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Professor Simon Lee

Profile summary

Professional biography

Simon Lee became Professor of Law at the Open University in December 2015. He also served as Director of Citizenship & Governance Research in 2016, 2017 and 2018. He is Emeritus Professor of Jurisprudence, Queen’s University, Belfast. He was a Brackenbury Scholar at Balliol College, Oxford (1976-1979) and a Harkness Fellow at Yale Law School (1979-1980). After being a lecturer in law at Trinity College, Oxford, and King’s College London, he became professor of jurisprudence at Queen’s (1999-2005) and served as the dean of the faculty of law. He was then Rector & Chief Executive of Liverpool Hope University College (1995-2003) and Vice-Chancellor of Leeds Metropolitan University (2003-2009), both institutions winning various awards during his leadership. He founded Level Partnerships in 2009 and chaired it until 2014 when he became Executive Director of the Cambridge Theological Federation. He became a Fellow of St Edmund's College, Cambridge, in 2015. He was awarded honorary doctorates by Virginia Theological Seminary in 2011 and Liverpool Hope in January 2016.

His contributions to the peace process in Northern Ireland included being the co-founder of Initiative ’92, which established the Opsahl Commission. He was appointed by different governments to the Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights in Northern Ireland (1992-6), to the Standards Task Force on schools (1997-2001) and to chair the Independent Monitoring Board for the Liverpool Education Authority (1999-2000). He chaired the board of the Playhouse and Everyman Theatres in Liverpool. He then chaired the professional rugby union club, Leeds Carnegie, with first Stuart Lancaster and then Neil Back as head coach. In 2010 he became the inaugural chair of the John Paul II Foundation for Sport, which was launched by Pope Benedict XVI.

Simon Lee writes about law, ethics, religion, politics, history and sport. His books include Law & Morals (Oxford University Press, 1986), Judging Judges (Faber, 1988), The Cost of Free Speech (Faber, 1990), Uneasy Ethics (Pimlico, Random House, 2003; Random House e-book, 2011) and Vincent’s Club Oxford 1863-2013 (Third Millennium, 2014, foreword by Sir Roger Bannister). He re-read a book by a different author each day for 60 days in 2017, blogging a daily review: He tweets as @paradoxbridge.

Externally funded projects

[E3] - Astrobiology at The Open University
RoleStart dateEnd dateFunding source
Co-investigator01 Aug 201931 Mar 2023Research England

Astrobiology is an emerging scientific field and is driven by the question ‘are we alone in the Universe?’ With an increasing number of life-detection/habitability missions, astrobiology is at the core of nations’ space strategies. The Open University Astrobiology Unit focuses on understanding how, and where, life might be found, by combining field work, laboratory simulations and mission data. Building on this expertise, Unit members are involved in key astrobiology-related missions and in developing planetary protection regulations. E3 funding will build capacity in line with future missions by furthering our understanding of extraterrestrial environments and potential life, through developing facilities to simulate these environments and investigating analogue sites. This is aimed at understanding if, and where, life may be found beyond the Earth. The Unit will develop its expertise to meet the new challenges that arise as the private sector and smaller nations develop exploration capacity. This includes supporting the sector to meet, and define, planetary protection requirements and to address space governance, for example, ensuring environmental sustainability of missions. The Unit will develop relevant education material for the expanding space sector, and it will work to ensure knowledge and expertise in astrobiology is used in a just and equitable manner. Sustainability of the Unit will be underpinned by commercial services, external funding, and University investment. The Unit will support the growth of astrobiology networks of industry, higher educational institutes and policymakers, and early career researchers, to ensure that the UK is globally recognised and influential within the field.


Planetary Protection in the New Space Era: Science and Governance (2020-11-13)
Cheney, Thomas; Newman, Christopher; Olsson-Francis, Karen; Steele, Scott; Pearson, Victoria and Lee, Simon
Frontiers in Astronomy and Space Sciences, 7, Article 589817

Lord Denning, Magna Carta and Magnamity (2015)
Lee, Simon
Denning Law Journal, 27 (pp. 106-129)

Open and Shut Cases (2020)
Lee, Simon
In: Claydon, Lisa; Derry, Caroline and Ajevski, Marjan eds. Law in Motion: 50 years of Legal Change (pp. 2-15)
ISBN : 978-1-4730-3148-7 | Publisher : The Open University Law School | Published : Milton Keynes

Lockdown, Law & the Whirligig of Jurisprudence: The Return of a Realist (2020)
Dennis, David and Lee, Simon
In: Claydon, Lisa; Derry, Caroline and Ajevski, Marjan eds. Law in Motion: 50 years of Legal Change (pp. 195-209)
ISBN : 978-1-4730-3148-7 | Publisher : The Open University Law School | Published : Milton Keynes

The cardinal rule of religion and the rule of law: a musing on Magna Carta (2015-05-31)
Lee, Simon
In: Griffith-Jones, Robin and Hill, Mark eds. Magna Carta, Religion and the Rule of Law (pp. 314-333)
ISBN : 9781316178164 | Publisher : Cambridge University Press

Judicial Power: What is Left Unsaid? (2018-04-19)
Lee, Simon
Judicial Power Project

Dicey Sentiments (2016-11-29)
Lee, Simon
UK Constitutional Law Association