Dr Graeme Reid, Government Advisor

"I advise Ministers on Government policy and spending on scientific research, and also on how to get the highest possible economic impact from that research," says Dr Graeme Reid, physicist, engineer, and Fellow of the IOP who is a Senior Civil Servant at the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS).

Graeme Reid

"One of the things that is exciting about my job is its broad remit. You have to work out how best to allocate funding between different fields of research, and combine the recognition of scientific excellence with incentives to convert that excellence into wealth," he enthuses.  

Graeme first became interested in science as a young child when his Aunt bought him a science book for Christmas. "It really engaged me," he recalls. "But in my 'O' Level years and above I slowly zoomed in on physics, because I was too squeamish for biology, and I didn't like the smell of chemistry!" he laughs. After taking maths, physics and English for his 6th year studies, Graeme graduated in physics from Robert Gordon’s Institute of Technology (now The Robert Gordon University) in Aberdeen in 1979. He then took a part-time engineering PhD at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, researching computer vision for robotics while simultaneously working at the nearby National Engineering Laboratory (NEL).

"My first encounter with Central Government was when I was at the NEL and was asked to work on the privatisation of government laboratories, so that there was someone on the team who understood the laboratories' perspective," he explains. After that, Graeme decided to remain in policy making. "I liked working on government policy and had got interested in the financial aspects of the privatisation, so when an opportunity came up to work on the regulation of the financial sector I joined the Treasury.” This was at the time when stock exchanges were starting to use computers, he recalls. "The Treasury liked having someone who understood a little bit about science and technology when the legislation they were preparing was about the consequences of technology on stock exchanges."

His science training was put to even more use when he later moved to the Office of Science and Technology and worked on designing the first Technology Foresight programme in the 1990's - which involved him liaising regularly with the IOP. He followed this with a stint in the DTI, and when this was abolished in 2007 obtained his current position in the DIUS. "Nobody asks me to recite Newton's Laws so my physics knowledge is not exercised in that way, but it allows me to understand the scientific process, the things that motivate scientists, and why people go into science," Graeme explains. He also feels his IOP membership has been extremely helpful.

"The Civil Service values professional development very highly and has always given me every encouragement to be a member of the Institute of Physics and participate in the work of the Institute. My membership has allowed me to develop both a network of contacts and my broader understanding of physics, which in turn have helped me as I've developed my career," he says.