Interim Chief Executive, Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC)
Policy Fellow Alumna, Centre for Science and Policy
Dr Gemma Harper became interim Chief Executive of the JNCC in March 2021. Previously, Gemma was Deputy Director for Marine Policy and Evidence, the UK Commissioner to the International Whaling Commission and Chief Social Scientist in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) where she was responsible for delivering the UK Government’s vision of ‘clean, healthy, safe, productive and biologically diverse oceans and seas’. She was also responsible for ensuring social science – which aims to put people at the heart of Defra’s policy making – is of high quality and underpins strategy, policy and delivery.
Gemma studied social psychology at London School of Economics and Political Science. During her post-doctoral research in the Department of Agricultural and Food Economics, University of Reading, she contributed to a range of national and international research projects. After eight years in criminal justice research at the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice, Gemma joined Defra in 2010. At Defra she led Strategic Evidence and Analysis, followed by the Strategy Unit, Animal and Plant Health Evidence and Analysis, and Plants, Bees and Seeds policy and evidence.
Gemma is a member of the Government Social Research Leadership Board, the Cross Government Evaluation Group, the Social Research Association Strategy Group and the Public Policy Committee of the British Academy. Gemma led the secretariat for Defra’s Social Science Expert Group (SSEG) and co-authored with SSEG members an article on Judging research quality to support evidence-informed environmental policy.