Seven psychologists honoured in new year list

Ella Rhodes reports.

Seven psychologists working in areas including critical incident decision making, autism and cognitive developmental neuroscience have been named in the 2021 New Year Honours list. 

Professor of Autism Research, Simon Baron-Cohen (University of Cambridge), has been honoured with a knighthood for his work with autistic people. Also Director of the university’s Autism Research Centre he is also a Fellow of the British Psychological Society, Academy of Medical Sciences and the British Academy. 

In a University of Cambridge news story Baron-Cohen said the honour had come as a complete surprise and announced the creation of a new charity, the Autism Centre of Excellence, to address gaps in statutory services for autistic people. ‘I accept it on behalf of the talented team of scientists at the Autism Research Centre in Cambridge, and on behalf of the Autism Research Trust, the charity that has supported us.’

Professor of Cognitive Neurosciences Francesca Happé (King’s College London) will become a CBE for services to the study of autism. For 30 years Happé has examined both social understanding in neurotypical development and mentalising difficulties in autism.

Some of her more recent work has explored mental health within the autism spectrum and under-researched subgroups including women and the elderly. Happé is a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences and British Academy, was formerly President of the International Society for Autism Research and was a former recipient of the British Psychological Society’s Spearman Medal and Royal Society’s Rosalind Frankland Award. 

Professor of Cognitive Developmental Neuroscience and Director for the Centre for Neuroscience in Education, Usha Goswami (University of Cambridge), will become a CBE for services to educational research. In a University of Cambridge news story she said she was deeply honoured to be named on the list: ‘I have been interested in children’s development since training as a primary school teacher and it is wonderful to have my research recognised in this way.’

Goswami studies cognitive development in children with a particular focus on language and literacy. Some of her research found that children with dyslexia hear language differently – leading to the development of new interventions to support children with the condition. 

Professor Lorraine Sherr (UCL) will become an MBE for services to vulnerable children and families. Sherr runs the UCL’s Health Psychology Unit and, as part of the UKRI’s Global Challenges Research Fund team, was part of an effort to share parenting tips during the Covid-19 pandemic.  

In a UCL statement Sherr said she was humbled by the award, as her work was a mosaic put together through the endeavours of many. ‘This will only spur me on to continue: when we obliterate vulnerability then my work will be done. Until then it is our collective responsibility to ensure that no family, no child and no-one who is destitute stands alone; there must always be a resource to provide for them and their children.’ 

Consultant Clinical Psychologist and Head of the Community Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service in Hackney,Susan Crocker, will also become MBE for services to children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities. The Hackney Gazette reports that Crocker set up a specialist CAMHS service from scratch for young people with profound disabilities and autism in Hackney 18 years ago. 

She told the newspaper that she had always aimed to offer services to children with disabilities that were equal to those provided to children without disabilities. ‘I have stayed with the service for years and it's only through working hard over a long time that you can achieve this. It is not something you can dip your toe in, it's slow and steady, chipping away at getting funding and getting proposals through over years - but it’s the team that has enabled me to do it.’

Professor Dawn Brooker, Director of the Association for Dementia Studies at the University of Worcester, has been made an MBE for services to supporting those living with dementia, and their carers, through research, education and policy advocacy.

'I have been privileged to work in the NHS and the university sector as a clinical psychologist and a professor in dementia care,' she said. 'During my career, dementia has shifted from being a condition that many had never heard of to one that now affects most families in the UK. I am very grateful to be made an MBE for services to those affected by dementia. However, I also feel humbled by the knowledge that we still have a long way to go to ensure that everyone gets the best treatment and care. I will use this award to play my part in making this a reality.'

Finally, Professor Laurence Alison (University of Liverpool), Director of the National Centre for the Study of Critical Incident Decision Making will also become an MBE for his services to critical incident handling and to the NHS during Covid-19. As well as decision-making in critical incidents Alison has researched interrogation techniques, decision-making inertia, and has developed a tool for identifying high-risk sexual offenders which is used in more than 24 countries.  

Alison has also worked as a psychological debriefer following many critical incidents including the 7/7 bombings in London and Boxing Day Tsunami in 2004. He has also been principal investigator on grants from the Home Office, Department of Defence and FBI. 

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