Professor Eleanor Riley has been appointed the new Director of the Roslin Institute

Professor Eleanor Riley has, this week, been appointed as the new Director of the University of Edinburgh’s Roslin Insitute. She succeeds Professor David Hume, who has occupied the role since 2007, and will take up the post later this year.

Riley is currently Professor of Infectious Disease Immunology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, where she has been based since 1998.

Riley has extensive experience working in the fields of veterinary medicine, human infectious diseases and global health, having spent 30 years carrying out research in the UK and West Africa.

Commenting on her appointment, Professor Riley said that, “I am honoured and delighted to have been given the opportunity to lead the Roslin Institute. Roslin is one of the world’s most respected veterinary research organisations with a longstanding, global reputation for excellence in improving animal health, welfare and production. I look forward to guiding the institute to continued success and to strengthening research collaborations at home and abroad.”

Originally a graduate from the University of Bristol, Professor Riley has since trained at Cornell University and holds a PhD in Immunology and Parasitology from the University of Liverpool.

Riley is a previous resident of the University of Edinburgh, having joined the institution as a Welcome Trust Senior Research Fellow in 1990.

She is currently a fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences and Chairs the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council’s (BBSRC) Bioscience of Health Strategy Advisory Panel.

The Roslin Institute is part of the University of Edinburgh’s College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine, and a UK National Institute of Bioscience. The organisation aims to improve animal and human welfare, through pioneering research into animal sciences.

The institute is perhaps best known for the successful cloning of Dolly the Sheep in 1996.

Current members of the Roslin Institute have offered high praise to Riley. Current acting Director, Professor Bruce Whitelaw, speaking to the University of Edinburgh, said that, “I look forward to working closely with Professor Riley in advance of her taking up the position and welcome her energy and drive to continue securing the success of the institute’s many exciting initiatives.”

Professor Sir John Savill, Head of College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine at the University of Edinburgh, described Riley as “an outstanding, internationally-respected scientist”, adding that “we are confident that her visionary leadership will cement the Roslin Institute as a global research leader in human and animal health.”

The Roslin Institute is primarily funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Council.

In response to the appointment, the Council’s Chief Executive, Professor Melanie Welham, said: “[We are] delighted that Professor Riley will be leading the Roslin Institute. She is an outstanding scientist and particularly well-qualified to drive the Institute’s world-class research.”

Professor Riley’s appointment may reflect a determination by the University of Edinburgh to increase the diversity of their senior staff.

Female employees currently make up only 42.6 per cent of academic staff in the College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine. This figure has increased by only 2.4 per cent since 2010. 

Women are poorly represented amongst senior staff in particular. Overall, female academics make up only 24 per cent of the top pay grade at the University of Edinburgh.

However, while Professor Riley’s appointment may represent a step in the right direction with regards to the under-representation of women in top roles, it does little to increase diversity in other areas.

Latest figures show that 6.6 per cent of academic staff are BME. This puts the University of Edinburgh significantly behind over Russell Group institutions – on average, 10 per cent of Russell Group academic staff are BME.

Image: University of Edinburgh Press Office

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