Gary Kass

Deputy Chief Scientist at Natural England

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Deputy Chief Scientist, Natural England
Policy Fellow Alum, Centre for Science and Policy

"The visits were extremely valuable, enjoyable and useful. My initial hypothesis was blown out of the water: I had assumed that engaging with academics would lead me down a path towards theoretical and conceptual frameworks, and the like. How wrong I was. I have come out from my visits with a much clearer drive towards achieving something practical and concrete." October/November 2011

As government's statutory adviser on the natural environment, Natural England provides robust evidence and analysis to support the development of policy - a "knowledge brokering" role which requires a clear understanding of the nature (and limitations) of evidence and of the policy process. It advises all departments in central and local government on issues connected with the conservation, management and enhancement of the natural environment, including terrestrial and marine biodiversity, ecosystems, landscape, public engagement and access, land use and management of natural resources.

Gary's role is to support the Chief Scientist and more specifically to help provide scientific leadership for the cadre of specialists in Natural England, whose specialisms range from ecology to economics and soil science to sociology. He also retains overall responsibility for Natural England strategic futures capability.

Gary's was previously Principal Specialist in the Evidence and Analysis Team at Natural England, where his responsibilities were to develop and implement a programme of studies, analyses and engagements to ensure that the organisation's responses to strategic challenges for environmental management are robust. He undertookj broad-based strategic policy analysis and futures work, including horizon scanning and scenario planning, and was responsible for thought-leadership in the area of evidence based policy and interdisciplinarity.

He recently completed a ten-month placement within Defra, advising on the development of a white paper which sets out a 50-year vision for the natural environment, the benefits it can provide for people and the economy, and the actions required in the near term. He also recently became a member of NERC's Knowledge Exchange Advisory Board.

Earlier in his career he was Head of Science and Society Partnerships and Public Engagement in the DTI's Office of Science and Innovation, where he developed policy to embed government's goals for public engagement with science across departments, agencies and the wider science community. In this role he procured social research into the attitudes of the UK public towards science, engineering and technology, and conceived, designed and oversaw the Sciencewise programme, as part of which he secured Cabinet-level support for creating an Expert Resource Centre on public dialogue in science and technology.

Prior to this he was Senior Scientific Fellow in the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST), responsible for a programme of research and analysis on environment, sustainability, energy and science and innovation policy. He began his career as an environmental assessment consultant, and holds a BSc in Chemistry with Environmental Science from the University of Kent, and an MSc in Earth Science and the Environment from Kingston Polytechnic.

Gary's approach is based on the conviction that an effective knowledge broker must have a foot in both the research and policy camps - speaking the language of either side, networking across both communities and creating meaningful dialogues, so that knowledge producers can meet the needs of knowledge users and knowledge users can articulate their needs to knowledge providers.

His objectives for his Policy Fellowship include:

  • sharing and developing understanding of the role of knowledge broker, and of how to "professionalise" the role, through comparison with experiences in different disciplines
  • developing practical tools and approaches to make knowledge brokering more effective
  • building and strengthening his network of contacts in relevant parts of the science and policy communities, particularly in environment, sustainability and energy policy
  • creating opportunities for Natural England to pull in leading academics to support its work.
To read about Gary's experience as a Policy Fellow in Cambridge see here.
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