Research Officer

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Apply before 11:55 pm on Sunday 24th September 2023



Reference number



£30,317 - £36,606
From £30,317 nationally, and from £33,827 for inner London. In addition, these posts are currently offering a temporary non-pensionable, non-consolidated Specialist Skills Supplement of £3000 per annum (pro rata as appropriate)For details of our pay on appointment policy, please see below under the heading ‘Salary’.

Job grade

Higher Executive Officer

Contract type


Business area

DEFRA - FBT - Agri-Food Chain - Agri-food chain Directorate - 2 post Farming and Countryside Directorate - 2 posts

Type of role

Social Research

Working pattern

Flexible working, Full-time, Job share, Part-time

Number of jobs available



Defra Hubs: Bristol, London, Newcastle-upon-Tyne and York

Job summary

We are looking to fill four Research Officer posts in Defra. Two posts are based in the Food Chain Analysis Team (in the Agri-Food Chain directorate), and two posts are based in the Farming Evidence Team (in the Farming and Countryside Programme directorate).

As a Research Officer you will typically design, manage, and/or conduct research projects (which may be commissioned externally, or conducted ‘in-house’). Additionally, you may analyse and interpret existing data and provide guidance to policy colleagues on current research evidence. Other examples of projects include policy evaluations, literature reviews, public consultations, interviews and surveys.

Job description

Background to Defra

Defra is the UK government department responsible for safeguarding our natural environment, supporting our world-leading food & farming industry, and sustaining a thriving rural economy. Our broad remit means we play a major role in people's day-to-day life, from the food we eat, and the air we breathe, to the water we drink. We are responsible for England’s environment, our countryside and rural economy, the food and farming sectors and have lead responsibility for protection from a wide range of natural threats and hazards. Your role will be critically important to achieving our vision of ‘creating a great place for living.

The Social Research Group in Defra

Social researchers in the Defra group play an essential role in helping Defra understand the context in which policy is delivered and its likely impact. We help by framing and contextualizing the policy challenge, identifying “what works”, developing policy solutions, and measuring and understanding the impact of government action. We work in all the policy directorates in Defra and are involved in the challenges which are important to the Defra group. These include securing food supply sustainability, reducing air pollution, improving the environmental contribution of farming, and addressing marine pollution.

Social researchers are embedded in policy and evidence teams across the directorates or work in a central research team. Coming together as the Defra Social Research Group means we have strong working links to our profession. We are also full members of the Government Social Research profession.

As we work daily with policy, implementation and analytical colleagues, we value the support of our vibrant and active Social Research Group. The Group enables us to share our knowledge and skills, solve common challenges, and develop our careers.

The roles

Research Officer – Farming and Countryside Programme (2 x permanent posts)

We are looking to fill two Research Officer posts in Defra’s Farming Evidence team. You will support work across the Farming and Countryside Programme, principally providing social research advice in support of the Government’s approach to agricultural policy delivery. These are policy-focused posts within an interdisciplinary evidence team and will enable social science input to inform a range of policy and delivery activities to support key outcomes for net zero ambitions, biodiversity recovery, water quality and food production.

Working in a flexible analytical team and directly with policy means this role is ideal for anyone looking to develop their research skills and influence policy. You will have the opportunity to help shape key policy and scheme delivery decisions to deliver ambitious public benefit outcomes.

The postholders will be responsible for a mix of qualitative and quantitative work covering both an understanding of the current issues affecting farming and also evaluation of the impacts of policies, most notably the economic support schemes aimed at farm businesses in England. Some work is commissioned but most is undertaken in-house, using existing evidence as well as being responsible for new survey data and qualitative data from interviews and group discussions. There will be opportunities for primary research including designing and undertaking surveys and interviews. An interest in farming, the environment and evaluation welcomed but experience in these areas is not essential.

