UCL Department of Science, Technology, Engineering and Public Policy


Academics from UCL STEaPP provide opinion on appointment of UK’s new Chief Scientific Adviser

23 February 2023

Angela McLean, COVID expert and mathematical biologist, has taken over from Patrick Vallance as Chief Scientific Adviser to the Prime Minister. In an article publish by Nature, Joanna Chataway and James Wilsdon, both from UCL STEaPP, provide comments on her appointment.

Image of Downing Street road sign

As Chief Scientific Adviser, McLean will be responsible for providing counsel to the Prime Minister and his cabinet on science and technology policies; the first woman to do so since the role was established in 1964.

Her previous experience includes being a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), co-chair of the subgroup that used epidemiology, data analysis and mathematical modelling to guide the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and Chief Scientific Adviser for the Ministry of Defence.

Head shot of Jo Chataway
Joanna Chataway, Professor and Head of Department of Science Technology, Engineering & Public Policy (STEaPP), stated: “There are expectations that [McLean’s] role will be quite broad. It will address economic growth in the priority areas for the government of making science, technology and innovation really relevant to a broad economic and social infrastructure.”

Chataway suggests that McLean’s previous experience with SAGE “could put her in a really good position” to think about reforming the body, stating: “We think about what COVID left us with, and what those decisions made at the time really meant, and we can see that it would have been good to have much more social-science expertise”

Head shot of James Wilsdon
James Wilsdon, Professor of Research Policy within UCL's STEaPP, has said that the ongoing public inquiry into the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic offers an opportunity to reflect on what has worked well within the scientific advisory system and suggested that McLean will need to “step back from the immediate aftermath of that crisis and look afresh at how well our system is working, what can be done to strengthen it and make it fit for the challenges that lie ahead”.




To read the full article visit: https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-023-00520-4