Oxford professor to be first female Chief Scientific Adviser

Oxford Professor Dame Angela McLean is to replace Sir Patrick Valance as the new UK Government Chief Scientific Adviser (GCSA), the first woman to ever hold the role. 

Dame Angela is a Professor of Mathematical Biology within the Department of Zoology at the University of Oxford, where she is an expert on the evolution and spread of infectious diseases. A fellow of All Souls College, she regularly appeared alongside the Prime Minister at televised briefings during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, where she played a key role in the government’s response. 

Her appointment has been widely praised by the scientific community. Sir Patrick, stepping down from his role, said “Angela brings with her a wealth of expertise and experience and has been an excellent departmental chief scientific adviser’. Meanwhile, President of the Royal Society, Sir Adrian Smith, described her as “an outstanding scientist and leader in the science community”. 

She will take up her new post on 1 April. 

The role will include providing independent scientific advice to the Prime Minister as well as members of the Cabinet, ensuring that science is at the heart of decision-making across government.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said “I’m delighted that Dame Angela is taking on this role to advise the Government on how we make this happen – building on Sir Patrick’s instrumental work over the past five years, which included helping the country through some of our greatest challenges from the pandemic to climate change.”

McLean will also become part of the executive team of the newly formed Department for Science, Innovation and Technology. The department will aim to build on the UK’s strengths in artificial intelligence, life sciences, quantum, fintech, and green technology.

“I am delighted to take on this role at such an important time in our country for science, innovation and technology”, said McLean. 

“All of us in government are going to greatly miss Sir Patrick, and I look forward to working with colleagues to build on the work he has led during his time as GCSA.“

“My long-term mentor, the late Lord Robert May, held the post of GCSA between 1995 and 2000 and that personal connection adds a particular depth to my sense of honour in being asked to take on this role”. 

Her appointment as the UK’s first ever female Government Chief Scientific Adviser comes after an Oxford University Equality Report in 2019 revealed that women made up only 29% of the student population in Maths, Physics and the Life Sciences (MPLS) . 

Michelle Donelan, Secretary of State for Science, Innovation and Technology, said: “Dame Angela is well respected across the science community and I hope this appointment will inspire more women and young girls to see stem subjects as an exciting career choice.”

Dame Angela will continue serving in her current role as Chief Scientific Advisor for the Ministry of Defence until she commences her new post.


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