Research Officer – Agri-Food Chain (2 x permanent posts)

This role is based in the Food Chain Analysis team (FCAT). FCAT is a vibrant and friendly team multidisciplinary team of economists, statisticians and social researchers in Defra’s Agri-food Chain directorate. The team provides analytical support to all aspects of food policy in the post farm gate food chain – from manufacturing to wholesale to retail to catering. In recent times this has included analysing consumer behaviour, from pre-Brexit stockpiling to coronavirus panic buying, modelling the effects of economic shocks on retail prices, building up our market intelligence capacity and developing a deep understanding of the food supply chain (food is part of our Critical National Infrastructure).

Working in a flexible analytical team and directly with policy means this role is ideal for anyone looking to develop their research skills and influence policy. It is particularly suited to people with some experience of working on issues relating to the agri-food chain and/or can demonstrate an interest in agri-food issues.

Examples of the team’s work include:

  • Managing Defra’s input into large scale and/or long-term surveys such as Food and You 2 and the Seasonal Workers’ survey.  
  • Producing evidence notes or other evidence syntheses on food practices, consumer purchasing behaviours, consumer understanding or other topics e.g., online shopping behaviours, alternative proteins.
  • Managing research on precision breeding / gene editing.
  • Leading, or contributing to, research activity on food information, labelling and composition
  • Working closely with more senior staff on large-scale evaluation activity
  • Leading on the use of research tools such as working with consumers to develop theories of change for their policy areas or supporting them with consultations.

Person specification

The successful candidate will have:

  • Knowledge of research and analytical methodologies and ability to demonstrate practical application of both qualitative and quantitative approaches through project-based work (for example, a suitable level of experience would be that obtained from obtaining a 1st or 2:1 degree, or a postgraduate qualification in a social science discipline, that included a substantial element of social research methods and training)
  • Ability to design research projects, defining research questions and writing draft specifications
  • Knowledge of evaluation methods
  • Ability to summarise and interpret information accurately, making use of different sources and to conduct basic analyses of key datasets utilising a working knowledge of relevant data analysis packages 
  • Ability to build networks and relationships to deliver common objectives 
  • Ability to communicate research insights and technical subjects to non-specialists in a clear and concise fashion

The Defra group is dedicated to having a diverse workforce which represents people in our communities and an inclusive culture where everyone feels they can be their authentic self at work, belong in the organisation and can speak up to challenge others when needed. We want everyone to be able to contribute to the success of our organisation, regardless of your background.

Essential Criteria

The following criteria are essential to these posts:

1)         Excellent analytical skills – with the ability to identify, champion, and use both qualitative and quantitative social research approaches to explore and answer research questions.

2)         The ability to collaborate effectively with others across boundaries, to deliver results and engaging multiple stakeholder groups with differing priorities and perspectives to agree consensus-based solutions.

3)         The ability to take personal responsibility for shaping, planning and driving forward work, delivering at pace and managing deadlines across a broad portfolio of work.

4)         An ability to keep in touch with new research findings and methods in your field and accessibly interpreting and sharing these with colleagues.


You will need, or be expecting to have, a 2:1 degree or higher in any social science degree subject with a substantial social research methods component, or a relevant post-graduate degree.


We'll assess you against these behaviours during the selection process:

  • Working Together
  • Delivering at Pace
  • Making Effective Decisions

Technical skills

We'll assess you against these technical skills during the selection process:

  • Government Social Research technical skills
  • Learning and development tailored to your role
  • An environment with flexible working options
  • A culture encouraging inclusion and diversity
  • A Civil Service pension with an average employer contribution of 27%
  • You will have 25 days leave, increasing by 1 day every year to a maximum of 30 days after five years’ service. In addition, all staff receive the King’s Birthday privilege holiday and 8 days’ bank and public holidays.
  • Time off to volunteer
  • Discounts and savings on shopping, fun days out and more
  • Interest-free loans to buy a bike or a season ticket

Blended working

Defra operates a blended working policy subject to business need, giving people the flexibility to choose when and where they work and collaborate with others.

Individuals are expected to work from one of the office locations stated in the advert to connect with their colleagues, as required by their role and business team needs.  There is flexibility to split the working week, spending minimum of 40-60% in the workplace, unless exceptional circumstances apply and/or you are a contractual home worker.

