Sir Mark Walport, who runs the Welcome Trust, has been appointed the new government chief scientific advisor. He takes over from Sir John Beddington, whose term of office comes to an end in December. There is an excellent article by Pallab Ghosh reviewing the implications of the appointment here.
Walport's appointment is the latest installment in a meteoric rise to prominence, having been knighted in 2009 and elected a fellow of the Royal Society in 2011. The appointment is quite surprising, since he seems to be more of an administrator rather than a researcher. Ghosh's article might give you the impression that Walport's political acumen, and in particular the expectation that he might be able to protect the scientific civil service from spending cuts, is the main reason that he won out over more research-orientated candidates.
Prof Walport's first big test according to Bob Ward, who worked closely with a former chief scientist, Lord May, is to reverse the cutbacks in research spending.
"If the UK is to continue to be a world leader in research, Professor Walport has to make a very strong case to government and particularly the Treasury in time for the next spending review.
"We're all hoping that his experience at the Wellcome Trust will stand him in good stead."
That was a view echoed by James Wilsdon, professor of science and democracy at Sussex University.
"The next few years won't be easy for UK science. Another spending round looms. But in Walport, the community has a leader who can inspire enthusiasm, confidence and support," Prof Wilsdon told me.
I have suggested before that the GCSA's chief work is as a pilgrim - a publicly funded trade union official - rather than providing scientific advice. One could be forgiven for thinking that Lord May and Prof Wilsdon might agree with me.