New director for science & innovation at NERC

27 January 2016

Professor Tim WheelerProfessor Tim Wheeler will be joining NERC at the start of April 2016 as our new director of science & innovation.

Tim Wheeler is currently professor of crop science at the University of Reading where he has 25 years of world-leading research experience into the effects of climate change on agriculture and food. For the last six years Professor Wheeler has been seconded as deputy chief scientific adviser to the Department for International Development (DFID), where he oversaw portfolios of climate, energy, water, agriculture and health research, amongst others, for impact on international development. He also provided science advice to DFID ministers, most recently on the 2015-16 El Niño weather event. In 2009-10, Professor Wheeler served as specialist adviser in the House of Lords.

As director of science & innovation, Professor Wheeler will be responsible for the management the best environmental science research portfolio in the world, rigorous yet rapid grants processes, essential PhD training and extensive activities to ensure that the UK is able to take full advantage of the wealth of scientific knowledge we create.

NERC's chief executive, Professor Duncan Wingham, said:

It is my pleasure to welcome Professor Wheeler to the NERC team. His experience will be vital to leading our science & innovation programmes through the coming years and ensuring that we play our part in securing future well-being and prosperity for all. I am delighted that Tim has chosen to join us and am confident his experience and skills are just what we need to lead NERC science and innovation.

Professor Wheeler succeeds Professor Iain Gillespie as director. Professor Gillespie left NERC to join the University of Leicester in December 2015.

NERC invests £330 million in research. We coordinate some of the world's most exciting research projects, tackling major issues such as climate change, environmental influences on human health, the genetic make-up of life on Earth, and much more.

Further information

Julia Maddock
NERC media office
07785 459139


1. Tim Wheeler is deputy chief scientific adviser at DFID. He is on secondment from the University of Reading where he is professor of crop science. At DFID, Tim provides science advice to ministers and oversees most of the research portfolio of the Research & Evidence Division. He has extensive experience of working with policymakers in the UK and internationally and was specialist adviser to the House of Lords in 2010.

Tim has published more than 170 scientific papers, including in Science and Nature, over the last 25 years on how climate change could impact on the sustainability of agriculture and food that have been cited almost 6000 times, undertaking research in Bolivia, Honduras, The Gambia, Uganda, China, India and elsewhere. His research group identified how temperature extremes reduce annual crop yields under climate change (in 1996), developed novel ways of modelling climate change impacts on crops at a global scale (2000) and produced the first crop model to be coded within a global climate model to allow the study of land-surface-climate interactions over croplands (2007). He has provided advice on the sustainability of food and farming to agri-businesses and food multi-nationals, often up to board level.

In 2005 he delivered a Royal Society Public Lecture titled 'Growing crops in changing climate' and co-authored a Royal Society Statement on Climate Change & Agriculture tabled at the G8 Summit in Gleneagles. Tim has served as a member of the Biotechnology & Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) REF sub-panel for Agriculture, Veterinary & Food Science and two of the UK government's Leadership Councils (Agricultural Technology & Space).

2. NERC is the UK's main agency for funding and managing research, training and knowledge exchange in the environmental sciences. Our work covers the full range of atmospheric, Earth, biological, terrestrial and aquatic science, from the deep oceans to the upper atmosphere and from the poles to the equator. We coordinate some of the world's most exciting research projects, tackling major issues such as climate change, environmental influences on human health, the genetic make-up of life on Earth, and much more. NERC is a non-departmental public body. We receive around £330 million of annual funding from the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS).