Geographer Gardner to Head Academy of Social Sciences


The Royal Geographic Society commissioned this portrait by Alastair Adams (a former president of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters) to commemorate the retirement of Rita Gardner after almost 22 years as director.

The longtime director of the Royal Geographical Society, Rita Gardner CBE, will be the new chief executive of the United Kingdom’s Academy of Social Sciences. She fills the vacancy created by the retirement of Stephen Anderson after more than 10 years; he will leave the academy early next year. Gardner will assume her new post on January 28.

“I am confident,” said Roger Goodman, the academy’s chair, “that Rita can take the academy forward and build on the outstanding achievements of our current executive director Stephen Anderson, who has rebuilt the academy’s financial model and transformed the academy into a properly representative organization speaking out regularly and authoritatively on behalf of the social sciences.”

Gardner is a fellow of the academy and was a trustee and member of the academy’s council from 2013 to September 2018. “I have worked closely with the academy, from the inside and outside, over many years and know at first-hand how much its work is valued by the social science community and beyond,” she said. “Thanks to the achievements of Stephen Anderson, the Academy is in very good shape and it will be a privilege to lead it in the next stage of its development.”

Gardner was director of the Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers) from 1996 to May 2018. Before becoming the almost two-century-old learned society’s first female director ever, she was the first woman honorary secretary and co-led the society’s Nepal Field Research Programme and was editor of the Geographical Journal.

In announcing her appointment, the academy noted Gardner’s extensive experience in advisory, trustee and committee roles, including personal adviser for geography to Lord Adonis (Schools Minister, Department for Children, Schools and Families); chair of the Exhibition Road Cultural Group; non-executive director or the British Antarctic Survey; and member of the ‘Finch’ Review Group on Open Access to Scholarly Publications. Her early academic career saw her teach geography from 1979 to 1996 at London University after studying at Oxford University and UCL.

The Academy of Social Sciences is the national academy of academics, learned societies and practitioners in the social sciences and is composed of 1,313 individual fellows44 learned societies, and a number of affiliates. It also sponsors the Campaign for Social Science.


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