RSE Adam Smith Medal

The RSE Adam Smith Medal recognises exceptional achievements in business, public service and public engagement by a senior career researcher. This award meets with the Society’s strategic objective of increasing public understanding of science and the arts and humanities. The awardees are required to have a Scottish connection but can be based anywhere in the world.

Senior-career definition: academics who are normally beyond 15 years from the award of their doctorate. This terminology takes no account of either an applicant’s age or current status in determining eligibility for this award. This does not include career breaks.


Nominations are currently closed.



Adam Smith (1723 – 1790) was a Scottish social philosopher and a pioneer of political economy. He was one of the key figures of the Scottish Enlightenment and is the author of “The Theory of Moral Sentiments” and “An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations.” The latter is usually abbreviated to “The Wealth of Nations” and is considered the first modern work of economics. It would become one of the most influential works on economics ever published. Smith is widely cited as the father of modern economics and capitalism.


Under the RSE Medal review which took place in autumn 2022, the RSE’s Public Engagement Medals have been subsumed under the RSE’s Business, Public Service and Public Engagement Medals.

Senior career RSE Public Engagement medalists awarded under the RSE Medal Programme pre-autumn 2022 are listed below:

YearName(s)Institution Awarded
2024Professor Graeme Roy FRSEUniversity of Glasgowfor their substantial contribution to public policy and public life in Scotland, most recently through his appointment as Chair of the Scottish Fiscal Commission. Professor Roy designed and led tercentenary local and international events to celebrate the 300th anniversary of Adam Smith’s birth in 2023. Professor Roy’s work has enabled broad reflection on Smith’s legacy and contemporary relevance, bringing renewed international prominence to one of Scotland’s leading intellectuals. 
2023No award made
2022Professor Nicola Stanley-Wall FRSEUniversity of Dundeefor their transformative impact on the culture of public engagement within the School of Life Sciences at Dundee University. Professor Stanley-Wall has delivered numerous science communication activities and events, including the biennial “Magnificent Microbes” in collaboration with the Dundee Science Centre, which has educated and inspired thousands of young people and families. A genuinely exceptional science communicator, Nicola has established a legacy of young people who have chosen to continue studying in STEM disciplines throughout their education.
2021Professor Alexander MurphyUniversity of Edinburghfor their long-standing and sustained track record of outstanding contribution to public engagement with science (especially in particle physics and searches for dark matter). Through his public engagement activities, he has reached diverse audiences in Scotland, the UK, and internationally. Alexander has spearheaded innovative public engagement initiatives targeted to 11-13 years old pupils in the more remote parts of Scotland and has been a tireless ambassador for physics through science festivals and contributions to media outlets.
2020Professor Niamh Nic DaeidLeverhulme Research Centre for Forensic Sciencefor their work placing public engagement at the heart of her research and supporting others to do so. It is also awarded for her work as an outstanding communicator who has connected global audiences with her work and created approaches that empower the public to contribute to research.
2019Dr Simon Gage OBEEdinburgh Sciencefor their contribution to science engagement and public understanding of science.
2018Professor Rory DuncanInstitute of Biological Chemistry, Biophysics and Bioengineering, School of Engineering & Physical Sciences, Heriot-Watt Universityfor their passion and enormously productive advocacy for public engagement in Scotland, the UK and internationally.
2017Professor Daniele FaccioHeriot-Watt Universityfor their science engagement and outreach talks, videos, television and YouTube presentations on black hole physics and novel imaging technologies.
2016Professor Iain StewartUniversity of Plymouthfor their exceptional and broad-ranging science engagement with the general public through the medium of broadcasting and with school pupils and teachers in the form of lectures and events, including the RSE’s @Lochaber programme of activities.
2015Martin Hendry MBE FRSEUniversity of Glasgowfor their exceptional and sustained track record of science engagement with the general public, schools, societies and science festivals throughout the world and for the breadth of material presented.
2014Professor Andrew Whiten FRSE FBAUniversity of St Andrewsfor their extensive, creative and unique forms of public engagement, particularly as founding Director of the “Living Links to Human Evolution” Research Centre at Edinburgh Zoo.