About Us

Our Purpose

We exist to promote social sciences in the UK for public benefit. We showcase, champion and advocate for the social sciences, raising awareness of their immense value and helping to secure their flourishing future.


To enhance and safeguard the social sciences in research, professional practice, and education; and to champion and foster the understanding and application of social sciences in policy, business and public life.


The social sciences flourish in the UK and sustain their world leading stature. They are widely valued for their contributions to society, economy, environment and well-being; and led by confident and capable communities of academics and other professionals, learned societies and students.

  • The Academy meets its purpose through six objectives and they guide all activities:
  • To champion the social sciences: promoting the vital role of social science in improving decision-making, society and lives.
  • To sustain the health of the social sciences in research and education: enabling a thriving and confident community

  • To recognise excellence in social science: with an expert and engaged Fellowship
  • To widen participation and skills in the social sciences: recognising the importance of social mobility, diversity and employability to people and society
  • To foster innovation and application of the social sciences: informing and helping to address challenges of our time
  • To ensure a sustainable future for the Academy of Social Sciences: as the only body that exists solely to represent social sciences in the UK.

The Academy’s strategy was developed collaboratively with inputs from the Council, Fellows, committees and external stakeholders in 2019–20. It frames our work and guides the development of our annual work plans and key performance indicators.

Six objectives define the medium-term scope of our work and, nested within that, the Academy defines three-year priority plans. As the respected national champion for social science, a current emphasis is on showcasing the value of social science evidence and policy in addressing the challenges of COVID-19 and the UK Government’s levelling up agenda. A second emphasis is on helping to ensure the social sciences navigate effectively the many changes arising from Brexit, COVID-19 and the current volatility in UK higher education and research policy. A third relates to our own sustainability and development in a time of change.


Our Academy and Campaign summary Annual Reports are structured around our strategic objectives, reporting on outputs and outcomes, and giving an overview of our finances. Full Trustees’ Reports and Financial Statements are available on request.

Our People

Dr Rita GardnerCBE FAcSS

Chief Executive

A professional geographer with strong leadership expertise and non-executive experience in advisory, trustee and board roles. she became Academy CEO in 2019. Previously she was Director, Royal Geographical Society where she led a strategic programme of modernisation and expansion, advocacy for geography, public and policy engagement. An academic career at London University followed her DPhil at Oxford University. She holds four leading geography awards, six honorary degrees and a CBE for services to geography.

Email: ceo@acss.org.uk

Sharon WitherspoonMBE FAcSS

Head of Policy

Sharon joined AcSS in 2016. She was at the Nuffield Foundation for 19 years, first heading its funding of social research, and then as Director. Before that, she was a social researcher at NatCen and the Policy Studies Institute. She received an MBE for services to social science in 2008, the British Academy President’s Medal in 2011, and an honorary doctorate from University College London in 2015 for services to social sciences and law.

Email: policy@acss.org.uk

Dr Sarah Jones

Head of Administration

Sarah joined the Academy in early 2021 as Head of Administration. She has a background spanning learned societies, higher and secondary education. Sarah is a geographer with a BSc and PhD from Queen Mary, University of London. She was the Professional Officer and Head of Programmes at the Royal Geographical Society running events in London and the regional committees. She retrained as a geography teacher, becoming Head of Department and an award-winning education resource writer.

Email: administrator@acss.org.uk

Alison Blow

Membership and Database Manager

Alison joined the Academy in April 2020 and is responsible for administering membership activities including supporting the Fellowship nominations process, assisting with Academy events, managing the CRM and the processing of the subscription cycle. She has held various roles in the UK and abroad in the areas of membership, education, client services, tourism, finance and operations.

Email: administrator@acss.org.uk

Steve Grundy

Senior Campaign Manager

Before joining AcSS Steve managed the Q-Step Programme at the Nuffield Foundation, developing quantitative methods in the social sciences. Steve is a qualified careers adviser and counsellor and has managed widening participation teams in several universities. He has worked in the charity sector developing partnerships between schools, universities, communities and business to support social mobility. Steve also has experience of working with universities to improve teaching and learning and academic quality and standards.

