Chair of the Science Advisory Council

Body: The Science Advisory Council (SAC)
Appointing Department: Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs
Sector: Environment, Food & Rural Affairs
Location: 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.
Number of Vacancies: 1
Remuneration: Remuneration for SAC business is £53.00 per hour. Preparation time may also be claimed. Reasonable travel expenses are also paid.
Time Requirements: During the year, SAC business will require a total of approximately 11 days.


An announcement has been made on the outcome of this appointment.

Louise Heathwaite has been appointed as Science Advisory Council Chair with effect from 1 July 2021. Her appointment is for a period of 3 years.

Date: 07/07/2021

View Announcement

Campaign Timeline

  • Competition Launched


  • Closed for Applications

    04/03/2021 at 12:00

  • Panel Sift


  • Final Interview Date

    14th and 15th April 2021

  • Announcement

    07/07/2021 at 14:00


Assessment Panel

Vacancy Description

The Science Advisory Council (SAC) 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 a Chair who has the right qualities to take responsibility for the leadership and output of SAC. In doing so, the Chair will work in partnership with the CSA and SAC members to ensure SAC is able to provide high-level, strategic advice and constructive challenge on Defra’s use of evidence on high profile policies (often at pace) and on cross cutting and longer term challenges relating to the environment, food and rural affairs. The Chair will also ensure SAC provides advice on how Defra should look to further improve its use of evidence and external advice. In addition to this the Chair will offer advice to the CSA in his oversight role of other Defra scientific expert committees.

The Chair will perform these duties by leading discussions with SAC members and Defra officials through a mixture of formal meetings and smaller working groups. In doing so, the Chair will ensure all SAC members are able to contribute to discussions and effective use of SACs time is achieved through purposeful engagement, that will add value to policy-making at Defra.

Person Specification

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

• An ability to lead a diverse team of influential people and the ability to command the respect and confidence of Ministers, the CSA, senior officials, senior scientists and other stakeholders.

• The ability to chair complex multidisciplinary discussions, drawing out the views of all members, arriving at consensus, being clear on uncertainty and producing relevant and clear outcomes.

• A collaborative style and an aptitude for partnership working; this would include an ability to engage with people in a respectful and inclusive way.

• An understanding of the interface between science, commerce and policy and demonstrable ability in strategically assessing the application of evidence in policy-making. This would include the ability to recognise where and how science can enhance policy-making.

• Strong analytical skills with the capacity to examine issues in an impartial way and the ability to ensure that SAC provides high-level science advice not limited by their area of expertise.

Additional Information

The Department has due regard to diversity. Expenses may include reimbursement of reasonable additional childcare or other carer costs that are occurred due to SAC commitments, and the reimbursement of reasonable additional expenses of disabled people.

How to Apply

All candidates are required to complete the following forms:

• Monitoring form 1 (Political Activity and Conflict of Interest Questionnaire)

• Monitoring form 2 (Diversity Monitoring Questionnaire)

Candidates should submit their CV with education, professional qualifications and employment history and the names and contact details for two referees, together with their statement of suitability.

The statement of suitability should give evidence of the strength and depth of your ability to meet the essential criteria for this role. Please provide specific examples to demonstrate how you meet each of the criteria (max two pages please).

Your CV and statement should be returned to the following address by the closing date: 12.00 (midday) on 4th March 2021. Email to quoting reference APPT12-20.

For further information please email:

1_Chair candidate pack
2_Monitoring form 1 (Conflicts of Interest and Conduct)
3_Monitoring form 2 (Diversity and political activity form)
4_Public Appointments Guidance Notes
5_Public Appointments Privacy Notice
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