Scientific adviser serves with local counsel

Southampton City Council has appointed a chief scientific adviser, claiming to be the first local authority to do so.

August 8, 2012

AbuBakr Bahaj, head of the University of Southampton’s energy and climate change division, will take on the role, which is described as championing science and engineering as an economic driver and ensuring that the city uses science effectively in policymaking.

Sir John Beddington, the government’s chief scientific adviser, said he was delighted with the move and hoped that other councils would follow suit.

The first task for Professor Bahaj, an engineer, will be advising the council on environmental issues such as the energy efficiency of buildings. Both parties hope to extend the collaboration to other areas of the council’s work.

“Our aim will be focused on tackling future challenges encountered within cities, such as how a city could operate under a changing climate and [in the face of] resource depletion, and the environmental, social and economic impacts of these changes,” Professor Bahaj said.

“The university has some of the world’s best engineers and scientists who are working to tackle these challenges, and I am proud to be part of the city’s thriving scientific community.”

The UK already has a network of chief scientific advisers based across the majority of government departments. Sir John said he was pleased that the city council had decided to follow the example and looked forward to seeing other councils and universities collaborate in a similar vein.

“The role of science and engineering in society and the economy is more important than ever, and Professor Bahaj will have a key role ensuring that policymakers in the local authority take decisions that make best use of scientific and engineering advances and evidence,” he said.

As part of increasing collaboration between the local authority and the university, Richard Williams, the leader of Southampton City Council, will sit on two university panels: one to support research delivery and the other an advisory panel for mostly European Union-funded projects.

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