Dr Rita Gardner CBE FAcSS joins the Academy of Social Sciences as Chief Executive

30 January 2019

The Academy of Social Sciences and its Campaign for Social Science is delighted to welcome Dr Rita Gardner CBE FAcSS as its new Chief Executive. Rita brings to the role more than 25 years’ experience of leadership and organisational development in the learned society and professional body sector in the UK. She is committed to the work of the academies and scholarly societies as an integral part of the research ecology of the UK. Together with a keen interest in professional practice, and in the interface of academia, practice and policy, she shares a determination for the social sciences to gain greater recognition and a higher profile for their vital contributions to society, economy and well-being.

An experienced advocate for the social sciences, Rita has served widely on committees, government working groups and on boards of trustees. This includes as a Trustee of the Academy of Social Sciences (2013-2018), on a number of British Academy steering and advisory groups, and on the ‘Finch’ Review of Open Access to Scholarly Publishing.

Rita is best known for her work in envisioning and leading the modernisation and growth of the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG), as its first female director and its first academic director (1996-2018). Working collaboratively with colleagues, trustees, members and the wider community, she led the implementation of the merger of the UK’s two leading geographical societies, growth of the membership, and opening of the historic archives for public benefit. With support for research and higher education at the heart of the Society, new programmes were developed, collaboratively with the community,  to support and promote the discipline and its practitioners. These encompassed policy, professional practice, school education, field science, and engaging the public.

A professional geographer, Rita pursued an early academic career (1979-1996) at King’s College and Queen Mary, University of London, after studying at Oxford University (DPhil) and UCL (BSc). During this time she authored and co-authored some 35 peer-reviewed scientific publications and edited two scholarly books. Her research, as a geomorphologist, focused on environmental change in tropical and subtropical regions. She led, as co-principal investigator, the Department for International Development-funded Soil Erosion and Conservation Project in Nepal (1990-96).

Her keen interest in enthusing the public, resulted in co-authorship of two popular books on the British Landscape and curation of the ‘Britain from the Air’ exhibition, viewed by more than 6 million people in recent years.

Rita’s work is recognised with three leading geography awards, five honorary degrees and a CBE for services to geography.

We welcome Rita to the Academy and look forward to working with her in taking the Academy to its next stage of development.