Bob Harris

Visiting Professor, Catchment Science Centre, University of Sheffield; Secretariat, Demonstration Test Catchments (DTC) Programme, Defra, and Specialist Advisor to House of Lords EU Sub-Committee D
Robert Harris

Bob Harris has spent his career working, at local, regional and national levels, for public organisations in the water and environment sectors in the UK and also has wide experience of working within the European community. Through providing expertise to regulatory staff, managing applied research programmes and supporting policy, Bob has been at the interface of science and its uptake in decision-making, or for policy development, for 40 years.   

Examples are the production of the first groundwater protection policy for England and Wales and its associated tools and guidance, the introduction of risk-based approaches for groundwater protection and managing contaminated land, and drafting the integration of groundwater in the Water Framework Directive. He latterly developed and managed the Environment Agency’s Integrated Catchment Science research programme designed to scientifically underpin the development of new approaches and policies relating to the WFD and to ultimately deliver Integrated Catchment Management.

In 2007 Bob was awarded the Geological Society’s Whitaker Medal for “outstanding services to hydrogeology”. Bob is currently contracted to Defra  (Environment Ministry, England) as Secretariat of their Demonstration Test Catchments Programme and advises Defra on their new catchment based approach to River Basin Planning. He supports the University of Sheffield’s Catchment Science Centre where he is Visiting Professor in Catchment Science and also currently acts as specialist advisor to a House of Lords Committee on the EU (Agriculture, Fisheries and Environment). At the other end of the telescope Bob works closely with his local community in the Shropshire Hills helping to understand and reduce the impact of agriculture on the environment in the Clun Valley

Science is often required to provide evidence in support of policies that have already been developed, rather than influence their development. ‘Inconvenient truths’ are rarely welcomed, but success in exchanging knowledge between scientists and policy-makers with differing ‘world views’ depends on many factors. The talk will describe from the presenter’s own experience how it is important for both parties to exploit ‘windows of opportunity’ and build trusting relationships and will explore the ways in which these can be fostered.