Dr Chris McFee

Head of Physical Security and CT at Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS)

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Head of Physical Security and CT, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills
Policy Fellow Alum, Centre for Science and Policy

Prior to his current role as Head of Physical Security and CT, Chris headed a small team in GO Science working to ensure that government and agencies make effective use of scientific advice in preparing for natural hazards, emergencies and terrorism.

In 2010 he played a major role in the volcanic ash emergency, ensuring Ministers in COBR were regularly briefed on the science behind the emergency. Ongoing work includes a major project with non-government academics and experts advising the government on high impact, low probability risks, and work with government and non-government stakeholders to improve the communication of science advice in emergencies. He is also working on a review of how the UK government can use science to improve its response to international man made and human disasters.

Earlier in his civil service career he was a technical security advisor at the Department for Transport, managing a £2.5 million research portfolio to identify technical vulnerabilities to transport assets from terrorist attack. He has also been a policy manager in the DTI Office of Science and Innovation, supporting the Government Chief Scientific Adviser in ensuring that government departments made joined-up and effective use of scientific evidence in policy making; developing capital investment strategies for the seven UK Research Councils and ensuring that they were implemented; and monitoring progress and expenditure on large scientific facilities (such as the Diamond Synchrotron, the ISIS Spalation Neutron Source, and the RSS James Cook).

During his Policy Fellowship, Chris will explore a wide range of research areas which have a bearing on the work of the Civil Contingencies Team, exploring the following questions:

  • Space weather – what is the impact on the Earth? What disciplines can be used to predict such impacts and explain them to various audiences?
  • What are (or will be) the capabilities of remote sensing – particularly space based environment satellites such as Envisat etc. or Solar/Space Weather satellites?
  • How can the UK government use science to improve its response to international man made and human disasters?
  • What modelling techniques are applicable to civil contingencies analysis? What are the applications of social science modelling (agent based techniques, Bayesian methods) of behaviour, e.g. domestic extremism and radicalisation?
  • How does the latest research help us to understand pandemic type diseases? – pandemic flu, SARS etc.
  • Complexity – how do complex systems act to present additional risks? – including the financial sector.
  • How can risk be communicated to senior decision makers and to the public? How should “Black Swan” events be understood and provided for?
  • How can better public engagement with science and science policy be promoted?
  • In news articles

    Professional Development Policy Seminar for Engineers

    In December, CSaP and the Engineering Department at the University of Cambridge co-hosted a Professional Development Policy Seminar for early-career engineers. Co-sponsored by the IET, 32 researchers from 7 universities heard from engineering experts and policy professionals on the opportunities and realities of engaging with policy. For Marcus Pelenu, a PhD student at the Centre for Sustainable Development, Department of Engineering, this seminar resulted in a work placement in the Cabinet Office.