Chief Scientific Adviser

Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government

Closing date: 6 Jan 2019

Reference number



90500 - 120000


SCS Pay Band 2

Contract type


Business area

Other - Chief Scientific Adviser

Type of role

Senior leadership

Working pattern

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



Number of posts




About the job

Job description


The CSA occupies one of the most senior and influential positions within the department; with the post holder directly accountable to Ministers and to the Permanent Secretary Melanie Dawes.

Reporting to Jeremy Pocklington, Director General for Housing, the CSA will be embedded at the highest levels of the Department and will progress and implement our approach to systems thinking and will help develop policy going forwards.

The role will be supported by a team of high pedigree and well respected people in the Department to enable the CSA to have the credibility and impact that the role requires.

A key part of the role of CSA in MHCLG is to support the Department and its new Building Safety Programme in scientific advice following the Grenfell Tower tragedy. The CSA will also attend senior Departmental committees such as Directors Leadership Team when matters relevant to science are discussed.

As one of the department’s senior leaders, the person will also be a strong and visible role model for the Civil Service leadership behaviours. These can be found in the Civil Service Leadership Statement available at

Leaders in MHCLG are also expected to role model our principles and values which complement the wider Civil Service Leadership Statement; you can this see here.

Key Responsibilities:

- Advising Ministers, the Executive Team and Directors on developments and future thinking across science and engineering, particularly where this cuts across MHCLG’s policy portfolio.

- Ensure that key strategic decisions made by Ministers and senior officials are informed by high quality, expert scientific advice and analysis

- Performing an independent challenge function to the Department, ensuring that science and engineering evidence and advice for departmental policies and decisions is robust, relevant and high quality and that there are mechanisms in place to ensure that policy making is underpinned by science and engineering.

- Supporting our Arms Length Bodies, and specifically Homes England, on technical scientific and engineering issues.

- Helping MHCLG with wider systems thinking, and supply advice to other departments as a cross cutting service as necessary.

- Advising and leading any technical dimensions of national or sometimes local crises, working alongside our Resilience and Emergencies division.

- Working in close partnership with our technical teams and fully integrated as part of the Department’s senior leadership team.

- Creating a connection point between national and local government, and the Local Government Association, for key technical issues – enabling emerging issues to be spotted, aggregated and discussed.

- Leading and developing the Department’s science and engineering capabilities, alongside other MHCLG Heads of Profession.

- Acting as an internal champion of evidence-based policy making, as part of our Great Policy Making project, alongside Stephen Aldridge, Chief Analyst and Isobel Stephen, our new Great Policy Making champion, ensuring our systems are of high quality and fit for purpose.

- Developing all our policy and delivery teams to be intelligent customers of scientific, engineering and systems thinking advice; providing a challenge function.

- Engaging thoroughly with the CSA Network. This cross-government working group is crucial to ensure that scientific advice in government is appropriately communicated and actioned. This involves attending regular meetings and other opportunities with the CSA Network, in which you will be required to represent the science and research being conducted in your department.

- Building an external network of scientific expertise, including the most relevant experts from industry and academia, including national scientific and engineering institutions. This includes accurately identifying network members, maintaining external relations, and communicating effectively between government, academia and industry.

As Head of the Science and Engineering Profession in the Department:

- Ensuring that the scientists and engineers within their organisations have access to a range of professional development opportunities to enable more flexible career paths. This includes championing and integrating the Government Science and Engineering Profession (GSE) within their organisation.
- Ensuring that they have the right skills, knowledge and expertise in place within their departments to meet their departmental business objectives.
- Raising the profile of the work and facilitating access to specialist skills, knowledge, and expertise ensuring that evidence based advice is used to support operational delivery and inform policy decisions made by Ministers and Senior Officials across Whitehall.


We are looking for an outstanding scientific/engineering leader and encourage candidates from both inside and outside the Civil Service.

This is a critical role in MHCLG and is ideal for someone with the appropriate level of professional skill and breadth of experience, as well as the leadership abilities and skills to work successfully at Director level. It is important that Ministers and the Executive Team have full confidence in our scientific and technical advice, so the successful candidate needs to be able to provide a high-quality, high-impact professional service which anticipates and sets the agenda and responds flexibly and at pace as circumstances require. The CSA is pivotal to making this happen, through the skills, experience and personal impact which they bring to the role. They are expected to provide linkage to, and insight from, world leading research groups, academia and industry and to build an external network of scientific/research expertise, including the most relevant experts from industry and academia. This includes accurately identifying network members, maintaining external relations, and communicating effectively between government.

Candidates should have evidence of international standing in science or engineering and should be well connected to the academic and business science and engineering communities. They should have strong links to academic and sector/supply chain networks in the UK and internationally.

They should also have extensive experience and credibility in their sector, with an academic and/or industrial background relevant to the work of MHCLG, and a clear interest in public policy making. They will also have led, or been highly involved in policy projects, for example through a project or committees of a professional body.

