Board member of the Science Advisory Council

Department for Environment, Food & Rural
London four times yearly, currently conducted online
4 March 2021

More information including the application procedure available at Cabinet Office

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) invites applications for the position of member to the Defra Science Advisory Council (SAC), an advisory Non-Departmental Public Body (NDPB). SAC plays a vital role in assisting the Defra Chief Scientific Adviser (CSA) by advising on and challenging the evidence that Defra uses in its policy development. The SAC currently consists of eight members plus a Chair.

The Science Advisory Council (SAC) is a Non Departmental Public Body (NDPB) which provides independent and scientific support, advice and challenge to Defra. The SAC’s remit is broad and focuses primarily on the strategic direction of the Departments’ evidence. It delivers independent high-level, cross cutting, strategic advice and challenge to help assure the evidence used in Defra policy development and delivery and to this end, diversity of thought within the members is encouraged

We are looking for four members with expertise in the natural sciences and allied disciplines. Three particular areas of interest are social science, animal disease control and system approaches, but we seek a broad range of expertise across Defra’s areas of interest, including but not limited to marine science, biodiversity, air or water quality, and agricultural or plant science. You will provide high-level strategic advice, support, and assurance to the CSA and Defra on developing and implementing an effective strategy for obtaining and using evidence and scientific advice (often at pace) including on high profile and contentious issues. You will provide strategic oversight on Defra’s use of evidence, help to identify sources of external advice to input to Defra evidence, and act as a conduit between Defra and evidence providers. You will also advise on broader issues such as how Defra obtains its advice, its access to the scientific community and on maintaining and developing its scientific capabilities into the future. In addition to these duties, we would be looking to appoint one member as Chair of the SAC subgroup on Social Science, and in the future one member as Chair of the SAC subgroup on exotic diseases. In relation to systems, we are looking to recruit a systems expert to help with research methodologies and their application to the sorts of socioecological challenges facing Defra. These duties will be performed through discussions and engagement with Defra officials and key stakeholders, and a mixture of meetings and smaller working groups.

Candidates must be able to demonstrate all of the following essential criteria:

  • Significant expertise in the natural sciences or allied disciplines lying within the broad areas of interest to Defra; this might include knowledge of social science, animal disease control and system approaches.
  • The ability to analyse issues in an impartial way and work across a range of topics drawing on, but not limited by, their expertise.
  • The ability to provide strategic scientific advice on matters relating to the use of evidence in policy making in Defra. This will include the broader issue of how Defra obtains and accesses its external advice.
  • A collaborative style and the ability to command the respect and confidence of the SAC Chair, the CSA, senior officials, and senior scientists. This might include the ability to Chair a sub group on social science or exotic diseases (in animals) or on any other specific issue that may arise.
  • An understanding of the interface between science, commerce and policy along with knowledge of UK and international research funding relevant to Defra. Demonstrable ability in strategically assessing the application of evidence in policy-making.

During the year, SAC business will require a total of approximately 11 days. SAC usually meet face to face four times a year in London, the rest of council business is conducted virtually. At present, all interaction is being conducted by Microsoft Teams.

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