis which he co-edited (Skinner, Holt and Smith, 1989: Analysis of Complex Surveys; Chambers and Skinner, 2003: Analysis of Survey Data; and the issue on Design and Analysis of Complex Survey Data in Statistical Science, 2017), which together provide a comprehensive view of the developments in this field over the past forty years.  

After a BA in mathematics at Cambridge, Chris’s first connections with the LSE were an MSc in Statistics in 1976 and a year as a research assistant in the Department’s statistical advisory service. In 1978 he joined the University of Southampton, where he would spend 33 fruitful years of his career, starting as a lecturer, obtaining his PhD in Social Statistics in 1982, and going on to become head of department and Leverhulme Professor of Social Statistics. In 2011 he returned to the Department of Statistics at the LSE, where he served as head of department in 2013-16 and where he was Professor of Statistics at the time of his death. 

Chris was an extremely capable builder and organiser, and a man whose advice was sought and trusted by many. At Southampton he was instrumental in creating the MSc programme in Official Statistics – an influential connection between the worlds of academia and national statistical institutes – the Social Statistics Research Centre (literally getting it built), and the training programme of the Centre for Applied Social Surveys. He contributed to capacity building in the methodology of social sciences by leading the European Science Foundation’s first programme in Quantitative Methods in the Social Sciences and by serving as the founding Director of ESRC’s National Centre for Research Methods. He was a member of the Statistical Methods Advisory Committee at Statistics Canada and the Methodology Advisory Committee of the UK Government Statistical Service, and led an independent review of the methodological work of the Office for National Statistics in planning for the 2021 census (Skinner, Hollis and Murphy, 2013). He received many honours and awards in recognition of his contributions, including a CBE which he was awarded in 2010 for services to social science. 

Chris was a gentleman, a considerate and generous colleague and mentor. He was a thoughtful person, who spoke and wrote politely but with quiet authority (in any meeting, his contributions tended to be the sensible ones which were listened to with real attention).  He had many PhD students, whose lives and careers were deeply affected by what we learned from him. His students and colleagues knew that we could always rely on his wise and kind advice and support. We will miss him deeply. 

Last year, Chris gave a biographical interview for the International Statistical Review. It is a lovely way to learn more about his life, career and experiences, in his own words.  

Chris is survived by his wife Sandra, his sons Tom and Sam, his mother Daphne and his brother Julian. Our thoughts are with them and other members of his family in this difficult time. Please note that his family have suggested that charitable donations can be made in Chris’s memory to Cancer Research or Marie Curie.  

On 7 June 2020, The Guardian published an obituary written by Chris' son Sam.