Press release

New look for Science Advisory Council

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Changes to the Science Advisory Council (SAC) for Defra have been announced to help the department achieve better and more co-ordinated scientific advice. 

Following the review of Defra’s Arms Length Bodies last October, and a separate independent review of the SAC, the majority of Defra’s scientific and technical advisory bodies are being reconstituted as expert scientific committees to provide advice on specific areas.

The SAC will be re-modelled based on the recommendations of the independent report.  Although it will remain a Non Departmental Public Body, it will have a strengthened role in supporting the Chief Scientific Adviser in the oversight of all Defra expert scientific committees.

Professor Bob Watson, Chief Scientific Adviser for Defra, said:

 ”The reformed Science Advisory Council will be in a stronger position to provide independent advice to Ministers and to me on the science underpinning a wide range of Defra policies.

 ”I would like to thank the current SAC members for the valuable contribution they have made to Defra. It is vital that we continue to benefit from the expert independent advice the SAC provides and I look forward to working with the new committee.”

 The changes include the standing down of the 12 current members of the SAC. 7 new members, with expertise over a broad range of issues for which Defra is responsible, will be recruited over the next few months.


  1. For more information about the Science Advisory Council visit
  2.  The Science Advisory Council is an independent non-departmental public body, established in 2004. The council provides expert and independent scientific advice to the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to help guide successful and evidence based policy decisions. The council communicates this advice to Professor Bob Watson, the Chief Scientific Adviser, and through him to Defra ministers.  The council is at present composed of 12 members drawn largely from the natural sciences but also including expertise from the social sciences.
  3. The recruitment of new members will commence in February 2011, with the first SAC meeting scheduled for September 2011.
  4. The ALB review sought to ensure better co-ordination between science advisory bodies in Defra. As part of this, the Department reviewed the role and functions of its 18 scientific and technical advisory bodies. On 14 October 2010 it was announced that the majority of the advisory bodies will become expert committees. They will continue to provide independent advice, but the change will allow for greater co-ordination as the scientific expert committees will work more closely with the Science Advisory Council and Defra’s Chief Scientific Adviser.  
  5. The independent review of the SAC, led by Professor Charles Godfray and commissioned by Defra’s Chief Scientist, Professor Bob Watson, contained 12 major recommendations including:
    • that the SAC be reconstituted as a leaner body of around six people plus an external Chair;
    • the need to more clearly articulate the role of the SAC and how it adds value to the Department’s use of science and evidence; and
    • the need to provide challenge and scrutiny to other bodies providing science advice to Defra.