From metrics to metascience—and now to UCL: STEaPP welcomes James Wilsdon
12 December 2022
We are delighted to announce that James Wilsdon will be joining UCL in January 2023 as Professor of Research Policy in the Department for Science, Technology, Engineering and Public Policy (STEaPP).
STEaPP is an interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary department which brings science, technology, engineering and public policy expertise together to tackle complex challenges and inform public policy. A focus is to create a better understanding of the dynamics which shape processes of research and innovation policy development.
Professor Wilsdon brings deep expertise in research policy and experience in engaging with research funders, policy officials and relevant policy stakeholders globally. His appointment will strengthen STEaPP and science and innovation policy work across the Engineering Faculty and UCL more widely.
On behalf of STEaPP, Professor Joanna Chataway, Head of Department, said:
"I am really pleased to welcome James Wilsdon to STEaPP. His interests and expertise align so well with those of many in the department. As 2022 ends, we look forward to working with James in 2023 and exploring the new possibilities that his move to STEaPP will open up.”
Welcoming Professor Wilsdon to UCL, Professor Geraint Rees, Vice-Provost (Research, Innovation & Global Engagement), said:
"UCL is delighted to welcome James Wilsdon as a leading scholar on research policy. His appointment will strengthen his existing collaborations with UCL academics and offers exciting opportunities to explore further synergies across a breadth of research areas. His expertise will enhance UCL’s contribution to shaping research and innovation policy in the UK and globally.”
In response to his appointment, Professor Wilsdon said:
"I’m excited and energised by the move to UCL, and by the numerous opportunities it will create to collaborate with colleagues in STEaPP and across so many parts of UCL. For me, and for the Research on Research Institute (RoRI), this is a crucial moment of transition: from a three-year pilot to a new, non-profit organisation, based at UCL, that we hope will be around for years to come—helping to generate the data, evidence and analysis needed to make research systems and cultures more diverse, agile and inclusive; and ensuring that more of the $2.4 trillion spent globally each year on R&D meets the priorities of the people and communities that we serve.
I’m hugely grateful to Geraint Rees, Jo Chatway, Sarah Chaytor and others at UCL for the commitment and encouragement they have shown to me and to RoRI, and I look forward to getting started!”
Over a 25-year career, in addition to academic posts at the universities of Sheffield, Sussex and Lancaster, James [CS1] has worked in think tanks, NGOs and as director of science policy for the Royal Society, the UK’s national academy of sciences. He is a prominent voice in research policy in the UK and internationally, and has been active in these fields since the early 2000s, pioneering concepts such as upstream public engagement, science diplomacy and responsible metrics; and has co-founded or led initiatives such as the International Network for Government Science Advice (INGSA); People & Planet; the Campaign for Social Science; the UK Forum for Responsible Research Metricsand the Royal Society Science Policy Centre. From 2013 to 2018, James co-edited The Guardian’s ‘Political Science’ blog (now hosted at Research Professional) and he writes regularly for Nature, Science, Times Higher Education, Research Fortnight and Wonkhe.
In 2015, James was elected a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences. Last week, was chosen by the International Science Council to be one of 60 new ISC Fellows (eight of whom are based in the UK). This Fellowship is the highest honour that can be conferred on an individual by the ISC, in recognition of their outstanding contributions to promoting science in and for society.
In 2015, James chaired an independent UK government review of research metrics, published as The Metric Tide. He then went on to chair a European Commission expert group on Next Generation Metrics (2017).
With Stephen Curry and Elizabeth Gadd, James was recently invited by the Future of Research Assessment Programme (FRAP) to revisit these debates. Their report – Harnessing the Metric Tide – is published today (12 December 2022) as a contribution to thinking about the purposes and design of the next UK Research Excellence Framework (REF).
UCL will become a core partner of RoRI and will become active in a range of projects and activities. Professor Wilsdon will continue to maintain active research links with the University of Sheffield, including through RoRI where there are a range of ongoing collaborations.