photo of James Wilsdon

Prof James Wilsdon

Post:Professor of Science & Democracy (SPRU - Science Policy Research Unit)

Telephone numbers
UK:01273 876581
International:+44 1273 876581

Research expertise:
download vCarddownload vCard to your mobile


In December 2011, I joined SPRU at the University of Sussex, as professor of science and democracy. I'm also director of The Nexus Network, an ESRC-funded initiative to link research, policy & practice across food, energy, water and the environment.

In 2013, I became chair of the Campaign for Social Science, which works to make the case for UK social science with policymakers, the media and the wider public. I led the working group for the Campaign's pre-election report The Business of People, which was published in February 2015.

In 2014, I was asked by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) to chair an independent review of the role of metrics and indicators in the UK research system, which published its final report The Metric Tide in July 2015. More details about the review process can be found here.

In 2015, I was elected a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences, the UK's national academy of academics, learned societies and practitioners in the social sciences. I'm also one of the editors of the Guardian's 'Political Science' blog, on science, technology and innovation policy.

My research interests include the role of evidence & expertise in policymaking; the politics and practice of scientific advice; interdisciplinarity, particularly between natural and social sciences; science and innovation policy in the UK, EU and China; and public engagement in research.

I'm also the convenor for SPRU's MSc in Science and Technology Policy; the UK's longest-standing (and in my view, best!) master's course in this field. Within the course, I teach modules on 'science, institutions and power' and 'the political economy of science policy'.

From 2008 to 2011, I was founding director of the Science Policy Centre at the Royal Society, the UK’s national academy of sciences, where I coordinated a series of influential studies on topics such as geoengineering, food security, science diplomacy and open science. I also led the Royal Society's evidence gathering and advocacy for investment in research through the 2010 UK General Election and Spending Review.

Prior to this, I spent several years at the public policy think tank Demos, first as head of strategy (2001-04), then as head of science and innovation (2004-08). At Demos, I was also director of The Atlas of Ideas, a two-year study, funded by the UK Foreign Office, to map developments in science and innovation across Brazil, China, India and South Korea.

From 2006 to 2008, I combined my role at Demos with a senior research fellowship at Lancaster University's Institute for Advanced Studies. From 1997 to 2001, I was senior policy adviser at the sustainability NGO Forum for the Future. And from 1996 to 1997, I was one of the first generation of Forum for the Future scholars

I've researched and written widely on science and innovation policy. My main publications include Future Directions for Scientific Advice in Europe (CSaP, 2015); China's Absorptive State: research, innovation and the prospects for China-UK collaboration (Nesta, 2013); Future Directions for Scientific Advice in Whitehall (CSaP/Alliance for Useful Evidence, 2013); The Scientific Century (Royal Society, 2010), New frontiers in science diplomacy (Royal Society, 2010), The Atlas of Ideas (Demos, 2007), China: the next science superpower? (Demos, 2007), The Public Value of Science (Demos, 2005), See-through Science (Demos, 2004) and Digital Futures (Earthscan, 2001).

You can find me on twitter @jameswilsdon, and I blog regularly for the Guardian here. I've also written at various points for the Financial Times, Nature, Times Higher EducationResearch Fortnight, China Daily, Green Futures, OpenDemocracy and Renewal.

As someone who tries to engage with policy and public audiences, I'm a strong supporter of open access, and aim whenever possible to publish my own work in OA formats. I'm a member of the academic steering and advocacy committee of the Open Library of Humanities, and in 2015, I joined the editorial board of Palgrave Communications, a new OA journal for the humanities, social science and business.

My other affiliations include: associate fellow at the University of Cambridge's Centre for Science and Policy; affiliate of the University of Colorado's Centre for Science and Technology Policy; member of the Governing Council of the Science and Democracy Network; and member of the Governing Board of CISTRAT (International Research and Training Centre for Science and Technology Strategy) in Beijing. I recently served as a member of a US National Academies expert panel on the globalisation of science and technology, and a Council of Canadian Academies panel on Canada's science culture.

I took my first degree in philosophy and theology at St Peter's College, University of Oxford, followed by a master's degree in sustainable development and a doctorate in technology policy from Middlesex University.