They will have a track record of operating at a senior level in a large fast-paced organisation, thinking and acting strategically to develop creative solutions to the management of complex problems; with strong strategic analytical skills, and the ability to identify and prioritise policy areas where science and/or engineering should play a role.

The successful candidate will also have a proven ability to communicate complex scientific/technical advice clearly and persuasively, and outstanding collaborative and interpersonal skills to build relationships and networks both within and external to Government.

Essential Criteria:

- The candidate should be an outstanding scientist or engineer with evidence of international standing – e.g. publication record, project leadership and delivery, fellowship of a learned academy.

- Outstanding interpersonal and influencing skills and an ability to operate sensitively and effectively in a government and political, sometimes ambiguous, environment.

- Be a strong inclusive leader, able to operate successfully as part of the MHCLG’s senior leadership team, role modelling our leadership behaviours.

- Be able to communicate complex analytical advice clearly and persuasively in writing, and orally, to officials, Ministers and the public.

- Be able to identify policy areas where scientific, engineering or systems based advice should play a role, and to bring out the implications clearly and cogently.

Desirable Criteria:

- Experience of working with, or an understanding of, the housing sector. Candidates without this should set out in their covering letter how they would expect to get up the learning curve and how to develop their expertise in this area.

For full details and how to apply please see the attached candidate information pack.

Successful candidates for roles based in our 2 Marsham Street building must meet the security requirements before they can be appointed. The level of security needed for this role is Counter Terrorist Check (CTC) and the process can take 8 weeks to complete. Please note that CTC clearance requires you to have been resident in the UK for the past 3 years.

You are therefore required to complete the attached Annex A form (PART A ONLY) and either email the signed version directly to Alternatively, you can post the completed form to MHCLG HR, Ground Floor, Rosebrae Court, Woodside Ferry Approach, Birkenhead, CH41 6DU. This will be processed in cases only where the candidate should be successful in applying for the post. The remainder will be securely destroyed.

Please refer to the attached document “MHCLG Notes on Security Clearance” for further information on Counter Terrorist Check (CTC). Thank you.



Civil Service pension schemes may be available for successful candidates.

Things you need to know


Successful candidates must meet the security requirements before they can be appointed. The level of security needed is counter-terrorist check.

Nationality statement

Candidates will be subject to UK immigration requirements as well as Civil Service nationality rules.

If you're applying for a role requiring security clearance please be aware that foreign or dual nationality is not an automatic bar. However certain posts may have restrictions which could affect those who do not have sole British nationality or who have personal connections with certain countries outside the UK.

Selection process details

Candidates that are shortlisted will be invited to attend a staff engagement panel. 

At MHCLG we hold staff engagement panels as an integral part of the recruitment process for Senior Civil Servants (SCS) – they are designed to help us build up a rounded picture of each candidate and give us an insight into how you might engage and interact with your team should you be successful. The purpose of the session is to help us assess your engagement and communication skills and is not about testing your subject knowledge or expertise for this particular role. Feedback from the session is passed on to the selection panel for consideration alongside the final interview.

We may take references for short listed candidates and these will be passed on to the selection panel for consideration alongside the final interview. 

Shortlisted candidates will also be invited to give a short presentation or complete an exercise at the beginning of their final interview. Further details will be provided to shortlisted candidates when invited to interview. 
Feedback will only be provided if you attend an interview or assessment.

Nationality requirements

Open to UK, Commonwealth and European Economic Area (EEA) and certain non EEA nationals. Further information on whether you are able to apply is available here.


Candidates in their probationary period are eligible to apply for vacancies within this department.

Working for the Civil Service

The Civil Service Code 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.
The Civil Service embraces diversity and promotes equality of opportunity. There is a guaranteed interview scheme (GIS) for candidates with disabilities who meet the minimum selection criteria.

Terms & Conditions

For external appointments, remuneration for this role will be up to £120,000 pa plus a bonus opportunity depending on performance (within the normal Civil Service pay arrangements) and attractive pension.
For existing civil servants, new rules for internal candidates state that you can no longer expect to get 90% of an externally advertised rate, unless we make a special business case .  If appointed on promotion you would get the higher of 10% uplift or the new minimum for Director.
Future pay awards will normally be made in line with current SCS performance-related pay arrangements.

Apply and further information

Contact point for applicants

For an informal discussion about the role, please contact the Recruitment team by e-mailing or calling 0303 444 8111 in office hours.

Sift/interview dates and location

Closing date - Sunday 6th January 2019
Long listing - w/c 7th January 2019
Shortlisting - w/c 28th January 2019
Assessments - February 2019
Interviews - early March 2019

Interviews and assessments will take place in London.

Please note that these dates are only indicative at this stage and could be subject to change. If you are unable to meet these timeframes, please let us know in your application letter.

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