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New science advisory council for DEFRACentral Government

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Ministers have appointed a new body to give expert and independent advice on science policy and strategy to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

The 12-strong Science Advisory Council will help guide Defra's scientific priorities and work, including horizon-scanning and long-range planning as well as dealing with immediate risks and opportunities. The first meeting of the Council is likely to take place in March/April. Much of the work of the Council will be carried out through sub-groups.

Defra spends more than 300million a year on science and research underpinning a broad range of policies including environmental protection, farming and food, animal and plant health, and sustainable energy.

The Science Advisory Council will be chaired by Professor Roy Anderson FRS, Head of Infectious Disease Epidemiology at Imperial College, London.

Professor Sir John Marsh CBE, Governor of the Scottish Crop Research Institute and the Royal Agricultural College, and President of the British Institute of Agricultural Consultants, will be Vice-Chair. A full list of members is attached.

Defra Minister Lord Whitty said:

"The new Council is made up of people who are highly distinguished in their own fields and who will help us to improve the quality and direction of our science, and bolster our efforts to achieve a better quality of life for everyone.

"They will help us to think ahead more effectively, and to widen the range of advice we get from the best sources. They will be challenging too, ensuring that we live up to our desire for greater openness and engagement with the scientific community."

Howard Dalton, Defra's Chief Scientific Adviser, said:

"The SAC will be an important source of cross-cutting advice to me, helping Defra to anticipate and prepare for new risks and opportunities so that future policies and strategies are even better informed by sound science."

"The Council will also help to raise the profile of our science, and play its part in increasing trust and confidence among professionals and the public as a whole.

The SAC replaces the interim Science Advisory Group and will be a small high-level body providing strategic advice to the Chief Scientific Adviser (CSA) and Ministers on all of Defra's science activities. The SAC is an independent non-departmental public body, established in accordance with the Office of the Commissioner for Public Appointments Code of Practice and in line with the Nolan Principles of Public Life guidance.

The remit of the SAC will be to provide advice to the CSA and through him to Ministers on:

- the strategic direction of, and priorities for, Departmental science; the balance, relevance and adequacy of science activities supporting Departmental objectives; broad strategic issues, priorities and policies from a science perspective; and pressing science issues facing Defra.

- emerging challenges and opportunities, develop possible responses, and participate in horizon-scanning and long-range planning exercises.

- and act as an important source of advice to the CSA on national emergencies in Defra's areas of responsibility.

The SAC members are:
Prof Roy Anderson (Chair); Prof Sir John Marsh (Vice-chair); Anna Bradley, Consumer Director, Financial Services Authority; Prof Christopher Gaskell, Professor of Small Animal Studies and Pro-Vice Chancellor, Liverpool University; Prof Thomas Meagher, Professor of Plant Biology, St Andrew's University; Prof Richard Mithen, Head of Plant Food for Health, Institute for Food Research; Prof John Shepherd, Professor of Marine Sciences, Southampton University; Dr Andrew Stirling, Senior Lecturer and Research Fellow, Sussex University; Prof Alan Thorpe, Director, NERC Centres for Atmospheric Science, Reading University; Prof Jeffrey Waage, Head of Agricultural Sciences, Imperial College; Prof Mark Woolhouse, Director, Centre for Infectious Diseases, Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, Edinburgh University; Prof Philip Lowe, Director, Rural Economy and Land Use Programme of the UK Research Councils.

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