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Chris Clegg

Emeritus Professor Christopher Clegg

Colleagues will be sorry to learn of the death, on 28 December 2015, of Emeritus Professor Christopher Clegg, former Professor of Organisational Psychology in the Leeds University Business School.  Dr Mark Robinson has contributed the following obituary:

In a distinguished 40 year career, Professor Chris Clegg established himself as one of the UK’s most influential and respected organizational psychologists. His career started at the renowned Institute of Work Psychology at the University of Sheffield (formerly the MRC Social and Applied Psychology Unit) where he rose to Deputy Director, before moving to Leeds University Business School in 2006 where he established the Socio-Technical Centre in 2009 as its inaugural Director.

Chris’s expertise as an organizational psychologist is internationally recognised, with contributions to research, practice, and teaching. He has published well over 100 journal articles, books, and chapters, comprising theoretical developments, applied empirical work, state-of-the-art reviews, new research methods, and agenda-setting pieces. His research has been published in many of the world’s leading peer-reviewed journals in his field, including Journal of Applied Psychology, Personnel Psychology, Academy of Management Journal, Journal of Organizational Behavior, Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, British Journal of Psychology, Human Relations, Human Factors, and Ergonomics. Collectively, this work has been cited 8,300 times as of January 2016, yielding an h-index of 46 and making Chris one of the most highly-cited organizational psychologists in the UK and internationally.

Although his work spanned many areas of organizational psychology, Chris is best known for his world-leading research on job design, socio-technical systems theory, organizational change, and the human aspects of information technology. Unusually for an organizational psychologist, his work has also bridged several other academic fields, notably engineering and computer science, reflecting a broad multi-disciplinary perspective. This broader focus was both pioneering and visionary, introducing organizational psychology to other disciplines and creating forward-thinking research programmes for the new millennium.

From 1998, Chris and his research team worked with Rolls-Royce as part of an ongoing research partnership. Not only is this rare in organizational psychology, but they are the only team of social scientists in Rolls-Royce’s extensive university research network. An Impact Case Study based on the research that Chris led was highly commended by the 2014 National REF Panel in their official feedback to Leeds University Business School. Extending this work, the Socio-Technical Centre he established at Leeds University Business School is co-hosted in the Faculties of Business and Engineering. With a focus on numerous multi-disciplinary research challenges, it has united fields as diverse as engineering, manufacturing, health sciences, architecture, computer science, and geography.

Key to this broader research programme that Chris established was his successful bridging of the academic-practitioner divide. He was awarded £15 million of research funding from leading organizations – including Rolls-Royce, Arup, Jaguar Land Rover, John Lewis, the NHS, and Yorkshire Water – and Research Councils to undertake applied research, supporting the discovery of new psychological knowledge and guidance. Chris’s work has also influenced policy at the highest levels of UK Government. He played a key role in establishing the Behavioural Research Network with the Department for Communities and Local Government, and recently undertook high-profile research projects for both the Cabinet Office and the Department for Business Innovation and Skills. This meant that Chris was able to achieve a substantial impact on practice across multiple disciplines and domains, establishing himself as a world leader of organizational psychology, leading and producing work that is academically rigorous, practically relevant, and multi-disciplinary in focus.

Throughout his career, Chris also played a major role in the recruitment and training of future organizational psychologists, many of whom are now leading names in their own right. He was previously Course Director of the University of Sheffield’s MSc Occupational Psychology course, accredited by the British Psychological Society (BPS), on which he taught for three decades. At Leeds University Business School in 2010, as part of the Socio-Technical Centre he directed, Chris established the new MSc Organizational Psychology course which received BPS accreditation in 2011. He also supervised numerous PhD students and mentored many other young researchers, helping to develop the next generation of academics and leaders. So many of his colleagues would not be where they are now in their careers without the guidance, support, and opportunities he so generously provided.

Chris is survived by his wife Sally, his sons Daniel and Simon, his step-daughters Louise and Rachel, and his mother Margaret. He adored his family and was never happier than when spending time with them in his garden, playing croquet and bird watching. A very keen sportsman, Chris played competitive rugby as a schoolboy for Yorkshire and also throughout the 1970s and 1980s as a first team player for Sheffield Tigers RUFC. More recently, Chris took up indoor rowing and was highly nationally ranked in his age group. He was also a keen sailor and greatly enjoyed skippering his boat on holidays in Norfolk and the Caribbean. Among his colleagues, Chris was known as an incredibly generous, warm, and wise man with a lightning wit and mischievous sense of fun. The immense sadness we all feel for his untimely passing is tempered by a tremendous sense of privilege that we knew Chris and an enormous gratitude for everything he did for us. He will continue to inspire us, as we draw on his example to “pay it forward” to others in our own lives, and he will never be forgotten.

The funeral service has been held, on which day the flag on the Parkinson Building was flown at half-mast in Chris’s memory.