Who's Who

Alison Blow

Membership and Database Manager
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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.

Dr Kevin Burchell

Research Fellow: UK social sciences in a time of change
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Kevin is a Research Fellow at the Academy and is responsible for the implementation of the ESRC grant-funded UK social sciences in a time of change project (October 2020 to March 2022). Kevin is a specialist in mixed-methods social science research, evaluation and research impact. He has a PhD, MSc and BSc from London School of Economics and has previously worked at Policy Studies Institute (University of Westminster), Kingston University, University of Manchester and London School of Economics.

Chizom Ekeh

Senior Communications Manager
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Chizom is Senior Communications Manager at the Academy. Prior to this she was Communications Analyst at Crown Agents, where she led on project communications for the Unicef Results Based Financing for Health programme in Zimbabwe, the Health Pooled Fund in South Sudan and the DFID-funded ASCEND programme, which seeks to eliminate neglected tropical diseases across 12 countries in southern and eastern Africa and south Asia.  Before this she was Communications Officer at the Alan Turing Institute where she supported researcher-led activities on AI ethics and law, AI for social good, women in data science and AI, and diversity and STEM. She also provided communications support for the Turing’s Data Study Groups, including interviewing challenge owners and writing case studies for the website. Chizom has an MSc in Development Studies from LSE, an MA in Political Journalism from City University London and a BA in International Relations from Sussex University.

Dr Rita Gardner CBE FAcSS

Chief Executive
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Dr Rita Gardner CBE FAcSS is a professional geographer. She was appointed Chief Executive of the Academy of Social Sciences to succeed Stephen Anderson from 28 January 2019. Rita was previously Director of the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG), the UK’s learned society and professional body for geography, from 1996 to 2018. In that role, she developed and led a sustained, strategic programme of modernisation and expansion of the society, advocacy for geography, and public and policy engagement. Dr Gardner has extensive experience in advisory, trustee and committee roles, including Personal Advisor for geography to Lord Adonis (Schools Minister, Department for Children, Schools and Families); Chair, Exhibition Road Cultural Group; Non-Executive Director, British Antarctic Survey; and Member, ‘Finch’ Review Group on Open Access to Scholarly Publications. Dr Gardner pursued an early academic career in geography from 1979 to 1996 at London University after studying at Oxford University (DPhil) and UCL (BSc). Her work is recognised with three leading geography awards, five honorary degrees and a CBE for services to geography.

Dr Sarah Jones

Head of Administration
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Sarah is Head of Administration at the Academy. She has a background that spans learned societies, higher and secondary education. Sarah is a geographer, having completed a BSc in Physical Geography and a PhD in sea level change, both at Queen Mary, University of London. After travelling for a few years, she worked for the Royal Geographical Society as the Professional Officer and Head of Programmes, managing events in London, the regional committees and outreach programmes such as 21st Century Challenges and the Environment & Society Forum. Sarah then retrained as a secondary geography teacher becoming Head of Department and subsequently moved to work as an independent award-winning education resource writer before joining the Academy in early 2021.

Dr Ashley Thomas Lenihan

Senior Policy Advisor
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Ashley is Senior Policy Advisor to the Academy and its Campaign. She works on a range of projects for the Academy, and has led our work on Brexit and Positive Prospects. Ashley is also the Head of Policy & Engagement at the British Academy of Management, a Fellow at the Centre for International Studies at the London School of Economics, and an Associate at LSE IDEAS, and she has undertaken a variety of consultancy work in the international policy arena over the last decade, on issues ranging from foreign to domestic policy. Ashley is a life member of the Council on Foreign Relations, an individual member of the Parliamentary & Scientific Committee, and has her PhD in Government, and her BS in Foreign Service, from Georgetown University.

Ian Williams

Finance Manager

Ian provides part time financial management support to the organisation. He is an FCA and has a  BA in Economics from the University of York and a MBA from Henley Management College. He has previous financial management experience in the international development / charity sector primarily with CDC Group plc and his more recent charity roles include with Raleigh the international youth charity.

Sharon Witherspoon MBE FAcSS

Head of Policy
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Sharon is Head of Policy at the Academy.  She was at the Nuffield Foundation, a grant-giving endowed charitable trust, for 19 years, first heading its programmes of social research and social policy, and then for three years as Director. Before that, she was a practicing social researcher at NatCen and the Policy Studies Institute, designing and analysing large-scale social surveys on various topics.  She was awarded an MBE for services to social science in 2008, received the British Academy President’s Medal in 2011, and was awarded an honorary doctorate by University College London in 2015 for services to social sciences and law.