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37th T B Macaulay Lecture - Policy, Practice, Science and My Distant Relatives

The 37th T B Macaulay lecture will be given by Professor William J. Sutherland, Miriam Rothschild Professor of Conservation Biology, University of Cambridge.

The annual Macaulay lecture is given to stimulate thinking and dialogue about contemporary environmental issues in order to honour the vision of Dr Thomas Bassett Macaulay. Dr Macaulay was one time President and Chairman of the Sun Life Assurance Company of Canada who provided an endowment to found the Macaulay Institute for Soil Research in Aberdeen in 1930. Today the work continues at the James Hutton Institute, which is a world leader in research in the land, crop, water, environmental and socio economic sciences.

Places must be booked in advance due to limited seating so if you wish to attend please email Jane Lund to enquire if tickets are available; there is no charge.

Lecture Abstract: 

The lecture tackled the challenge posed by increased calls for policy developers and decision-makers in Scotland to base their decisions more firmly on the underlying science. Professor Sutherland argued that the current processes often lead to poor and slow decisions and the inefficient or problematic use of resources. He outlined various problems and described methods that can help individual policy developers and decision-makers and also improve the decision-making processes.

Speaker Details

Professor William J. Sutherland

Professor Sutherland’s interests include applying ecological data and models to understand conservation problems and more recently the role of science in the decision making process. He co-wrote a recent paper in Nature considering ways to improve the evidence base of policy and rather than trying to teach science to politicians and policy makers or getting more scientists involved in politics and decision making he and his co-authors suggested 20 top tips that should be part of the education of civil servants, politicians, policy advisers and journalists — and anyone else who interacts with science or researchers.


Royal Society of Edinburgh
George Street 22-26
EH2 2PQ Edinburgh
United Kingdom

About the Lecture

Dr Thomas Bassett MacaulayThe annual T.B. Macaulay Lecture is held to honour the vision of Dr Thomas Bassett Macaulay, President and Chairman of the Sun Life Assurance Company of Canada, whose benefaction founded the original Macaulay Institute for Soil Research in 1930. He was a descendant of the Macaulays from the Island of Lewis and his aim was to improve the productivity of Scottish agriculture. This vision continues today in its successor the James Hutton Institute, a world leader in land, crop, water, environmental and socio-economic science.