Science & Environment

New chair for science institution

Image caption Sir Richard is an ex-rector of Imperial College London

The world's oldest scientific organisation - the UK's Royal Institution - has appointed Sir Richard Sykes as the new chairman of its council.

Sir Richard is a former head of GlaxoSmithKline and an ex-rector of Imperial College London.

He said that he was delighted with the appointment.

The RI's director, Baroness Greenfield, was made redundant at the beginning of the year, amid controversy.

Some note that it is possible the appointment might settle the nerves of the organisations that help fund the RI.

That review showed that the organisation was in trouble following a £22m refurbishment and the sale of property which generated an income for the RI in order to fund the re-fit.

Officially Sir Richard is replacing the former chairman of the organisation Adrian de Ferranti.

But some observers suggest that as the new scientific figurehead of the organisation, he is essentially replacing Lady Greenfield.

The former head of the organisation, Baroness Susan Greenfield, was made redundant by the RI on 8 January this year in order to make savings following a financial review.

"This appointment affirms the Royal Institution's commitment both to our members and to the scientific community as a whole," said Chris Rofe, chief executive of the RI.

"Sir Richard's extensive experience and formidable reputation in science, business and education means that he is ideally placed to lead the organisation. I look forward to his advice, support and leadership as we continue to deliver our strategy."

When BBC News interviewed Lady Greenfield earlier this year, she said that her sacking had been unfair and the financial crisis facing the RI was not her fault.

"It's an interesting notion that one day I woke up and thought: 'Right, today I think I'm going to go and blow £22m on my own and I am going to sell off some property because I have been so bad at fundraising,'" she said.

"The RI has lots of checks and balances. It was something I pushed for because that's what I was appointed to do - to bring about change and to bring the RI into the 21st Century.

"Of course I will take responsibility collectively with everyone else."

'Delighted'

Sir Richard said that he was "delighted to become chairman at such an important juncture in the history of the Royal Institution".

"This is a crucial era for science in society and our role as home for the promotion of science is a critical one."

The incoming President of the Royal Society, Sir Paul Nurse, said that the appointment would give strong leadership and much needed stability to the Royal Institution.

"I wish him and the institution well," he added.

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