The Campaign for Social Science has appointed professor James Wilsdon, an expert in science policy, to be its new chair from 1 September 2013. Hewill take over from the acting campaign chair, professor Michael Harloe.
Professor Wilsdon is professor of science and democracy at the Science Policy Research Unit, University of Sussex, and was the founding director of the Science Policy Centre at the Royal Society.
The Campaign for Social Science is supported by 75 institutions, including universities, learned societies, publishers and a charitable trust. It receives no state funding. Professor Wilsdon’s expertise in science and research policy complements the campaign’s belief that tackling issues such as climate change, an ageing population and new technologies will require natural and social scientists to work closely together.
The campaign was set up in 2011 to promote the importance of social science to the government and the public. Its first chair, professor Tony Crook, stood down earlier this year.
Professor Wilsdon said: “In just two years since it was launched the Campaign for Social Science has helped to reinvigorate public and political debate about the social sciences. I’m excited to be taking over as Chair as the Campaign looks towards the next general election. We have a fast-growing membership and a powerful set of messages about the public value of the social sciences and their contribution to economic growth and evidence-informed policy.
“The natural sciences have many friends in Westminster, Whitehall and the media. We need to make sure voices from the social sciences are being heard equally loud and clear. And in a flat cash-environment for research funding we need to gather evidence and engage in intelligent advocacy to ensure that the UK continues to invest and retains its place as a world leader in social science.”
At the Royal Society, professor Wilsdon coordinated a series of influential studies on topics such as geo-engineering, food security, science diplomacy, open science and the prospects for science in the Islamic world. He also led the society’s campaigning to protect the research budget through the 2010 general election and spending round.
Before joining the Royal Society he was head of strategy, and later head of science and innovation, at the think tank Demos, and was senior policy adviser at the sustainability NGO Forum for the Future. He was also a senior research fellow in the Institute for Advanced Studies at Lancaster University.
He has written widely on science policy, expert advice and the globalisation of research, and his publications include Future Directions for Scientific Advice in Whitehall (CSaP/Alliance for Useful Evidence, 2013) The Scientific Century (Royal Society, 2010), New frontiers in science diplomacy (Royal Society, 2010), The Atlas of Ideas (Demos, 2007), China: the next science superpower? (Demos, 2007), The Public Value of Science (Demos, 2005), See-through Science (Demos, 2004) and Digital Futures (Earthscan, 2001). He is a regular contributor to the Guardian’s ‘Political Science’ blog on science and research policy.
Professor Cary Cooper, chair of the Academy of Social Sciences, which launched the campaign, said: “Science and social science have to work together – for instance, there’s no point in just collecting great scientific data on climate change and hoping this alone will get people to change their behaviour, because changing behaviour is a social science question.
“Professor Wilsdon has the experience of policy making that will be invaluable for bridging the sciences and social sciences, and he has the background in communication to make the Campaign’s work widely known.”