Science and Technology Facilities Council
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STFC appoints three additional Council members

As part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) three additional members have been appointed to the Council of STFC.

The Science and Technology Facilities Council members appointed by UK Research and Innovation are:

  • Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock MBE, space scientist, author and BAFTA-nominated broadcaster
  • Benedict Oliver, Oversight Board Member, The UK National Satellite Test Facility
  • Prof Hiranya Peiris, Professor of Astrophysics at University College London and Director of the UCL Cosmoparticle Initiative

The Council of STFC is responsible for advising and making decisions, as delegated to them by the UKRI Board, on scientific, research and innovation matters. These responsibilities include:

STFC Executive Chair Professor Mark Thomson said

“I am very pleased to welcome Professor Aderin-Pocock, Professor Peiris and Ben Oliver as new members of STFC Council. The scientific, industrial and academic expertise of our new Council members will be a valuable addition to Council’s deliberations and enable STFC to continue to deliver and support world class research, innovation and skills”.

The members announced today reflect the diversity of communities they represent including higher education, industry, policy and civil society.

Professor Sir Mark Walport, Chief Executive of UK Research and Innovation, said: 

“I am delighted to welcome these new Council members. Their stimulus, support and challenge will provide a critical role in the development of strategy and the governance of UK Research and Innovation. The diversity of their personal backgrounds, experience and expertise will ensure that we make the very best choices in how to invest wisely in research and innovation and develop capability and capacity for the future.”

Further details of the appointments can be found here.

Notes for editors

  1. When members were recruited onto the nine UK Research Councils in 2018, not all vacancies were filled. Also, a small number of members’ terms ended in March 2019.
  2. Benedict Oliver will take up his position on 1 April 2020. All other appointments run from January 2020 to 31 March for a given year.
  3. All appointments are made on merit and political activity plays no part in the selection process. However, in accordance with the original Nolan recommendations, there is a requirement for appointees' political activity (if any declared) to be made public. No political activity has been declared by any appointee.
  4. Appointees each receive an annual remuneration of £6,850 for their position on Council.
  5. None of the appointees currently holds any ministerial public appointment.
  6. Under the Higher Education and Research Act 2017 each of the nine Councils within UK Research and Innovation has a Council comprising the Executive Chair and between 5-12 ordinary members. Council members are appointed by the UK Research and Innovation Board in consultation with the relevant Executive Chair. The Secretary of State may appoint one of the members and is entitled to attend any Council meeting (or nominate a representative to attend).

Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock MBE is a space scientist, author and BAFTA-nominated broadcaster, whose passion is presenting science to general audiences.  She is the founder and managing director of Science Innovation Ltd, a company set up to change the demographics of scientists and science knowledge in the UK, and also around the world. This is done by interacting in a wide range of arenas with a focus on increased diversity especially in terms of gender, neurodiversity and ethnic balance. Through Science Innovation Ltd, Maggie has given talks to around ½ a million people around the world. 

In 2019 Maggie won Vodafone’s Woman of the Year Innovation Award, she co-presents ‘Sky at Night’ the longest-running science series in the world and sits on the advisory committee for the Young Audience Content Fund at the BFI.  Maggie studied at Imperial College, where she obtained her degree in Physics and her PhD in Mechanical Engineering. Since then she has spent much of her career making novel, bespoke instrumentation ranging from handheld land mine detectors to an optical subsystem for the James Webb Space Telescope. 

Hiranya Peiris is Professor of Astrophysics at UCL and Director of the UCL Cosmoparticle Initiative. She is also currently serving as Director of the Oskar Klein Centre, Stockholm.

After obtaining her undergraduate degree at Cambridge, Prof. Peiris completed her PhD at Princeton. She was a Hubble Fellow at Chicago before returning to Cambridge as a STFC Halliday Fellow. She was then appointed to a lectureship (2009) and Professorship (2015) at UCL.

Prof. Peiris conducts interdisciplinary research based on extracting fundamental physics from cosmological data. She has led analyses of cosmological survey data from multiple major international facilities, as well as making major contributions to theoretical cosmology and statistical astronomy. She is a Fellow of the American Physical Society (2016); her work has been recognized by awards such as the IOP Fred Hoyle Medal and Prize (2018) and the Philip Leverhulme Prize (2009), as well as shares in the Gruber Cosmology Prize (2012) and the Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics (2018). She served as a Vice-President of the Royal Astronomical Society (2016-2018).

Ben Oliver is a recognised leader in the international aerospace technology industry with diverse technical, industrial and organisational experience.    Ben has had significant roles in growing complex, technological businesses whether as an SME or part of a major industrial grouping. His engineering career has included responsible roles on the Hubble Telescope, SOHO, ENVISAT and Rosetta.  As an engineering manager Ben has led teams that have made important contributions to space missions XMM-Newton, INTEGRAL, CLUSTER 2, Planck and the Beagle 2.

Ben contributed to the commercialisation of EO data ground and space data systems that started at British Aerospace and led the SME, SEA, to produce the first UK scientific optical instrument for an ESA Earth Explorer Mission.  After SEA was acquired by Thales Alenia Space (TAS) Ben became the CEO, establishing and expanding its UK operations, developing new competences and helping TAS to improve its competitiveness.   Ben currently works as a coach and advisor to businesses and international organisations starting and scaling up in the space industry.

Today’s announcement is one of a number of Council appointments made by UKRI.


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