Email: campaign@acss.org.uk

Chizom Ekeh

Senior Communications Manager

Chizom manages all aspects of the Academy’s communications. She previously worked as Communications Analyst at Crown Agents, where she led on PR and developed and implemented communications strategies for major global health programmes. Before that she was Communications Officer at the Alan Turing Institute working on researcher-led activities. Chizom has an MSc in Development Studies from LSE, an MA in Political Journalism from City University and a BA in International Relations from Sussex University.

Email: media@acss.org.uk

Sophia Cole

Administrative Assistant

Sophia joined the Academy in late 2021 and works as an administrative assistant within the Admin team. Sophia graduated from the University of Roehampton in 2019 with BSc in Criminology. She works on membership activities in addition to maintaining the CRM and carrying out day to day tasks for the Academy.

Email: administrator@acss.org.uk

David Vernon

Research Associate (Health of Social Sciences)

David Vernon BSc PhD, is Research Associate for the Academy’s Health of Social Sciences project. He is Visiting Senior Lecturer in Psychology at Canterbury Christ Church University and an Associate Lecturer at the University of Derby. David’s background is in cognitive neuropsychology. He has published scientific articles on electroencephalographic biofeedback, creative problem solving and precognition and telepathy. His latest book is Dark Cognition: Evidence of psi and its implications for consciousness.

Will Hutton FAcSS

President, Academy of Social Sciences

Will is a political economist, author and columnist. He is an associate with the London School of Economics Centre for Economic Performance, a non-executive director of the Satellite Applications Catapult, co-chair of the Purposeful Company, an associate of the Oxford Martin School, and writes a regular column for The Observer. He was principal of Hertford College, University of Oxford from 2011 to 2020. He has authored many bestselling books including the acclaimed The State We’re In (1995).

Stephen AldridgeFAcSS


Stephen is Director for Analysis and Data at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government. A government economist by background, he was previously Chief Economist and then Director of the Strategy Unit in the Cabinet Office. He has also worked in the Department of Trade and Industry, the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions, the Cabinet Secretariats and Her Majesty’s Treasury.

Prof Tim AllenFAcSS


Tim Allen is inaugural Director of the Firoz Lalji Centre for Africa and Professor in Development Anthropology in the Department of International Development at LSE. His research focuses on international criminal justice, non-formal accountability mechanisms, forced migration, reintegration following displacements, war and conflict, aid programmes, witchcraft and social healing, tropical diseases, HIV/AIDS and health programmes.  He is currently the Principal Investigator for the ESRC-funded Centre for Public Authority and International Development. He has authored several books including Poverty and Development.

Prof Lisa Anderson


Lisa is Professor of Management Development and Associate PVC Education in the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Liverpool. Her research interests are in the field of management learning and education and current projects include examining how learning at doctoral level can result in real-world impact. She is also former Vice Chair of BAM where her work focused on Management Knowledge and Education and where she led a project to examine the nature of Teaching and Scholarship careers in UK business and management schools.

Prof Nic BeechFAcSS

Honorary Treasurer

Nic Beech is Vice-Chancellor of Middlesex University having previously been a Vice-Principal of the University of St Andrews and Provost of Dundee University. He is President of the British Academy of Management, hon. Treasurer of the Academy of Social Sciences, Chair of AccessHE and a board member of the QAA and the Chartered Management Institute Race Network. His research focuses on identity, diversity, change leadership and learning and he has worked extensively with industry, particularly creative industries and health.

Prof Richard BlackFAcSS


Richard is PVC and Head of the College of Social Sciences at the University of Birmingham.  A geographer by training, he works on the geography of international development, especially the relationship between migration, poverty and inequality in the context of environmental and social change.  Richard has been a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences since 2012.

Prior to joining the University of Birmingham in 2018, he was Pro-Director (Research and Enterprise) at SOAS University of London from 2013.

