Presentation address by Professor Andrew Dougill

Vice-Chancellor,

Professor Dame Julia Slingo is the Met Office Chief Scientist, a role which demands the management and communication of complex scientific programmes, in an arena which is always subject to critical public and media attention.  On this sometimes hostile stage, she has become one of the UK’s greatest advocates for science, successfully communicating the case for sound scientific work, and for its global economic value.  Dame Julia manages programmes of research which reach into every corner of UK life and economy.

In her own research career, Julia made advances which contributed to the development of reliable climate change projections, particularly in vulnerable parts of the world.  In the 1970s, Julia used climate models to understand the monsoon circulations of Africa and India, and was the first to begin to understand climate feedbacks linking monsoon circulation to desertification processes.  Her individual research is of the highest rank and has been recognised by Fellowship of the Royal Society.   In 2008, she became the first woman president of the Royal Meteorological Society.

Research integrity is at the heart of Julia’s work, and one of the reasons she has become a successful advocate of our science with the media and within Whitehall.  In the face of sometime brutal media scrutiny, she maintains dignity and credibility by making sure her statements are defensible by sound science.  Particularly in the field of climate change, where complex models dominate, her deep understanding of the physics of the Earth’s climate system has allowed her to communicate with great authority.  Many scientific statements from the Met Office on contemporary severe weather events, including last year’s Boxing Day storms that had such a devastating impact on Leeds, are written by Julia personally. 

Since becoming Chief Scientist, Dame Julia has changed the ethos of the Met Office to be much more outward-looking.  This has meant strengthening collaborations with international partners and the universities.  In 2010, she established the formal ‘Met Office Academic Partnership’ with the three leading UK Universities (Leeds, Reading and Exeter) and has since extended this further, with Oxford joining.  She has consistently championed the need to support and nurture the careers of younger scientists, both within the Met Office and in partner universities through support for student prizes and joint appointments.

Vice-Chancellor, at a time when the world faces huge uncertainties and challenges, we need more than ever the expertise of far-sighted, principled, rigorous and inspirational scientists to help chart our way to a secure, sustainable future.  We are honouring one such today, and I am proud to present to you for the degree of Doctor of Science, honoris causa, Julia Mary Slingo.