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:
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I'm professor of science and democracy in the Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU) at the University of Sussex, and director of The Nexus Network, an ESRC-funded initiative to support joined-up research, policy & practice across food, energy, water and the environment.

Since September 2013, I've been 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 also led the working group for the Campaign's pre-election report The Business of People, which was published in February 2015.

In April 2014, I was asked by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) to chair an independent review of the role of metrics in research assessment, which will report in July 2015. More details about the review process can be found here.

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 am also convenor of SPRU's MSc in Science and Technology Policy; the UK's longest-established master's course in this field. 

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 described by the Financial Times as ‘the most comprehensive analysis yet of science and innovation in China, India and South Korea.’ From 2006 to 2008, I was a part-time senior research fellow at Lancaster University's Institute for Advanced StudiesFrom 1997 to 2001, I was senior policy adviser at the sustainability NGO Forum for the Future.

I've researched and written widely on science and innovation policy. My main publications include 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).

I am an associate fellow at the University of Cambridge's Centre for Science and Policy; an affiliate of the University of Colorado's Centre for Science and Technology Policy; a member of the Governing Council of the Science and Democracy Network; and a member of the Governing Board of CISTRAT (International Research and Training Centre for Science and Technology Strategy) in Beijing, a new centre established by UNESCO and China’s Ministry of Science and Technology. 

I recently served as a member of a US National Academies expert panel on the globalisation of science and technology, and as a member of 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.

I've written for the Financial Times, Times Higher Education, Research Fortnight, Nature, China Daily, Green Futures, OpenDemocracy and RenewalI am also part of the blogging team on the Guardian's 'Political Science' blog, and you can often find me on twitter @jameswilsdon 

A selection of my recent Guardian blogposts and articles can be found here.