Who's Who

Dr Rita Gardner CBE FAcSS

Chief Executive
[email protected]
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.

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.

Dr. Ashley Thomas Lenihan

Senior Policy Adviser
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Ashley is Senior Policy Adviser at the Academy. She is a Fellow at the Centre for International Studies at the London School of Economics, an Associate at LSE IDEAS, and has undertaken a variety of consultancy work in the international policy arena over the last ten years. She has her Ph.D. in Government, and her B.S. in Foreign Service, from Georgetown University.  She works on a range of projects for the Academy, and has led our work on Brexit and Positive Prospects.

Marta Kask

Campaign Manager
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Marta joined the Campaign for Social Science as Campaign Manager in December 2017. Prior to that she managed a list of academic journals and partner relations for Springer Nature, an international academic publisher in New York. She has held a variety of roles in academic publishing and has a MA from University College London and BScEcon from Aberystwyth University, both in Politics.

Aarti Basnyat

Communications Manager
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Aarti Basnyat is the Communications Manager at the Academy. She was with the United Nations University - Institute for Environment and Human Security for over three years as their Communications Officer. Among other things, she helped revamp their website and establish their social media presence. Before that Aarti was the Global Communications Officer at ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability. She brings with her extensive experience in media engagement, website management, social media content creation and campaign development. As a former journalist, she possesses excellent writing skills and has a strong interest in topics related to social sciences. Aarti holds a Master in Media Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, a diploma in Print Journalism from the Asian College of Journalism and a Bachelor in English Literature (Hons) from St. Stephens' College, Delhi 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.