RSS’s Hetan Shah Tapped to Head British Academy

Hetan Shah

Professor Hetan Shah, who has headed the Royal Statistical Society for the last eight years, has been named to lead the British Academy starting in February.

The leadership of the academy, styled as the United Kingdom’s leading body for the humanities and social sciences, has been in flux since Alun Evans stepped down as executive director in April amid charges of having violated the academy’s policies on harassment and bullying. Robin Jackson, who helmed the academy from 2006 to 2015, has stepped in as interim director and will serve until Shah’s arrival.

“It is obviously sad for me to move on from the RSS after a long and happy period,” Shah wrote on LinkedIn. “I hope that during my time I have contributed to making the RSS a stronger voice for the use of data for the public good.

“Looking ahead, I am excited by the potential of the British Academy to play a leading role in bringing social science and humanities research to bear on the big issues that the UK faces, at a time when there is no shortage of big issues!”

“[Shah] believes in the transformative power of the humanities and social sciences,” the academy quoted its president, Sir David Cannadine, “and will ensure that these subjects take center stage as societies the world over face up to the greatest challenges of our time.”

The British Academy noted that Shah’s tenure at the RSS was a fertile period. The society launched its Statistics of the Year initiative, its Statistical Ambassadors media training program, and a pro bono plan that  links statisticians to charities. Institutionally, Shah was seen as tapping journals, training and sponsorship to increase the scholarly society’s income.

The British Academy itself is enjoying some new income streams, including a £10m donation from the Wolfson Foundation last year which was enabled by a £14m capital grant from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

Shah started his higher education at the University of Oxford, where he studied philosophy, politics and economics and earned a bachelor’s in 1996. He took a postgraduate diploma at Nottingham Law School and a master’s in contemporary history and politics at Birbeck, University of London, and a postgraduate certificate in economics in 2003, also at Birbeck. He is currently a visiting professor at the Policy Institute, King’s College London.

In addition to his role at RSS, he is chair of the Friends Provident Foundation and vice chair of the Ada Lovelace Institute, on the board of St George’s House (Windsor Castle), and was a member of the independent Social Metrics Commission. He is also on the boards of the ONS Data Science Campus, the National Lottery Community Fund, and the Science Media Centre.

He will be the 10th executive director in the academy’s 117-year history.

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