Interview with Prof Liz Bentley, the next EMS President
EMS: Hello Liz, congratulations on being elected as the next EMS President. Can you tell us a bit about your career in meteorology before joining the Royal Meteorological Society.
Liz Bentley: This year marks 30 years since I started my career in meteorology, so another reason to celebrate.
I joined the UK Met Office in 1993 as a research scientist, after completing a PhD in Mathematics. I was keen to understand the applications of the science and so I trained to become an operational meteorologist before taking on a number of forecasting roles.
In 1997, after having my first child and stopping shift working, I started work at the Met Office College as an instructor and eventually becoming Chief Instructor at the College.
After that I went to work at the BBC TV Centre in London as the BBC Weather Centre Manager. The role predominantly was to manage the contract between the BBC and Met Office which included the provision of weather data, weather warnings and the team of 30 broadcast meteorologists.
In 2006, I started work in the Ministry of Defence, looking after their environmental research programme. This increased my knowledge of everything from the seabed, through the oceans, through the atmosphere and out into space.
I joined the Royal Meteorological Society in 2008, so another anniversary to celebrate this year as I have been working for the RMetS now for 15 years. I’ve been very fortunate to have had an interesting and varied career working in meteorology to date, and look forward to the next opportunities.
EMS: Tell us about your work at the Royal Meteorological Society.
Liz Bentley: The Royal Meteorological Society (RMetS) is the learned and professional Society for weather and climate in the UK. The RMetS’s mission is to advance the understanding of weather and climate and its application for the benefit of all. The RMetS’s mission has a wide remit that looks to support people’s understanding, interest and enthusiasm in weather and climate, whether they are research scientists, enthusiasts, practitioners, students, teachers or members of the general public. It goes further, supporting the development of high-quality science, the next generation of scientists and operational meteorologists, professional development of individuals, accrediting further and higher education courses, informing policy and supporting learning in weather and climate through education and outreach activities.I have worked in a number of different roles since joining the RMetS in 2008, such as membership development, professional accreditation in meteorology, and communication and science engagement roles. The latter included me launching the Weather Club to promote an appreciation and understanding of the weather to people from all walks of life, and won the EMS Outreach ad Communications Award in 2011 for this initiative.
I became Chief Executive at the RMetS in 2013 and in July 2014 was granted the title ‘Professor’ from the University of Reading.
EMS: Are you excited about becoming the next President and what do you bring to the role?
Liz Bentley: I’m absolutely honoured to be selected as the next EMS President. I have been involved with the EMS for many years, attending annual conferences, sitting on an EMS awards committee and attending EMS Council meetings, from time to time, representing RMetS. So, I come to the role with a reasonable understanding of the EMS, but there is still lots to learn.
I have also spent the last 10 years sitting on the Council for the International Forum of Meteorological Societies and understand the importance of regional meteorological societies, such as EMS. There are other regional met societies around the world, such as the AfMS (African Regional Meteorological Society) founded in 2022 and FLISMET (Federation of Latin American and Iberian Meteorological Societies) founded in 1986. These regional met societies look to the EMS to learn from its successes and to share best practice, just like member societies of EMS do with each other.
The RMetS has been an active supporter of meteorology across Europe and a permanent member of the EMS from the beginning when it was founded in 1999 (you can find out more about the history of the EMS in articles published in two parts in the RMetS Weather journal: Part 1: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/wea.3078/full and Part 2: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/wea.3089/full.)
EMS: How are you preparing ahead of taking up the EMS Presidency role?
Liz Bentley: I plan to join the next Bureau and Council meetings to listen to the important discussions and decisions on governance, finance and strategic direction of the organisation, as well as progress ahead of the next EMS conference in Bratislava. Like many organisations, I’m keen to see what we have learned during the COVID-19 pandemic that can benefit the EMS as well as looking for opportunities to further support our members and engage them in delivering the EMS’s strategic objectives. I also will step back for some other non-RMetS activities to free up enough time to proactively serve as EMS President.
EMS: What led you to agree to be nominated as the candidate for EMS Presidency?
Liz Bentley: I am very excited to be able to serve the meteorological community across Europe. The nomination came from a discussion at the last EMS conference in Bonn. I became aware of the vacancy for EMS President from September 2023 and a few people suggested I ought to put myself forward for the role. After some conversations with the current and recent past Presidents, RMetS colleagues as well as the EMS Secretariat, it felt this role was a great opportunity for me and I have a lot of skills and knowledge that can support the EMS.
EMS: And history is going to be made as you become the first female EMS President.
Liz Bentley: I am proud to be the first female EMS President. I often get asked to speak about the role of women in meteorology, how things have changed over the decades during my career and how I can support the next generation. Most recently I was interviewed by a 13 year school girl for the Reach Next Generation Podcast who wanted to understand the challenges women have faced throughout their careers, how they overcame them and what tips they have for girls of her age. It is important to share knowledge and any learning for those about to start their career journey, and I really hope that I can inspire others to reach for their goals.