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Defra appoints Oxford professor as new chief scientist

Gideon Henderson has been appointed by Defra as its new chief scientific advisor.

Henderson, who is currently a professor of earth sciences at the University of Oxford, will join Defra in October in this year.

He replaces the out-going Sir Ian Boyd, who leaves Defra after seven years in the post.

Environmental secretary Michael Gove said: “Sir Ian Boyd’s contribution to Defra’s work has been invaluable, and I am immensely grateful for all the advice he has provided over the past seven years, informing key government policies.

“I warmly welcome professor Henderson to the role and look forward to working with him and seeing his positive impact on science in the department going forward.

“It is absolutely crucial that all our policies are based on sound scientific advice to ensure we are addressing the UK’s most pressing environmental issues in a targeted and innovative way, and Defra’s chief scientific adviser is vital to this process.”

The chief scientific advisor sits on Defra’s board and is responsible for overseeing the quality of evidence the department relies on for policy decisions.

Henderson will also be responsible for providing ministers with scientific advice and sets the priorities for scientific research and evidence-gathering.

Commenting on his appointment, he said: “I am thrilled to be joining Defra at a time when the environment is such a strong priority and there is an ever-growing public level of environmental awareness.

“The UK faces many challenges – among them responding to climate change and helping meet a net zero emissions goal, as well as ensuring our food’s security and realising the goals of the 25 Year Environment Plan.

“I look forward to working closely with colleagues to help achieve these ambitions with the support of the UK’s excellent scientific research.”

Defra’s permanent secretary, Tamara Finkelstein, added that she was “delighted” that Henderson was joining the department as “high quality science is central to everything this department does.”


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