About CSci

  • John Phillips
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John Phillips
At A Glance
Licensed Body: 
South East
Team Leader Flood Incident Management
46 years
Works For: 
Environment Agency
BSc, PhD
Pet Hates: 
A closed mind
Burning Ambition: 
Get faster on a bike
Stop time. Never enough hours in the day
Big Picture
When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? 
A farmer, then a Policeman which I went on to be for seven years in London and Wiltshire. My interest in science came later
Who or what inspired you to become a scientist? 
I think it would have to be a mix of my Geography A level lecturer being pretty inspiring and family background. I grew up in an academic family and it rubbed off eventually, especially after 7 years pounding the beat!
What do you love about your job and being a “scientist”? 
Learning something new
What would you change? 
The climate – someone needs to get some change happening soon to prevent serious climate change taking place
What qualifications did you take at school? 
8 GCE ‘O’ levels including Geography, Physics, Bilogy and Maths, and GCE ‘A’ levels in Geography, Biology and Economics
Why did you choose your first degree subject? 
Geography. Because it explains how the world works. Geographers study specific aspects of the environment such as climate, river, urban settlements etc. but uniqueoy Geography looks at how these elemnts interact – essential skills for anyone interested in managing the environment
Do you have a Masters or PhD? If not, was it difficult to demonstrate Masters-level equivalence in order to achieve CSci? 
Yes, PhD
How do you describe your job when you meet people at a party? 
‘I help to stop people flooding – I manage the flood warning service in my area, and work with the public to help them better understand their flood risk. I also work with scientists to help us better predict flooding’
What is ‘cutting-edge’ about your work? 
Hydrological analyses such as flood frequency estimation, helping develop flood warning procedures using state of the art rainfall runoff modeling techniques as well as 2D hydraulic models. Also, developing effective methods of communicating flood risk to the public so that they underdstand the messages they receive, and take effective action to reduce their risk
What are the biggest implications your work will/could have in the future? 
Helping prevent individuals from suffering the consequences of flooding. At the national scale, saving the country money from financial costs of flooding
Describe briefly how your career has progressed to date. 
Very non-standard! After my time as a Policeman I returned to education and after my first degree I spent 6 years in academia first as a Post-Doctoral Research student , then as a Research Fellow. I then transferred to the ‘applied’ sector in the Environment Agency a hydrologist dealing with a wide range of issues covering water resources, flood studies and water quality. My interest then focused on flooding for several years before I spent a year working in the Science Group as a hydrologist working on Water resources and Water Framework topics including the Agency’s science needs in relation to hydromorphology. I have now moved to a managerial role, back in the flooding arena although I am still actively involved in science projects covering a range of topics including land management and sediment delivery, hydromorphology and rainfall-runoff modeling.
How is your job cross-disciplinary? 
Flood Incident management requires an understanding and involvement in hydrology, coastal processes, hydraulics, land management and farming, human behavior to name but a few.
How well is your job compensated? What is the starting salary for your field, and how much can this be expected to rise? 
£21k-36k over at least 6 years
How do you see your field developing over the next 5-10 years? 
A new role in tackling surface and groundwater flooding. Responding to the pressures of climate change against a background of reduced funding
What’s the most unexpected thing about your job? 
The variety of work – never dull!
What’s the biggest achievement of your career so far? 
Ph.D. – an all consuming 3 years
Would you say you have a good standard of living/ work-life balance? 
What do your friends and family think about your job? 
‘Sounds interesting and worthwhile’ is a common comment
What kind of hobbies or extracurricular activities do you do to relax? 
Cycle touring (900 miles Cherbourg to Bilbao with my 14 year old daughter last summer) and cycle racing that I loose at
Why did you choose to apply for CSci and what do you value most about being a Chartered Scientist? 
The feeling of professional recognition
What is the value of professional bodies? 
A support body and resource. Professional status
How important is CPD? What do you think of the revalidation process in ensuring that CSci is a mark of current competence? 
CPD is important and the revalidation process seems o.k. and easy to do on the website. I am not sure a yearly submission is needed – 3 seems more appropriate
Advice & Reflection
What words of wisdom would you give someone interested in getting into your field? 
You won’t get rich but you will be challenged and it is definitely worthwhile
How important is the mentoring process in your field and to you personally? 
How would you define “professionalism”? 
You make decisions based on evidence regardless of pressures to do otherwise
What would you do differently if you were starting out in your career now? 
Stick at one area perhaps
What would you like people to remember about your life as a scientist? 
An original thinker?
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