Ministry of Defence seeks chief scientific adviser

The science chief will advise on areas such as artificial intelligence, cyber security, space technology and chemical, biological and missile defence 

Photo: PA

The Ministry of Defence is seeking a new chief scientific adviser after the department’s top scientist stepped down to advise the New South Wales government in Australia.

The MoD’s chief scientific adviser is “one of the most important and influential roles” within the department, according to a job advert posted last week. The adviser provides science advice to ministers and other senior officials on policy, decisions about military operations and equipment, and novel technologies.

The department’s former chief scientific adviser, robotics expert Hugh Durrant-Whyte, stepped down at the end of August to become NSW chief scientist and engineer, having joined the MoD in April 2017. In November, it was reported that he was barred from overseeing Britain’s nuclear weapons programme as his dual UK-Australian nationality meant he could not obtain the required security clearance.


Simon Cholerton, director of Defence Science and Technology at the MoD, has been interim chief scientific adviser since early September. Cholerton, a physicist, was previously chief of staff for the MoD arm’s-length body Defence, Equipment and Skills and operations director at the UK Trade and Investment Defence and Security Organisation, which has since moved to the Department for International Trade.

The successful candidate will draw on their own and others’ scientific expertise to advise on chemical, biological, radiological and missile modes of defence and promote “technology-led modernisation” in areas such as autonomous systems, cyber security, artificial intelligence and space technology.

They must have a “first class reputation in science or engineering demonstrated by international recognition” to qualify for the £149,000-a-year position, according to the advertisement.

“S/he will need to demonstrate the ability to exercise sound judgement and decision making based on evidence and produce results to time and budget, operating under a challenging set of circumstances. Strong interpersonal, influencing and communication skills are essential,” it added.

The job is being advertised at SCS pay grade 3 as a three-year fixed term contract.

The hunt for a CSA began shortly after the Foreign and Commonwealth Office appointed Carole Mundell, an astrophysicist, as its top scientist.

Government chief scientific adviser Patrick Vallance, who took up his post in April, has said he will make it his priority to ensure every government department has an appropriately qualified CSA.

Some vacancies remain in the network, and the Ministry of Housing and Local Government and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport are among the departments seeking to fill posts.

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