Selection process details

This vacancy is using Success Profiles (opens in a new window), and will assess your Behaviours, Ability, Experience and Technical skills.

Application Process

As part of the application process you will be asked to complete a CV, personal statement, behaviour and technical statements. Further details around what this will entail are listed on the application form.

Please tailor your application to evidence your experience and skills according to those stated in this job advert. Your personal statement should show, in no more than 500 words, how you meet the essential criteria of the post.

All applicants will follow the same selection process for interview. 


Candidates will be selected for interview based on (1) successful completion of an online Government Social Research knowledge test (not required for existing GSR members), and (2) the assessment criteria outlined above.

Should a large number of applications be received, an initial sift may be conducted using the personal statement. Candidates who pass the initial sift may be progressed to a full sift, or progressed straight to assessment/interview.

Sift and Interview dates to be confirmed. 


Interviews will primarily assess candidates against the essential professional criteria listed and will include the Government Social Research presentation or scenarios (unless candidates hold the necessary GSR membership).

A presentation or additional exercise may also be assessed.

Interviews will last approximately one hour. Further details will be provided to shortlisted candidates in advance of the interview.

You will be able to express a preference for one of the posts. We will endeavour to adhere to your preferences but we cannot guarantee you will be allocated to your chosen post. Please note you will be given the opportunity to specify your preference at interview.

Assessment criteria

You will need, or be expecting to have, a 2:1 degree or higher in any social science degree subject with a substantial social research methods component, or a relevant post-graduate degree.

You will be asked whether you hold the required Government Social Research (GSR) profession membership as part of your application. If you are not a member, you will need to complete and pass the GSR assessment during the application process. The assessment includes two parts, firstly an online knowledge test (conducted prior to interview), and secondly an oral briefing (conducted at interview). Further details will be provided. See here for GSR membership eligibility details.

To be invited to interview you must demonstrate satisfactory evidence of the essential behaviours listed below (three Civil Service behaviours and one Government Social Research behaviour). At interview you will be assessed against these same behaviours (RO level).

Behaviours. We will assess you against these behaviours:

  • Working together
  • Delivering at pace
  • Making effective decisions

Technical skills. We will you assess you against the Government Social Research professional experience (RO level):


Please be aware that this role(s) will be contractually based in a Defra group workplace/office. The successful candidate is required to carry out all their duties from a UK location, and cannot do so from an overseas location at any time.

Candidates applying for these roles will be based at one of the Defra hubs as advertised.  

For information, our core Defra hub locations are:

  • York – the Kings Pool; 
  • Newcastle – Lancaster House; 
  • Bristol – Horizon House (Please note that space at this office is limited and it may not be possible for all Policy roles to be recruited to this location);
  • London – 2 Marsham Street.

Internal (core Defra) employees can apply for this role and choose to remain in their current location or to be based in one of the advertised Defra hub locations. All other applicants will be based in one of the advertised Defra hub locations. Defra continues to support a blended working model and candidates are currently expected to attend their office base for 40-60% of the week. Travel and subsistence will not be paid for travel to a base office location.


New entrants to the Civil Service are expected to start on the minimum of the pay band. The internal roles rules apply to existing Civil Servants, i.e. level transfers move on current salary or the pay range minimum, transfers on promotion move to new pay range minimum or receive 10% increase. Either case is determined by whichever is the highest.

Reserve List

A reserve list may be held for a period of up to 24 months from which further appointments can be made.

Merit Lists

Where more than one location is advertised, candidates will be appointed in merit order for each location. You will be asked to state your location preference on your application.

Childcare Vouchers

Any move to Defra from another employer will mean you can no longer access childcare vouchers. This includes moves between government departments. You may however be eligible for other government schemes, including Tax Free Childcare. Determine your eligibility at

Reasonable Adjustment

If a person with disabilities is put at a substantial disadvantage compared to a non-disabled person, we have a duty to make reasonable changes to our processes. 

