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The British Academy appoints new Chief Executive Hetan Shah

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The British Academy, the UK’s leading body for the humanities and social sciences, has appointed a new Chief Executive as it embarks on a programme to renew and strengthen its historic mission to champion and advance the disciplines.

Hetan Shah, who has led the Royal Statistical Society (RSS) for the last eight years, will take up the role in February 2020. He becomes the tenth person to hold the position in the Academy’s 117-year history and will lead a programme to develop and enhance its headquarters and programmes for academics, policy-makers and the public, which was boosted by a £10m donation from the Wolfson Foundation last year, enabled by a £14m capital grant from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

As Executive Director of the RSS, Hetan Shah has led a transformation of the organisation’s reputation and profile, so that it is now seen as one of the UK’s most respected commentators on data policy, building relationships with government, regulators and the media. Under his stewardship, the RSS has developed new initiatives including Statistics of the Year, a media training programme developing Statistical Ambassadors, and a pro bono scheme linking statisticians to charities, and boosted income through the Society’s journals, training and sponsorship.

Hetan Shah holds a number of non-executive roles, including Chair of the Friends Provident Foundation and Vice Chair of the Ada Lovelace Institute. He is also a board member of St George's House (Windsor Castle), and a Visiting Professor at the Policy Institute, King's College London. As a member of the independent Social Metrics Commission, he has helped developed new poverty measures for the UK, which are now in the process of being taken up by government.

Commenting on the appointment, President of the British Academy Professor Sir David Cannadine said:

“We are delighted to appoint Hetan Shah as our Chief Executive. Through his role at the Royal Statistical Society, he has demonstrated his ability to work with a fellowship to harness their collective intellectual weight for public good. He believes in the transformative power of the humanities and social sciences and will ensure that these subjects take centre stage as societies the world over face up to the greatest challenges of our time.”

Hetan Shah commented: “It's a cliché, but we are living through a period of social, environmental and technological change. The humanities and social sciences are a key way in which we can understand ourselves as a changing society. So I'm over the moon about being appointed to lead the British Academy. My ambition is to make it a hub for curious minds and for the Academy to inform the national conversationabout the big issues of the day.”

Hetan Shah takes over the role from Dr Robin Jackson, who has led the organisation on an interim basis since April 2019.