Our governance

The role, members, structure, meetings and sub-groups of the Science Advisory Council (SAC).

The Science Advisory Council (SAC) provides independent advice on science policy and strategy to the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs.


Lin Field and Rosemary Hails were appointed as members of the council on 1 January 2019 for a period of 3 years.

James Wood, Henrietta Moore, Wayne Powell and Paul Monks were reappointed in January 2019 for a period of 3 years. Tim Jickells was reappointed in January 2019 for a period of 1 year.

Our members are:

  • Professor Charles Godfray – Director of the Oxford Martin School, University of Oxford (SAC Chair)
  • Professor Peter Cox - Professor of Climate System Dynamics, University of Exeter
  • Professor Tim Jickells - Professor in the School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia
  • Professor Rowland Kao - Sir Timothy O’Shea Professor of Veterinary Epidemiology and Data Science, University of Edinburgh
  • Professor Paul Monks - Pro Vice Chancellor and Head of the College of Science and Engineering, and Professor in Atmospheric Chemistry and Earth Observation Science, University of Leicester
  • Professor Henrietta Moore - Founder and Director of the Institute for Global Prosperity, University College London (UCL)
  • Professor Wayne Powell - Principal and Chief Executive of Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC)
  • Professor Sarah Whatmore - Professor of Environment and Public Policy, and Head of Social Sciences Division, University of Oxford
  • Professor James Wood - Head of Department of Veterinary Medicine and Alborada Professor of Equine and Farm Animal Science, Cambridge University
  • Professor Lin Field, Head of Department of Biointeractions and Crop Protection, Rothamsted Research
  • Professor Rosie Hails, Director of Nature & Science, The National Trust

All appointments to the Science Advisory Council are made in accordance with the ‘Code of Practice for Ministerial Appointments to Public Bodies’. Vacancies are advertised on the Public Appointments website.

Members must declare any significant political activity. No current members have declared any political activity during the past five years.


We meet about 4 times a year and also hold regular teleconference meetings.

We publish our most recent minutes and agenda and meeting papers, and the most recent teleconference agenda and minutes:

Previous SAC minutes and meeting papers can be found on the National Archives website.

SAC handbook

The SAC handbook sets out the code of practice for Defra’s Science Advisory Council (SAC).

Its purpose is to provide guidance on the establishment, management and activity of the SAC and its relationship with Defra.

Register of interests

We publish the register of our members’ interests each year.


The SAC may establish time-limited sub-groups in relation to emergencies, or to carry out in-depth studies and other pieces of work. The remit of sub-groups will be determined by the SAC.

These will be chaired by a member of the SAC, who will be responsible for developing terms of reference for the sub-group. Sub-groups may also include non SAC members, co-opted on an ad hoc time-limited basis, to increase the range of expertise available.

Foot and mouth disease burial sites review sub-group

A sub-group formed to review the scientific evidence underpinning the management of burial sites for carcasses from the 2001 foot and mouth disease (FMD) outbreak.

The final report: 2001 Foot and Mouth outbreak carcass burial report was published in September 2017.

Water quality sub-group

The group was formed to:

  • provide assurance to the Defra Chief Scientific Advisor (CSA) in the use of evidence and analysis
  • discuss any issues or gaps in evidence, and advise how they might be addressed
  • provide relevant information from their extended networks so that Defra has the evidence it needs
  • offer advice, if requested

The group met to look at specific issues as the need arises. Detail of these specific issues were captured in annex A of the terms of reference.

Water sub-group papers:

Exotic disease sub-group

This sub-group was formed in 2013 to:

  • advise Defra on using evidence and analysis to support exotic disease control
  • review the evidence and analysis supporting Defra’s disease control and recovery phase policies in the event of an exotic disease outbreak
  • offer advice to the devolved administrations (DAs)

The subgroup met on 26 November 2014 to consider the H5N8 highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) infection in breeding ducks on a premises in Yorkshire. The paper considered by that meeting has been published, together with Defra’s response to the key points from that meeting.

Waste sub-group

This sub-group examined the evidence base around waste, resources and sustainable consumption. It is now completed. You can find out more about the SAC-Waste sub-group and read the final report (June 2011) on the National Archives website.

Other previous sub-groups

Information about earlier completed SAC sub-groups is also available on the National Archives website.