Dr Peter Collins

Peter Collins

Peter Collins is Emeritus Director of the Royal Society. Until May 2013 he was Director of the Centre for the History of Science.

Peter studied chemistry at Oxford University and gained his PhD in the social history of science in 1978 at Leeds University. This focused on public attitudes to science during the interwar period and how different groups of scientists responded to the challenge of an increasingly attentive public. From 1979-81 he worked as Technical Editor for the British Standards Institution.

He joined the Royal Society in 1981 as the first member of staff in the Society's history to work fulltime on science policy. From 1985 to 1994 he ran the Science and Engineering Policy Studies Unit (SEPSU), undertaking quantitative analyses of numerous policy issues, often under contract to outside bodies. He was made Head of Science Advice in 1995 and Director of Science Policy in 1999. In this role he was responsible for shaping and promoting the Society's position on a wide range of issues across policy for science and the scientific aspects of public policy, at both national and international levels. He was latterly also responsible for its work on science and society.

Peter has also directed the work of the Council and Fellowship Office since 1999. The CFO deals with all matters relating to the Fellowship, including the election process, and supports the main corporate decision- making bodies such as the Council, the Board and the Audit Committee.

In June 2001 Peter oversaw the launch of the European Academies Science Advisory Council (EASAC) and became Executive Secretary of EASAC, alongside his Royal Society roles. EASAC provides a means for the national Academies of Europe to work together to provide independent, expert advice about the scientific aspects of public policy issues to those who make or influence policy for the European Union.

In 2008, Peter was appointed Director of the Society's Centre for History of Science. The Centre is built around the Society's world class collections of archives, books, portraits and artefacts, drawn from all periods of its history. The aim is to use these collections, embedded in a scientific body of unique worldwide reputation, as the basis for the Society playing an active role in promoting history of science at both professional and popular level. The Centre was opened formally in 2010.

Also in 2008, Peter began researching and writing a substantive book on the history of the Society over the fifty years since 1960. This is expected to be published about 2013.

Our mission

To recognise, promote, and support excellence in science and to encourage the development and use of science for the benefit of humanity.

Our priorities

  • Promoting science and its benefits
  • Recognising excellence in science
  • Supporting outstanding science
  • Providing scientific advice for policy
  • Fostering international and global cooperation
  • Education and public engagement