Sheila Rowan named Chief Scientific Adviser

Professor Sheila Rowan

Professor Sheila Rowan of the University of Glasgow has been named as Scotland’s next Chief Scientific Adviser.

Rowan is director of the university’s Institute for Gravitational Research.

Research carried out by the institute was part of a global effort leading to the discovery of gravitational waves, one of the most significant scientific discoveries of this century.

“Professor Sheila Rowan is an outstanding scientist as was shown through the work she and her team contributed to the discovery of gravitational waves – one of the most significant scientific breakthroughs in recent decades,” said University of Glasgow principal and vice chancellor, Professor Anton Muscatelli.

“She is also a brilliant communicator and a superb role model. Sheila is an excellent choice as Chief Scientific Adviser for Scotland.

“Professor Rowan follows on from the lead given by another University of Glasgow academic in Professor Muffy Calder who was Scotland’s Chief Scientific Advisor from 2012-15.

“We are delighted that another of our leading professors will hold this position at a time when the role of science in society and the economy is more important than ever.”

Jocelyn Bell Burnell, president of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, said: “The Royal Society of Edinburgh is strongly of the view that expert scientific advice should be available to the Scottish Government when considering policy issues.

“We therefore welcome the news that Professor Rowan has taken up the crucial Chief Scientific Adviser post and look forward to offering support to her in the future.”

Rowan will start her new post on June 13, 2016.

The discovery of gravitational waves earlier this year confirmed Einstein’s theory predicting their existence and showed that the collision of two black holes could be detected from their gravitational ripples travelling across the universe.

Rowan said: “This is an exciting time to join the Scottish Government and I’m looking forward to working with ministers and officials to show the added value that science advice can bring to their work.

“I’m also keen to meet scientists across Scotland so that I can fully appreciate the potential impact of new developments in science, engineering and technology.”

John Swinney, Scotland’s deputy first minister and cabinet secretary for education and skills, said: “The Scottish Government values science and the expert scientific advice provided by our network of specialist science advisers.

“As CSA, Professor Rowan will help to ensure that science informs the Scottish Government’s work, and advise on the impact that new developments in science may have.”

Minister for further education, higher education and science, Shirley-Anne Somerville said: “Professor Rowan’s work is a fantastic example of our world-leading science base, and she is a great advocate of its potential to benefit Scotland’s economy, environment and people.

“I hope that she will also inspire many of our young people to consider a future career in science.”

The CSA position will be a three-days-a-week secondment to the Scottish Government for three years, with the possibility of further extension.

The CSA will provide advice in a range of policy areas, particularly areas not already covered by the Chief Scientist (Health) and the CSA for Rural Affairs, Food and Environment.

Rowan, 46, has been Director of the Institute for Gravitational Research, University of Glasgow since 2009.

After her PhD studies in Glasgow, Rowan held various positions split between the University of Glasgow and the Edward L. Ginzton Laboratory at Stanford.

She returned to Glasgow in 2003, becoming Professor of Experimental Physics in 2006.