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Sharon Witherspoon Joins AcSS as Policy Chief Announcements
Sharon Witherspoon delivered the third annual Campaign for Social Science/SAGE lecture. Previous lectures were given by LSE Director Craig Calhoun (2014) and David Willetts, then Universities and Science minister (2013).

Sharon Witherspoon Joins AcSS as Policy Chief

March 28, 2016 2570

Sharon Witherspoon

Sharon Witherspoon

Sharon Witherspoon, the former director of the Nuffield Foundation and a guiding light of the Q-Step initiative, has been named the acting head of policy across both the Academy of Social Sciences and the Campaign for Social Science, the linked organizations announced on March 23. She replaces David Walker in the role.

Witherspoon, MBE FAcSS, is currently Deputy Chair of the Administrative Data Research Network Board, convened by the UK Statistics Authority.  She worked for several years in applied social science research, designing and carrying out evaluations of government programs, and serving as part of the original research team on the British Social Attitudes survey. Witherspoon was at Nuffield for 19 years, first leading its programs of social research and social policy, and then serving for three years as its director. She also led the development — funded jointly by the Nuffield Foundation, the ESRC and HEFCE — of the Q-Step program to improve quantitative research skills for British social science undergraduates.

She has served on various public committees concerned with the health of the social sciences, and on various Research Assessment Exercise and Research Excellence Framework committees. Witherspoon was awarded an MBE for services to social science in 2008, the British Academy President’s Medal for services to social science in 2011, and an honorary doctorate by University College London in 2015.

Newspaper journalist Walker, FAcSS, whom she succeeds, had joined the Academy and Campaign in April 2014, and was a key player in the Campaign’s seminal Business of People report.

Joining Withspoon as a senior policy adviser will be Ashley Thomas Lenihan, who joins the team on April 11. Lenihan is a fellow at the Centre for International Studies at the London School of Economics, a senior fellow with the Institute for Law, Science, & Global Security at Georgetown University, a term member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and has undertaken a variety of consultancy work in the international policy arena over the last five years. Her research and writing is focused on the international political economy of security, and the relationship between evidence and policy.

She was previously a senior fellow at the Legatum Institute, where she served as the Director of the Legatum Prosperity Index, and began her career as an investment banking analyst with Credit Suisse First Boston in London.


The Campaign for Social Science was launched by the Academy of Social sciences in 2011 to celebrate the success of UK social science, at a time of change and uncertainty in the higher education system. The Campaign seeks to identify to the public what social science is, and make clear the benefits of a social science education.

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