Economic and Social Research Council - Executive Chair (Exemption)

Body: Economic and Social Research Council
Appointing Department: Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
Sector: Science & Technology
Location: London/Swindon
Number of Vacancies: 1
Remuneration: Annual salary of £120,000 with flexibility for an exceptional candidate, and Performance Related Pay of up to 10%.
Time Requirements: The ESRC Executive Chair will be appointed for a term of 4 years and is a full-time role.


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

This appointment is being re-run


Assessment Panel

Vacancy Description

All the key opportunities and challenges for the UK have people and behaviour at their core. Responding to the COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath, raising productivity, realising the full potential of medical and technological advances, coping with an ageing population, addressing climate change and improving public services; all require a rich understanding of how individuals, firms, markets, communities and governments behave and interact.

ESRC, as the UK’s largest funder of economic, social, behavioural and human data science, supports social science that generates this rich understanding. Its focus is on creating a world-leading portfolio of research, data and training that builds fundamental understanding of our social and economic world, and on improving how we align this research with pressing societal challenges in order that it delivers significant benefits to the economy and society.

Examples of key ESRC investments include:


ESRC’s research activity is underpinned by investment in the following foundational pillars:

  • There is growing demand for social science that can help improve economic and social outcomes. Over 60% of the governments’ Areas of Research Interest (ARIs) are core social science questions, with many of the remaining questions requiring social science input. There is also a large and growing demand from industry for research that enables a better understanding of people and behaviour. To increase the ability of social science research to respond to these demands, ESRC is deepening its partnerships with research users.
  • Data has always underpinned ESRC research. As social science becomes more data-intensive, and new forms of data become increasingly available, a major focus of activity will be ensuring the UK’s data infrastructure remains world-leading.
  • Through ERSC’s training and research funding, it nurtures cohorts of social scientists across a large number of disciplines and interdisciplinary areas. Investment to generate major improvements in research talent, methods and leadership is a core aspect of our strategic vision.
  • ESRC funds international research on global problems, ensuring the UK is informed about and connected to major international developments.


The ESRC has a core budget of over £180m in addition to the cross cutting funds from UKRI (including National Productivity Investment Fund and Official Development Assistance funding), and circa 210 staff based across Swindon and London.

The Executive Chair, working with the ESRC Council, is responsible for setting the strategic vision for ESRC and contributing to the direction of UKRI. As a visible and credible leader of both ESRC and the wider economics and social sciences research community, you will provide direction, ensuring delivery of far-reaching research, innovation, skills development and infrastructure investment goals with demonstrable outputs and outcomes.

As a member of UK Research and Innovation’s (UKRI) Executive Committee, the Executive Chair of ESRC will be accountable to, and work closely with, the UKRI CEO.  The ESRC’s Executive Chair may also be responsible for leading and delivering one or more cross cutting areas for UK Research and Innovation.


Key Responsibilities of the ESRC Executive Chair will be:

  • As a member of the Executive Committee, work with the UKRI Board to deliver best value from the science and innovation funding system and contribute to the development and implementation of the overall UKRI Strategy;
  • Act to ensure UKRI is a strong, unified voice for research and innovation, in facilitating dialogue with key stakeholders including government and with partners on the world stage;
  • Enhance ESRC’s capability as a major contributor to world-leading research in the social sciences both nationally and internationally;
  • Work to ensure the linkage of research to innovation, i.e. by supporting the innovation work of other UKRI Councils but also more widely to support the sector in working closer to the market and with businesses;
  • Lead ESRC in the successful pursuit of its objectives providing the inclusive vision necessary to maintain and develop the quality and outputs of its research, postgraduate and capital investment portfolio, ensuring routes to innovation where appropriate;
  • Work with the Senior Independent Member and ESRC Council to lead and develop ESRC’s strategic approach to the funding of research and alignment with innovation, in relation to both directed and responsive-mode programmes, to the funding of postgraduate/skills training and its investment in major longer term capital projects; and to ensure that the UK develops its world leading position in economics and social science;
  • Work collaboratively across UKRI to foster interdisciplinary work and build on collective capabilities, ensuring cross-Council working, links through to innovation where appropriate and providing support and challenge when required. This is likely to include specific responsibility for the strategy and delivery of one or more cross-cutting activities, presenting opportunities for the Executive Chair to develop UKRI functions within their experience and expertise that support the work of all of the councils;
  • Maximise efficiency and ensure value for money from public investment;
  • Represent and develop positive relationships between the ESRC and its diverse stakeholders in government and public funding agencies, higher education institutions, academic and research communities, third sector, industry and the public at large and internationally; and advocate for the value of the economic and social sciences; and
  • As a core member of the senior leadership team, continue to drive forward the ongoing programme of transformational change to build UKRI and its capabilities as a steward of the research and innovation system, led by and accountable to the UKRI CEO.


Person Specification

You should demonstrate evidence of the following experiences and attributes in your application:

  • A highly respected economist or social scientist of international standing with a track record and commitment to interdisciplinary working and the highest standards of research;
  • An ability to develop a clear strategic vision for ESRC’s disciplines through the development of high quality, value for money programmes built on a thorough understanding of the landscape;
  • An inspirational communicator able to command confidence and have credibility across both the wide academic domain of ESRC and stakeholder landscape, and proven record of engagement with policymakers and others;
  • An ability to be adaptable and responsive, taking a broad view of ESRC’s objectives and responding to issues arising across the range of the social sciences;
  • Capable of a collegiate approach across UKRI, working with peers on the Executive Committee to deliver against a shared strategy for UK R&D.
  • An ability to advise on major business developments that impact on the Council’s role or activities and on its exposure to and management of risk;
  • Demonstrable inclusive leadership skills with an understanding of change management and evidence of having successfully led cultural change and organisational development;
  • Ability to manage and build the capability of a diverse cadre of skilled employees and programme managers and able to inspire and motivate colleagues throughout the organisation.


Additional Information

Please tailor your application to show how you meet the criteria listed. You should set out your suitability for the role and how you meet the criteria set out in the person specification.

If you are shortlisted for the role, due diligence will be carried out and your referees are likely to be contacted.

You will be asked to prepare some identification documents if you are invited to an interview – further information will be provided at that stage.

Please note feedback will not be provided after the shortlisting stage. Only candidates who attend an interview will be provided with feedback.

How to Apply

The closing date for applications is 11pm on 8 September 2021. Late or incomplete applications submitted after the above date and time will not be accepted.

Your application will be in two parts.

Part one: CV and Statement of Suitability:

  • One document combining a two-page statement of suitability and two-page CV (no more than four sides of A4 in total). The key to a good application is to give the reader specific information about how you meet the criteria for appointment. Think about your knowledge, skills, experience and personal attributes, and take full advantage of the space available. Provide practical evidence that best demonstrates how you meet the essential criteria.
  • Save the document as ‘Surname, First Initial – ESRC Application’
  • Submit this to with ESRC Executive Chair Application in the subject heading.


Part two: Diversity Monitoring and Conflicts of Interest Form

  • We also ask that you complete an online application form, including referee details and whether you wish to be considered under the Disability Confidence scheme, which can be found here.


If you wish to discuss the role further or have queries about the requirements, please contact and we will put you in touch with an appropriate person to speak to. If you have any questions about the application process, please contact Nadia Toma at

ESRC Exec Chair Applicant Pack 20-21

This appointment is being re-run.

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