Prof Tim BlackmanFAcSS


Tim Blackman became Vice-Chancellor of The Open University in October 2019 having previously been Vice-Chancellor of Middlesex University and Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research, Scholarship and Quality at the OU. Tim has held several positions on private/public and charity boards and has undertaken reviews for research councils. Working for several years as an advisor to UK government on neighbourhood renewal and currently advising on skills policy. He has taught and researched across many areas including planning, research methods and higher education.

Prof Tony CrookCBE FAcSS


Tony is former Pro-Vice-Chancellor of The University of Sheffield and a chartered planner. He chairs The Conservation Volunteers and the Construction Industry Council’s Housing Panel; is a member of the Architects Registration Board, the RTPI Policy & Research Committee and the Kensington & Chelsea TMO Residuary Board. He won the RTPI Research Excellence Award in 2016 and the Sir Peter Hall award in 2020 for research on land value capture and was appointed CBE for services to housing.

Prof Bobby DuffyFAcSS

Chair, Campaign for Social Science

Bobby is Professor of Public Policy and Director of the Policy Institute. Prior to joining King’s in 2018, Bobby was Managing Director of Public Affairs for Ipsos MORI, and Global Director of the Ipsos Social Research Institute, across around 30 countries. He has worked across most public policy areas in his 25 year career in policy research and evaluation, and has been seconded to the Prime Minister’s Strategy Unit and the Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion (CASE) at LSE.

Prof Eileen GreenFAcSS


Professor Eileen Green is a sociologist and Emerita Professor at Teesside University, where she was founding Director of the Centre for Social and Policy Research, which specialised in community action projects. Previously, Reader and Head of Sociology at Sheffield Hallam University, her research interests include gender studies, women’s health and leisure and digital sociology. She is former Chair of the Leisure Studies Association and the British Sociological Association.

Lord KerslakeFAcSS


Lord Kerslake is Chair of Peabody, London Collective Investment Vehicle and Centre for Public Scrutiny. He is President of the Local Government Association, Chair of Be First and Chair of the Board of Governors, Sheffield Hallam University. He was the first Chief Executive of the Homes and Communities Agency. In 2005 he received a knighthood for services to local government. In 2015, he was made a life peer, taking the title Baron Kerslake of Endcliffe in the City of Sheffield.

Prof Simon MarginsonFAcSS


Simon Marginson is Professor of Higher Education at the University of Oxford, Director of the ESRC/OFSRE Centre for Global Higher Education, and Joint Editor-in-Chief of Higher Education. Simon focuses on global and international aspects of higher education, including higher education in East Asia, and global science. He was the Clark Kerr Lecturer on Higher Education at the University of California in 2014. He is a Fellow of the Society for Research into Higher Education and a member of Academia Europaea.

Dame Jil MathesonFAcSS

Honorary Secretary

Jil Matheson served as National Statistician, Head of the Government Statistical Service and Chief Executive of the UK Statistics Authority from 2009 until her retirement in 2014, following a career in social research and statistics. During that time Jil also Chaired the OECD’s Committee on Statistics and Statistical Policy and the UN Statistical Commission. Jil has been a fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences since 2001. She is also a fellow of the Royal Statistical Society.

Prof Tony McEneryFAcSS


Tony is an applied linguist with a focus on the use of large volumes of language data to explore the use and manipulation of language in society. Tony is Distinguished Professor of English Language and Linguistics at Lancaster University. Previously he was Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at Lancaster and Director of the ESRC Centre for Corpus Approaches to Social Science. He was the founding Director of Research at the AHRC and Director of Research at the ESRC.

Prof Judith PhillipsOBE FAcSS


Judith Phillips is Deputy Principal (Research) and Professor of Gerontology at the University of Stirling. She is Research Director for the UKRI Healthy Ageing Challenge. Her research interests are in the social, behavioural and environmental aspects of ageing and she has published widely on topics such as social care, caregiving and age friendly environments. She has been highly active in shaping the UK’s gerontological research landscape and her applied research has impacted on government policy, particularly in Wales.

