Press release

New Chief Scientist appointed

Professor Ian Boyd has been appointed by Defra to be its new Chief Scientific Adviser.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Professor Boyd, who is the current Director of the Scottish Oceans Institute at the University of St Andrews and the Sea Mammal Research Unit, will join Defra in September on a three year contract.

He will replace Professor Sir Bob Watson, who is leaving Defra after five years in the post.

Commenting on his appointment, Professor Boyd said:

“I am delighted to be taking up this important position. There are substantial future challenges ahead in bio-security, food security and in responding to the effects of climate change, but the UK is well placed to meet these challenges. It has excellent scientific research and I look forward to helping stimulate this research community to even greater things in future. I also look forward to listening to people’s concerns about the management of our environment.”

Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman said:

“Scientific evidence is absolutely crucial at Defra and helps us make the right decisions on how to protect and improve the environment. I have been immensely grateful for the scientific advice and oversight of all our research by Sir Bob, and I look forward to working with Professor Boyd to continue the Department’s reputation for scientific excellence.”

Bronwyn Hill, Permanent Secretary at Defra, said:

“Professor Boyd brings with him a wealth of experience that will be of great value in maintaining the high quality scientific research and evidence that the Department is renowned for and is central to everything we do. I look forward to working with Professor Boyd when he takes up his post in September.”

The Chief Scientific Adviser (CSA) sits on Defra’s Board and is responsible for overseeing the quality of evidence that the Department relies on for policy decisions. The CSA also provides Ministers with scientific advice and sets the priorities for scientific research and evidence-gathering.


Professor Boyd has been Director of the Scottish Oceans Institute at the University of St Andrews and the Sea Mammal Research Unit, a partner institute of the Natural Environment Research Council, from 2001-2012. He was responsible for the creation of the Marine Alliance for Science and Technology for Scotland in 2009, a partnership of nine institutions conducting marine science across Scotland. He is a member of the Scottish Science Advisory Council, chairman of a scientific advisory board on decommissioning for Oil and Gas UK and he also chairs the committee that monitors the environmental compliance around Europe’s largest oil terminal at Sullom Voe in Shetland.

Much of his career was spent in polar science when he worked for the British Antarctic Survey from 1987- 2001 where his interests were focussed on the behavioural and physiological ecology of Antarctic seals and the ecology and management of the Southern Ocean. More recently, he was Chief Scientist for a US Navy study examining the behavioural responses of whales to military sonar and he was a co-developer of environmental risk management procedures used by the Royal Navy. He served on two inquiries into the future of Scottish Fisheries and the implications of Common Fisheries Policy reform for the Scottish Fishing industry and was recently a member of the Lenfest Forage Fish Task Force that recommended a global 50 per cent reduction in the level of fishing for some of the planet’s most abundant fish species.

Much of his recent research has focussed upon the effects of sound on marine life and this led to his role as co-chair of the International Quiet Oceans Experiment, a joint initiative of the Scientific Committee for Ocean Research and the Partnership for Observation of the Global Ocean.

He is on the Board of Reviewing Editors of Science and is a former Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Zoology. He led his institute to receive the Queen’s Anniversary Prize in 2011. He has BSc and DSc degrees for the University of Aberdeen, a PhD from Cambridge University and has received prizes for his research including the Scientific Medal of the Zoological Society of London and the Bruce Medal for Polar Science from the Royal Society of Edinburgh. He is also a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.

Published 24 April 2012