FCDO seeks chief scientist with 'ability to inspire in times of crisis'

Chief scientific adviser will ensure policy on food insecurity, gender inequality and pandemic preparedness is informed by "high-quality research"
Photo: Dominic Dudley/Alamy Stock Photo

The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office is offering up to £110,000 for its next chief scientific adviser.

The FCDO’s top scientist will provide research, evidence and science diplomacy to support policymaking and the delivery of the Integrated Review, International Development Strategy, International Technology Strategy and the Foreign Office’s other goals.

They will also head up the department’s Research and Evidence Directorate, leading on FCDO research and science policy and overseeing its £1.1bn research budget.

They will succeed Charlotte Watts when her secondment with the department ends next autumn. Watts spent five years as CSA at the Department for International Development until its merger with the Foreign Office in 2020.

Watts, a professor of mathematical and social epidemiology, is on secondment from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

The job is “amongst the most rewarding and challenging jobs in government”, FCDO second permanent secretary Nick Dyer wrote in an introduction to the job pack – noting that it is being advertised “against a backdrop of a shifting balance of global power, food insecurity, worsening impacts of climate change and the urgent need to get all Sustainable Development Goals back on track”.

“The role has a very broad mandate to ensure high-quality research is used to inform such issues as how the UK and allies should respond to global food insecurity, gender inequality or pandemic preparedness,” he wrote.

The CSA will lead and draw on the expertise of a “highly experienced team” of around 100 scientists and officials within the department, as well as working with researchers and subject-matter experts across the UK.

They will also have “flexibility” to focus on areas they identify as pressing for the department “where scientific research and analysis can make the most difference”.

They will work closely with the cross-government scientific advice network, which is led by government chief scientific adviser Angela McLean, as well as their counterparts in international agencies and foreign governments.

“This will allow you to have considerable influence on the global stage. From time to time, you may also advise foreign partners directly e.g. on their domestic health or sustainability policies,” Dyer said.

The job ad calls for applicants with an “outstanding track record in leading and conducting applied research of internationally recognised standing… that has delivered demonstrable impacts on policy or populations”. This should be in an area of interest to the FCDO, such as health and climate change with a development focus.

They must also have “widely recognised” leadership skills, excellent communication skills and “an ability to inspire and mobilise teams, even in times of crisis and uncertainty”.

The hiring process is being managed by headhunters Saxton Bampfylde Ltd.

The role has a “minimum assignment duration” of three years – though this will not be written into the successful candidate’s terms and conditions.

Minimum terms were introduced earlier this year as part of an effort to address churn at the upper levels of the civil service and aid the delivery of key projects and policies.

Applications for the chief scientific adviser role close on 30 October.

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