Prof Sally PowerFAcSS


Professor Sally Power is Co-Director of the Wales Institute of Social and Economic Research and Data (WISERD) and is based in the School of Social Sciences, Cardiff University. She is a Fellow of the Learned Society for Wales, an elected member of Council of the British Educational Research Association and a Trustee of the Bevan Foundation. Her own research focuses on the implications of education policy and practice for socio-economic inequalities and the relationship between education, the family and civil society.

Prof Vicky Pryce FAcSS


Professor Vicky Pryce FAcSS is Chief Economic Adviser and board member at CEBR. She was DG for Economics at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and Joint Head of the Government Economic Service after senior positions in business. Currently Fellow of the Society of Professional Economists, Companion of the British Academy of Management, Patron of ‘Pro-bono Economics’ and co-founder of GoodCorporation, she also served on the Councils of Kent University, Royal Economic Society and the IFS, Court of the LSE and on RSA’s board of trustees.

Prof Sasha Roseneil FAcSS


Sasha Roseneil is Pro-Provost (Equity & Inclusion) and Dean of the Faculty of Social and Historical Sciences at UCL. She is a sociologist, gender studies scholar, group analyst and psychoanalytic psychotherapist, and Professor of Interdisciplinary Social Science in the UCL Institute of Advanced Studies. She has also served as Executive Dean (Social Sciences) at University of Essex, as Director of the Birkbeck Institute for Social Research and founding Director of the Centre for Interdisciplinary Gender Studies at University of Leeds.

Prof Gill Valentine FAcSS


Gill Valentine is Deputy Vice-Chancellor at the University of Sheffield. She was previously Pro Vice-Chancellor for the Faculty of Social Sciences with responsibility for 13 academic departments. Her main research interests include diversity and inclusion, intergenerational relations and family life and urban cultures and consumption. Although trained as a geographer, much of her work has been interdisciplinary involving collaboration with social sciences colleagues from other disciplines. She has published 17 books and over 170 articles.

Prof Kavita VedharaFAcSS


Kavita is Professor of Health Psychology at the University of Nottingham, working at the interface of social and medical sciences. Her interests lie in experimental and applied research examining how psychological factors influence health and disease outcomes and how interventions can improve these outcomes. Her work has been funded by the MRC, ESRC, NIHR, EU, Fulbright Commission, amongst others. She is a ‘Distinguished International Affiliate’ of the American Psychological Society (Division 38) and a Fellow of the Academy of Behavioural Medicine.

Our Governance

The Academy is governed by its Board of Trustees and supported by three specialist committees and limited-term advisory groups. Trustees, including the President, are elected and appointed from the Fellowship.

The Academy’s Council (Board of Trustees) has overall responsibility for the charity and its members act as Directors for the company. Responsibility for planning, management and delivery is delegated to the Academy’s Chief Executive.

The Council is chaired by the President and comprises 21 members, one-third of whom are elected by the Fellowship, one-third by member social science societies, and one-third are appointed by the Council. All members are Fellows.

We pay particular attention to embracing diversity in Council membership. This includes locational diversity across the four nations and within the UK, diversity in gender and ethnicity, in discipline, and across the main professional sectors of academia, public, private and third sector. A three-year term of election can be extended for a maximum of two successive terms.

The Council is supported by specialist committees and boards:

  • Campaign for Social Science Board (3 meetings p/a)
  • Audit and Risk Management Committee (2 meetings p/a)
  • CEOs-Chief Officers of Learned Societies Committee (3 meetings p/a)
  • Nominations Committee (2 meetings p/a)

The Executive Committee, comprising senior trustees and the Chief Executive, meets monthly.

Lead trustees take on advisory roles for policy activities and for the Academy’s journal.

Advisory groups are formed to meet specific needs. An International Advisory Group currently exists.

The Academy is incorporated as a company limited by guarantee no 3847936 and is registered as a charity no 1088537.