If you need a change to be made so that you can make your application, you should: 

Contact Government Recruitment Service via as soon as possible before the closing date to discuss your needs. 

Complete the ‘Assistance required’ section in the ‘Additional requirements’ page of your application form to tell us what changes or help you might need further on in the recruitment process. For instance, you may need wheelchair access at interview, or if you’re deaf, a Language Service Professional. 


If you are experiencing accessibility problems with any attachments on this advert, please contact the email address in the 'Contact point for applicants' section.

Visa Sponsorship Statement

Please take note that Defra does not hold a UK Visa & Immigration (UKVI) Skilled Worker License sponsor and are unable to sponsor any individuals for Skilled Worker Sponsorship.

Criminal Record Check

If successful and transferring from another Government Department a criminal record check may be carried out. 

In order to process applications without delay, we will be sending a Criminal Record Check to Disclosure and Barring Service on your behalf.

However, we recognise in exceptional circumstances some candidates will want to send their completed forms direct. If you will be doing this, please advise Government Recruitment Service of your intention by emailing stating the job reference number in the subject heading. 

All of these posts require the successful candidate to hold basic security clearance. Candidates posted to 2 Marsham Street, London may be subject to a higher level of clearance because of the security requirements for that location. Job offers to these posts are made on the basis of merit. Security vetting will only take place after the receipt of a job offer.

Internal Fraud Database Check

Applicants who are successful at interview will be, as part of pre-employment screening, subject to a check on the Internal Fraud Database (IFD). This check will provide information about employees who have been dismissed for fraud or dishonesty offences. This check also applies to employees who resign or otherwise leave before being dismissed for fraud or dishonesty had their employment continued. Any applicant’s details held on the IFD will be refused employment. 

A candidate is not eligible to apply for a role within the Civil Service if the application is made within a 5 year period following a dismissal for carrying out internal fraud against government.

Feedback will only be provided if you attend an interview or assessment.


Successful candidates must undergo a criminal record check.
People working with government assets must complete baseline personnel security standard (opens in new window) checks.

Nationality requirements

This job is broadly open to the following groups:

  • UK nationals
  • nationals of the Republic of Ireland
  • nationals of Commonwealth countries who have the right to work in the UK
  • nationals of the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein and family members of those nationalities with settled or pre-settled status under the European Union Settlement Scheme (EUSS) (opens in a new window)
  • nationals of the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein and family members of those nationalities who have made a valid application for settled or pre-settled status under the European Union Settlement Scheme (EUSS)
  • individuals with limited leave to remain or indefinite leave to remain who were eligible to apply for EUSS on or before 31 December 2020
  • Turkish nationals, and certain family members of Turkish nationals, who have accrued the right to work in the Civil Service
Further information on nationality requirements (opens in a new window)

Working for the Civil Service

The Civil Service Code (opens in a new window) sets out the standards of behaviour expected of civil servants.

We recruit by merit on the basis of fair and open competition, as outlined in the Civil Service Commission's recruitment principles (opens in a new window).
The Civil Service embraces diversity and promotes equal opportunities. As such, we run a Disability Confident Scheme (DCS) for candidates with disabilities who meet the minimum selection criteria.
The Civil Service also offers a Redeployment Interview Scheme to civil servants who are at risk of redundancy, and who meet the minimum requirements for the advertised vacancy.
This vacancy is part of the Great Place to Work for Veterans (opens in a new window) initiative.
The Civil Service welcomes applications from people who have recently left prison or have an unspent conviction. Read more about prison leaver recruitment (opens in new window).
Once this job has closed, the job advert will no longer be available. You may want to save a copy for your records.

Contact point for applicants

Job contact :

  • Name : Justin Martin
  • Email :

Recruitment team

  • Email :

Further information

If you feel your application has not been treated in accordance with the Recruitment Principles and you wish to make a complaint, in the first instance, you should contact Government Recruitment Services via email:
If you are not satisfied with the response you receive from the Department, you can contact the Civil Service Commission:
Click here to visit Civil Service Commission

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