Professor Graham Underwood named as new Chair of NERC Science Committee

11 November 2019

Today, it was announced that Professor Graham Underwood will take up the role of the Chair of NERC Science Committee from November 2019.

Graham Underwood

Graham brings extensive research experience from his role as Professor of Marine and Freshwater Biology in the School of Life Sciences at the University of Essex and from working with DEFRA and the Environment Agency on various advisory panels and statutory committees. He also brings a wealth of experience in working with NERC since 2002 including as a member of the predecessor body to Science Committee (the Science and Innovation Strategy Board), the NERC peer review college and recently as Chair of the Strategic Programmes Advisory Group (SPAG). Graham’s experience will ensure NERC and NERC Science Committee supports excellent science that advances our knowledge and meets future challenges while making sure our decision making and advice to NERC Council is robust, open and well informed. Graham takes over the Chair from Professor Angela Hatton of the National Oceanography Centre.

Announcing the appointment, NERC Executive Chair Professor Duncan Wingham said: "Graham’s wealth of knowledge and extensive experience in environmental science research and in advising Government, NERC and his University in strategic roles makes him very well-placed to take on this role as the Chair of the NERC Science Committee. Graham’s judgement and experience in ensuring well run committees alongside his experience in ensuring robust scientific debates will stand us in good stead in terms of future advice and funding decisions. I am sure I speak for all NERC Council when I say that I look forward to working with Graham and the Science Committee under his stewardship. I would also like to take this chance to pass on my thanks to Angela Hatton, the outgoing Chair, who has very ably led the Committee over the past few years."

Professor Graham Underwood said: "I am honoured to be taking up the role of Chair of the NERC Science Committee. Ensuring NERC is well advised and challenged to ensure it keeps funding the best and most innovative environment science remains a core part of its mission, and I look forward to contributing to that in my role as Chair and alongside NERC Council and Science Committee members."


  1. 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 part of the non-departmental public body, UK Research and Innovation. NERC has an annual budget of around £330 million of annual funding from the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS).
  2. Graham Underwood is a Professor in the School of Life Sciences at the University of Essex. Trained as a zoologist (University of Reading), and with a PhD in freshwater ecology (University of Sussex), he moved to Essex in 1992, after a period of post-doctoral work at the University of Bristol. His research covers freshwater, estuarine, coastal and shallow sea, and sea ice biology and ecology, with a major focus on microbial ecology, dissolved organic matter and biogeochemical cycling, and ecosystem functioning. Though based primarily in the U.K., he has also carried out research in the Baltic, Mediterranean and South African environments, tropical systems in the Indo-pacific and the Bahamas, in Antarctic and Arctic sea ice, and high latitude lakes (Greenland).

    He has extensive experience working with NERC since 2002; on the peer review college, a member of the Panel of Chairs from 2009 to 2014, a member of Science and Innovation Strategy Board (SISB) from 2011 to 2014, and Chair of the Strategic Programmes Advisory Group (SPAG) from 2014-2019. He is a member of the Research Councils' IMP Individual Merit Promotion Scheme panel. He was a member of the DEFRA science advisory panel on marine conservation zones (2009-2012), and on various Environment Agency statutory committees. Three of his recent projects were funded via NERC research programme funding (BESS, MC and SSB), which all have broad societal challenge elements, and he works with the Environment Agency on numerous policy-related research projects. He has recently completed a six year term as Executive Dean of the Faculty of Science and Health at the University of Essex.