Obituary for Gert G. Wagner

January 31, 2024

* January 5, 1953 in Kelsterbach – † January 28, 2024 in Berlin

Gert Wagner studied Economics and Sociology at Goethe University in Frankfurt/Main from 1971 to 1978. In 1979, he became a research assistant at and later the managing director of the DFG-funded Collaborative Research Center "Microanalytical Foundations of Social Policy" at the Universities of Frankfurt/Main and Mannheim. From 1989 to 2008, he was head of the German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP) at the German Institute for Economic Research in Berlin (DIW Berlin), which he also directed for many years as a member of the board and for some time as president. During a two-year interim period from 2011 to 2013 he directed the DIW Berlin as chair of the board and president. He was Professor of Social Policy and Public Economics at the Ruhr University Bochum from 1992 to 1997, Professor of Economics (specifically, of Empirical Economic Research and Economic Policy) at the European University Viadrina in Frankfurt/Oder from 1997 to 2002 and at Technical University of Berlin from 2002 until his retirement in 2018.

Gert Wagner’s collaboration with the MPIB began back in the late 1980s, when he was a visiting scientist and became involved with the Berlin Aging Study (BASE) as a member of the core project group. Later, he became a co-PI of the Berlin Aging Study II (BASE-II), the ongoing successor project. In 2008, he was appointed Max Planck research fellow by the Max Planck Society and senior fellow of the MPIB in 2018. At the MPIB, Gert Wagner mainly collaborated with the Center for Adaptive Rationality and the Center for Lifespan Psychology. Furthermore, he was on the faculty of the International Max Planck Research School on the Life Course (LIFE). Gert Wagner also actively contributed to the Research Data Management Group from its beginnings and helped to establish the topic at the MPIB. He was a member of the National Academy of Science and Engineering (acatech), associate of the Harding Center for Risk Literacy, Potsdam, and fellow at the Federal Institute for Population Research (BiB Fellow), Wiesbaden and Berlin. He was also a member of the German government’s Social Advisory Council and past member of the German Science Council and held a significant position within the academic landscape of Berlin and, more broadly, of Germany.

His most important scientific achievements lie in opening up the SOEP for sociological and psychological measurements and for a large number of methodological innovations. In addition, as founding chairman of the German Data Forum (RatSWD), he made significant contributions to the development of social science infrastructures and provided practical policy advice, for instance, as a member of the Advisory Board of the Federal Statistical Office, of the Enquete Commission "Growth, Prosperity and Quality of Life” of the German Bundestag, and of the German Evangelical Church’s Chamber for Social Order (Kammer für soziale Ordnung der EKD).

In 2018, Gert G. Wagner was awarded the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany by the federal president for his work in communicating science to policy makers and society at large, and in 2023, he became a fellow of the Association for Psychological Science (APS), a rare honor for an economist and sociologist.

Gert G. Wagner was always ready to share ideas and propose collaborative studies. He took a genuine interest in people, both those he worked with and those he studied. We would like to convey our deepest sympathy and sincere condolences to his family. We will sorely miss his manifold contributions and honor his memory.

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