Defra seeks next chief scientific adviser

Department offers £120k a year for leader tasked with ensuring science and evidence stay "at the heart" of its post-Brexit operations


Ian Boyd, Defra's current chief scientist

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has begun the search for its next chief scientist.

The department is seeking a “highly credible leading scientist from academia, public or private sector research foundations or industry” for the £120,000-a-year role. The successful candidate will succeed chief scientific adviser Ian Boyd, a polar and marine scientist, when he steps down later this year.

The department's chief scientific adviser is responsible for providing independent and objective scientific input on policy matters and strategic oversight of science-related policy. Boyd's successor will advise ministers and civil servants on policy issues including air quality, waste disposal, bio-security and disease and water quality, according to a job advert.


The CSA will also work to “ensure that science and evidence remains at the heart of Defra and continues to underpin its work” post-Brexit, the job posting adds.

And they will lead the science profession across the Defra group – which includes the central department and its agencies, arm’s length bodies and science labs.

The department is seeking someone who is not only an excellent scientist but who also has an in-depth understanding of policy development and the ability to synthesise information in a way that helps policymakers, the job advertisement says.

The successful candidate is expected to have a wide network of connections to call for specialist scientific expertise, as required.

Boyd first announced his plans to step down in 2017, but delayed his departure after being asked to stay on by environment secretary Michael Gove following Theresa May's disastrous snap general election.

Last year, Boyd told CSW he planned to stay in the role until after the UK had left the European Union, partly because of the disruption Brexit was creating for Defra. More than 80% of the department’s workload is affected by Brexit.

Boyd said he would spend his remaining months in the department ensuring “the whole functionality of science in Defra continues on an upward trajectory with momentum behind it, so that when my successor walks in, they walk into a situation which is full of opportunity rather than just challenge”.

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