From Scientist to Government Adviser

13 February 2019 - 6:00pm to 7:30pm
Law Theatre G02, Building F8

Robin Grimes and Les Fields

Prof. Robin Grimes, FRS, Materials Physics, Imperial College London, United Kingdom
Prof. Les Fields, former Senior DVC at UNSW

Prof. Robin Grimes, FRS, will talk about his experience as Chief Scientific Adviser for the UK’s foreign office, and how science can be used in and for diplomacy. This will be followed by a conversation with Prof. Les Fields, former Senior DVC at UNSW, and Q&A.

Please register to attend at Eventbrite

— All Welcome —


Scientists permeate throughout the civil service where they are called upon to suggest options to address a variety of challenges.  Nevertheless, the idea of having a chief Scientific Adviser in a Foreign Service is new; I was only the second in the UK system.  Of course, the idea of a Chief Scientific Adviser (CSA) is not about being all things science to all diplomats, but it is about ensuring that science is a ready tool in the diplomatic tool box and to embed science diplomacy in the organisation.  And that means at all levels, including to Ministers.

Science diplomacy has been described in terms of three categories.  First, science in diplomacy, where science evidence is used to support diplomatic activity.  Second, science for diplomacy, where science or scientists act as a beach-head, leading to improved political, social and economic links.  This builds confidence and facilitates the development of diplomatic relations.  Lastly, diplomacy for science, where the diplomats help scientists to achieve their goals – diplomacy supports science.

In this seminar I will describe how I came to be on the CSA trajectory, provide various examples of science diplomacy and show how it has made a difference.  In particular I will draw attention to the variety of networks through which science diplomacy is developed and delivered.


Robin Grimes is Professor of Materials Physics at Imperial College London and at University College London, and was elected Fellow of the Royal Society in 2018. He has been Director of London’s Centre for Nuclear Engineering since 2008 and became Director of the Imperial College’s Rolls Royce University Technology Centre in Nuclear Engineering in 2010.

Robin Grimes has established Science Diplomacy within the UK’s Foreign & Commonwealth Office working as Chief Scientific Adviser since 2013. He has mainstreamed science as a tool in the UKs diplomatic tool box, using science evidence and science networks to place science collaboration as the heart of key international relationships. He maintains a leading role in the nuclear energy academic community and is a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering.

His materials research is focused on the use of high-performance computing techniques to understand the behaviour of materials for energy applications including nuclear fission and fusion, fuel cells, batteries and solar cells. He is also Principal Investigator of the Research Council’s UK Nuclear Fission consortium project.

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