David Evans on receiving the 2013 Lampitt Medal

4 July 2013

SCI awarded the 2013 Lampitt Medal to Dr David Evans at the 132nd AGM on 3 July 2013, for his outstanding contribution to the work of the Society.

Dr Evans obtained his PhD in plant natural product chemistry at the University of Manchester. He also held fellowships at MIT and at Cambridge University. His career spans both academia and industry. He has been a lecturer in Organic Chemistry at the University of Southampton, as well as working in research positions at a range of organisations including Schering Agrochemicals, ICI Agrochemicals, Zeneca Agrochemicals (later AstraZeneca), Novartis and Syngenta International.

Since retirement, in addition to consultancy work, he has held several honorary positions including visiting professorships and membership of advisory boards. He is involved with learned societies, including the RSC, IUPAC and SCI. Dr Evans is presently a member of the BioResources Group Committee and the Membership Affairs Committee (MAC), and is co-opted to the Board of Trustees.

What made you become a member of SCI?
My professional career started as a lecturer in organic chemistry at Southampton University. One of my research interests was in the field of chemicals that modified insect behaviour, for example pheromones and defence secretions. In due course, these interests led me to join the crop protection industry. SCI provided many excellent symposia and also articles in C&I that supported these interests.

Why did you decide to get involved in SCI activities?
My erstwhile work colleague Len Copping (now Honorary Secretary of SCI and Chair of the Membership Affairs Committee (MAC)) was the major catalyst in getting me deeply involved in SCI activities. At first, my major involvement was frequent attendance and presentations at symposia organised by the technical interest groups, particularly the forerunners of the BioResources and Fine Chemicals groups. I became very attached to SCI one-day meetings at Belgrave Square. Len also kept me busy by ensuring that I chaired postgraduate symposia.

Later, I became involved in SCI governance with membership of the BioResources Committee, MAC and co-option to the Board of Trustees. The latter role has provided me with opportunities to enjoy productive interaction with many excellent staff members.

What has driven your long-term involvement with SCI?
Quite simply, SCI's status as a multidisciplinary learned society provides a unique and powerful benefit to its members. Whereas I am at heart a research chemist, my SCI work provides boundless opportunities for involvement with colleagues from different disciplines and backgrounds. For example, the BioResources and MAC committees consist of colleagues of many disciplines and it is possible to approach a problem as a well-balanced project team - an advantage over the situation often encountered in some single-discipline societies.

How has your involvement with the Society reflected (or combined with) your professional interests?
The multidisciplinary network available in SCI has provided me with major benefit. Many different facets of agricultural science are represented in SCI groups, including areas that were peripheral to my Research & Development (R&D) day job, but that nevertheless provided a useful overall perspective.

Has your professional career been shaped or influenced in any way by your involvement with SCI?
Most definitely. Career development has required movement into unfamiliar areas. The ability to hold informal face-to-face discussions with colleagues from a variety of industries with different backgrounds is highly valued. SCI is truly 'where science meets business'

What makes you excited to continue to participate in SCI activities?
I just love working on projects and organising symposia with diverse SCI colleagues - and it's often good fun! Now in partial retirement, I feel that it is important to keep up with current developments and also to use the advantage of having more to provide timely contributions, it is equally important to assist pressurised younger colleagues by 'filling the gaps' when they are subjected to the inevitable pressures of their day jobs. Most of all, the camaraderie of SCI colleagues provides hugely enjoyable contact.

How do you think your contribution has helped shape SCI?
I hope that I have helped make progress in two main areas, namely in promoting outreach activities and also by influencing SCI's governance to become more inclusive, and welcoming to new and younger members. In terms of the former, I believe that there is an important role for SCI in providing externally an evidence-based voice to provide a scientific 'straight edge' to current issues. This should not be confused with lobbying since SCI's position would be clearly stated to be based upon the best current interpretation of the available data.

I also believe that SCI can play a positive role in influencing the public's perception of the benefits of science and technology. With regard to the governance of SCI, I have pressed for greater representation on senior committees by younger members, and also by colleagues that provide additional skills. Whereas the present system of election by the membership recognises the quality of long-serving members, greater use of cooption can provide a more balanced committee team.

What would you like to see SCI become in the future? Where are our biggest opportunities?
I would hope that SCI can further exploit its unique position of a learned society that welcomes members from a wide range of backgrounds. I support the proposal to recruit an active cadre of 'honorary representatives' in universities, industry and the public sector. Our multidisciplinary approach allows us to appeal to scientists in areas that have not been the focus of the single-subject societies, for example those working in local government, hospitals and charities. The challenge is then to convert members into 'actives' who participate in the governance and groups of SCI.

It is also important that we regard further development of our external face as a strategic imperative, lest we become content at 'talking amongst ourselves'.

How do you feel about being recognised as a Lampitt Medallist?
Surprised, honoured and delighted!

What inspires and motivates you?
Most of all, it is participating in project teams that convert ideas into reality. It is always going to be difficult to gain support for new ideas in times of financial constraint. Nevertheless, innovation is the key ingredient to a successful future and we must not fall into the trap of religiously maintaining existing programmes at the expense of new initiatives.

What advice would you give to someone looking to get more involved with SCI?
My advice would be to join a committee as an active member in the subject area that interests you most, to volunteer in conjunction with a seasoned colleague to organise a one-day meeting in a topic that is relevant to your interests, and not to be discouraged by the inevitable jargon that might depress you in the first few meetings!

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