Principal Data Scientist

Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science

Apply before 11:55 pm on Thursday 25th April 2024



Reference number



£51,685 - £58,105
A Civil Service Pension with an average employer contribution of 27%

Job grade

Grade 7

Contract type


Business area

CEFAS – Science

Type of role

Architecture and Data

Working pattern

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

Number of jobs available



This vacancy is located at our site in Lowestoft.

Job summary

The Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas) is a world leader in marine science and technology, providing innovation, scientific evidence and impartial expert advice on the aquatic environment, biodiversity and food security.

You will work across our science themes of Animal and Human Health, Ecosystem Change, Environment and People, and Food from Water, playing a prominent role in driving forward Cefas data science and AI capability. You will provide creative and strategic technical leadership to build and deliver research involving AI, machine learning, computer vision, data analysis, and scientific computing. This includes current projects on end-to-end applications of cameras and automated image analysis for monitoring, and establishing new areas, for example, in the use of large language models. The work will involve large, unstructured data sets, with you collaborating closely with IT colleagues to specify and deploy high performance computing and data storage infrastructure.

You will have opportunities to build national and international research collaborations, with an expectation of regularly publishing your work. You will develop and lead projects and supervise colleagues to deepen Cefas’ technical expertise and promote innovation to make a difference to our understanding of the aquatic environment.

The role requires hands-on technical skills, coupled with thought leadership and strategic planning. Through these activities you will play a leading role in enhancing Cefas’ external profile in the use of data science in global marine and environmental research.

Cefas is proud of a diverse and inclusive work environment, committed to fairness and the promotion of equality of opportunity for all. We know that having a range of experiences, backgrounds, ways of working and thinking, makes us a stronger organisation, better at reflecting the communities we serve. We embrace different views and experiences and value the fresh perspective that people from a variety of circumstances bring to the work we do. We welcome applications from candidates who have not previously worked for the Civil Service, mid- and late-career changers with transferable skills, people from all backgrounds and circumstances regardless of disability, gender, age, ethnicity, LGBT+ identity and socio-economic status.

Welcome to Cefas (

Job description

Your main duties and responsibilities will include, but are not limited to:

  • Leading research on the development and deployment of innovative data science and AI methods and hardware to transform data collection and analysis within Cefas science;
  • Delivering as a Principal Investigator, leading research proposals and projects with multi-disciplinary teams;
  • Publishing high-quality scientific papers on new methods and applications;
  • Establishing, developing, and maintaining strategic collaborations with other government bodies, academia and commercial partners; and
  • Using detailed technical knowledge to provide advice to senior leaders on AI strategy and application, working with IT specialists to specify big data storage and scientific computing requirements.

In addition, Cefas reserves the right to ask staff to take on additional duties and responsibilities which are commensurate with their grade. Team Leaders and management will have a discussion with staff to explain the changes that are to be made. A new job description will be issued if required.

Person specification

The following are essential criteria required for this role and you must be able to demonstrate your skills and experience in the following areas:

  • Deep technical knowledge of data science and AI methods, with evidence of creatively leading research topics and programmes involving bespoke data collection and analysis;
  • Ability to lead, mentor, and train others, ensuring the integrity and accuracy of data analyses, along with evidence of working with specialists from different disciplines to deliver to deadlines;
  • Ability to communicate clearly between users and developers of technology. Having a broad knowledge of science and computing to help design robust Enterprise solutions provided by Cefas IT professionals;
  • Evidence of national and international research networks, working with external organisations to develop new research and attract funding; and
  • Excellent communication and presentation skills, with evidence of strategic thinking and presenting technical evidence and advice to specialists and non-specialists.


