Our New Chief Scientific Advisor …

I just came across an interesting bit of news that I thought I’d share with those of you who haven’t heard it already. It came out some time ago, in fact, but I  missed it at the time.

Over a year ago I went to a meeting about Science Policy in Wales. One of the issues raised at that meeting was that the Welsh Assembly Government hadn’t yet managed to appoint a Chief Scientific Advisor, despite the results of a review in carried out in 2008 by Sir Christopher Pollock that argued strongly that this should be done. In June 2009, the (new) First Minister Carwyn Jones finally announced that he would proceed with an appointment to this new position but it’s still taken quite a while to get someone to fill the post.

Still, better late than never, and we now know who it is who will advise the WAG on matters scientific. It turns out that the first ever Chief Scientific Advisor for Wales will be John Harries (left), who is originally from Aberavon, and is the University of London Professor of Earth Observation at the Blackett Laboratory of Imperial College London, who has previously been a senior adviser to the UK Government in several roles. Professor Harries will take up his role on May 1, but I think he’ll carry on working at Imperial about 20% of his time.

The Chief Scientific Adviser’s role will be to provide scientific advice to the First Minister and the Welsh Assembly Government, to promote science, technology, engineering and mathematics and the role of science within the wider knowledge economy.

First Minister Carwyn Jones said:

The appointment of Professor Harries as our first Chief Scientific Adviser for Wales will ensure that we build on an impressive track record of achievement, and develop a more effective promotion of science and technology within the wider knowledge economy arena.

This will prove invaluable as we continue to encourage the knowledge, skills and enterprise to strengthen businesses in Wales ahead of the global economic upturn.

According to Professor Harries,

It is a huge honour to be asked to become the first Chief Scientific Adviser for Wales and I look forward with great enthusiasm to carrying out this new role on behalf of the government and people of Wales.

Wales is a small country, but is capable of the intelligent application of new science and engineering as a basis for greater commercial success in industry. The role includes acting as Head of Profession, providing a focus for good practice and the enhancement and encouragement of scientists and engineers in Wales. This is a job that encompasses two (along with my family and rugby) of my great passions – Science and Wales. I will give it my very best effort.

The appointment of a physicist as Chief Scientific Advisor for Wales could be very interesting with regard to the future development of the subject within the Principality. In particular, the recent devastating cuts in the UK’s  astronomy funding have led to some of our astronomers wondering whether they should work on space instruments that look down rather than up, and a move into Earth observation might now be even more timely.

In more general terms, it’s good to see the Welsh Assembly recognizing the importance of science, although whether they see its importance  being connected very narrowly with commerce remains to be seen. Anyway, I think it could turn out to be an excellent move, and I want to take this opportunity to wish Professor Harries the best of luck  in his new job!

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6 Responses to “Our New Chief Scientific Advisor …”

  1. Scientist Says:

    I thought you were going to say that the new chief advisor, was a person who falsely claimed to have a PhD!

  2. telescoper Says:

    I have no evidence to suggest that is the case.

  3. Bryn Jones Says:

    The appointment of the Chief Scientific Adviser to the Welsh Government was a very welcome development, and it looks as though the individual chosen will be excellent.

    The new adviser should bring to government in Wales an appropriate understanding of the importance of science, technology, engineering and mathematics to society and to the economy. Fundamental to this are the differences between each of basic science, applied science, technology, engineering, mathematics, statistics and general numeracy. So much policy making in Britain is based on a confusion of these discliplines and their lumping together into a single mass. They are all closely connected, but the effect of each on the economy is different, and those effects are different in character and immediacy. Confusing these leads to the impact agenda.

    Let us hope now that government in Wales avoids these errors, with the consequent economic advantages of using science and technology appropriately.

  4. An astronomer royal for Wales would be nice. I’d be happy to take up the role (and associated pay and perks).

  5. Bryn Jones Says:

    I can remember Mike Disney arguing that there should be an Astronomer Royal for Wales about twenty years ago. He probably had a candidate in mind.

  6. He’s my Dad!

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