Leeds professor heads new HSE science group


A leading researcher who played an important role in Britain’s response to the pandemic has been appointed to chair a new science committee.

Professor Cath Noakes, from the School of Civil Engineering, led a sub-group of SAGE, the UK’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies during the COVID-19 crisis. She will now chair a new committee that will offer assurance to Great Britain’s workplace regulator, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). 

Professor Noakes said: “It’s a real honour to be appointed to this role as chair of a new committee that I believe can play an important part in ensuring science-based evidence used to protect people and places is of the highest quality. 

“I have had the pleasure of seeing at first hand HSE’s scientific expertise being put to full use during the pandemic, ranging from fundamental studies on virus transmission through to the production of information videos on ventilation that helped inform workplaces of good practice in stopping the spread of the virus. 

“External experts drawn from relevant science and engineering disciplines, who are recognised as leaders in their fields, will now be asked to join the group which I’m privileged to lead.” 

Professor Noakes, who is professor of Environmental Engineering for Buildings, has a background in ventilation, air quality, and infection control. 

She will lead the new Science Quality Assurance Group (SQAG) at the HSE, which will provide the workplace regulator with independent assurance on the relevance and quality of its scientific research. The advisory group will ensure important research into workplace health and safety is relevant, robust, and fit for the future. 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Professor Noakes co-chaired the Environment and Modelling sub-group for SAGE. She also advised the NHS, the World Health Organisation and several government departments. She was awarded an OBE for her services to the pandemic in 2020. 

Sarah Newton, Chair of the HSE, added: “Professor Noakes brings with her a wealth of scientific experience and her expertise and knowledge is a perfect fit as chair of our new committee. 

“The newly formed Science Quality Assurance Group will consider how science and evidence delivered by HSE helps to maintain Great Britain’s record as one of the safest countries to work in while supporting our 10-year strategy. We look forward to working with the group and welcome Cath as chair.” 

The Science Quality Assurance Group will have 12 members who will be independent, external experts drawn from relevant science and engineering disciplines. Members will be organised into four subgroups. Each subgroup will review scientific research carried out to support one or more of HSE’s strategic objectives in detail. 

The four subgroups will be: Health and Safety, Net Zero, Chemicals Safety, and Buildings Safety.

For further information

For more information contact David Lewis in the Press Office at the University of Leeds by email on d.lewis@leeds.ac.uk.