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

  • Leadership
  • Changing and Improving
  • Seeing the Big Picture

We only ask for evidence of these behaviours on your application form:

  • Leadership

Technical skills

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

  • Deep technical knowledge of data science and AI methods, maintaining knowledge of new developments, with an excellent record of publications in peer-reviewed journals, and/or patents and reports.
  • Excellent scientific computing and programming skills, including Python and version control, for processing big data. Experience on Linux and Windows, ideally including Microsoft Azure.
Alongside your salary of £51,685, Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science contributes £13,955 towards you being a member of the Civil Service Defined Benefit Pension scheme. Find out what benefits a Civil Service Pension provides.
  • Generous annual leave entitlement – Cefas offers 25 days' annual leave on entry (rising to 30 days over first 5yrs) for full-time new entrants to the Civil Service. Employees receive 8 public holidays a year, plus an additional day to mark the King's birthday
  • Access to learning and development tailored to your role
  • A working environment that supports a range of flexible working options
  • A working culture which encourages inclusion and diversity
  • Eligible to join the Civil Service Pension scheme – more information can be found on the CSP website
  • Staff recognition vouchers
  • In-year award scheme

Selection process details

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

Application Process

As part of the application process you are asked to provide a CV (job history, qualifications, past skills and experience), a 750-word Personal Statement on how you meet the essential criteria as stated in the person specification section, and a 250-word statement on how you meet the advertised lead behaviour – Leadership.

Further details around what this will entail are listed on the application form.

  • For guidance on Civil Service Success Profiles, this video tells you what you’ll need to provide throughout the assessment process with supporting guidance on each step. Link – Success Profiles
  • For guidance on how to construct your CV, you are encouraged to visit Civil Service Careers. Link - CV
  • For guidance on how to construct your personal statement, you are encouraged to visit Civil Service Careers. Link – Statement
  • For guidance on how to construct your lead behaviour statement, you are encouraged to visit Civil Service Careers. Link – Behaviours


The sift panel will use the information in your CV and Personal Statement to assess your experience and how you meet the essential criteria as stated in the person specification section. The sift panel will also assess the lead behaviour statement – Leadership.

Should a large number of applications be received, an initial sift may be conducted using the lead behaviour – Leadership. 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.


If successful at application stage, you will be invited to interview where you will be assessed on the three advertised behaviours, the two advertised technical skills, your experience (as stated in the person specification section) and strengths. You may also be asked to prepare a presentation or undertake an exercise. If this is the case, you will receive further information with your invitation to interview. 
Please be aware that at this time, interviews will be held in-person at our site in Lowestoft.

If scores are equal following interview, an assessment of the following technical skill: deep technical knowledge of data science and AI methods, maintaining knowledge of new developments, with an excellent record of publications in peer-reviewed journals, and/or patents and reports will be used by the panel.


Please be aware that this role will be contractually based at Lowestoft.

As part of the pre-employment process for this post, successful candidate(s) will be able to agree a contractual workplace from those locations listed in this advert. The agreed contractual workplace is then the substantive and permanent place of work for the successful candidate(s)

Where the location is ‘National’ the successful appointee should discuss and agree an appropriate contractual location in line with both Defra’s location policy and site capacity, prior to proceeding with pre-employment processes.

Successful applicants currently employed by the hiring Defra organisation for this post may choose to remain in their current contractual location or may choose to change contractual location to one of those listed above. This should be discussed and agreed prior to proceeding with pre-employment processes.

The agreed amount of time spent at a workplace for this post will reflect the requirement for Civil Servants to spend at least 60% of their working time in an organisation workplace with the option to work the remaining time flexibly from home. Working time spent at a workplace may include time spent at other organisational locations including field-based operational locations, together with supplier, customer or partner locations. This is a non-contractual agreement which is consistent with common Civil Service expectations.

Travel costs to non-contractual workplaces will be subject to departmental travel and subsistence policies. Travel costs to contractual workplaces are the responsibility of the employee.

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.

Defra includes the core department, APHA, RPA, Cefas and VMD.

Reserve List

A reserve list may be held for a period of 12 months from which further appointments can be made.


New entrants are expected to start on the minimum of the pay band.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Childcare Vouchers 

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

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 : Cally Wiles or Alec Wilson
  • 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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