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BIS appoints engineer as chief scientific adviser

John Perkins, a former head of engineering at the University of Manchester, has been appointed chief scientific adviser at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.

Perkins takes over in a position that has been vacant since Brian Collins left in May this year.

The engineer was most recently provost at the MASDAR Institute of Science and Technology in Abu Dhabi, where he served from the institution’s founding in 2009 until resigning in June 2010. He was also vice president of the Royal Academy of Engineering.

Previously, Perkins worked as vice president and dean of the faculty of engineering and physical sciences at the University of Manchester, following academic roles at Imperial College London and the University of Sydney.

Perkins will work at BIS three days a week beginning on 10 January, which BIS says will enable him to continue working independently in his outside career and “encourage sharing of the latest thinking and learning in science and engineering”.

The BIS Office for the Chief Scientist will receive additional resources, says the department, including the appointment of Rupert Lewis, formerly head of climate change evidence and analysis at the Department of Energy and Climate change, as a full-time deputy CSA and BIS head of profession for science and engineering.

According to BIS, Perkins will ensure that the department’s policies and operations, and its contribution to wider government issues, are “informed by fit-for-purpose science, technology and engineering advice”.

“The appointment of Professor Perkins and the additional resources we are allocating to the Office for the Chief Scientist recognises the importance we place on getting robust scientific advice,” the science minister, David Willetts, said in a statement.

“Professor Perkins’s engineering background and interdisciplinary expertise will help ensure that the department’s work is supported by robust evidence and technical insight,” added the government chief scientific adviser, John Beddington.

Speaking to the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee on 14 December, Beddington said the government had become a more intelligent consumer of engineering advice, and hinted that the CSA position may go to an engineer.