Terms of reference

These are the published terms of reference for the Science Advisory Council (SAC).

Aim of the Council

The Science Advisory Council (SAC) is a Non Departmental Public Body (NDPB) which provides independent and scientific support, advice and challenge to Defra. The SAC will assist the Defra Chief Scientific Adviser (CSA) in assuring and challenging the evidence that Defra uses in its policy development.

Objectives of the Council

The objectives of the SAC are to:

  • advise and support Defra on developing and implementing an effective and efficient strategy for obtaining and using evidence and scientific advice
  • advise on and provide assurance on the process for evidence gathering
  • provide strategic oversight and assurance on how evidence is used in policy, providing targeted support where necessary
  • provide constructive challenge on Defra’s evidence
  • identify sources of additional expert external advice to input to Defra evidence

At the beginning of each reporting year (April), the SAC Chair and CSA will agree the key tasks/outcomes that the SAC will undertake to meet these objectives for the following year. This tasks/outcome document will be maintained under review throughout the year.

Responsibility for the Council

The Science Minister will act as the lead Minister overseeing SACs work; and will meet the SAC Chair twice a year.

SAC will report to the CSA on a routine working basis, who in turn will report to the Defra Board on SAC activities. In addition, the CSA will report annually to the Network Executive Committee and to the Government CSA on SAC’s work, results and performance.

Role of the Council in an emergency situation

In the event of an emergency, the Council will act in accordance with Cabinet Office guidance on Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE). The role of the Council in an emergency situation is defined in a separate document (found on the SAC website), which is reviewed after each emergency situation and updated as necessary.

Ways of Working

The Defra SAC operates in accordance with the Government Office for Science’s Code of Practice on Scientific Advisory Committees. The Defra SAC Handbook provides specific details on the SAC’s ways of working including (but not limited to):

  • responsibilities of the Chair and Members
  • register of interests, and conflicts of interest
  • information about liability of members
  • appointments and membership
  • the role of the Council Secretariat
  • sub-group formation and role
  • communications (with media, public and Ministers)
  • how SAC outputs are formulated and presented