Announcements (Archive)

Economic and Social Research Council, Executive Chair

Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)
Appointing Department
Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
Business, Finance & Skills, Health and Social Care, Science & Technology
Number of Vacancies
£120K with Performance Related Pay of up to 10% (with scope to negotiate up to £149K base salary for an exceptional candidate)
Time Requirements
Full Time (However, this role could be reduced to four days a week to allow research activity to be maintained.)

Campaign Timeline

  1. Competition Launched


  2. Closed for Applications

    12/09/2022 at 00:00

  3. Panel Sift


  4. Final Interview Date


  5. Announcement



An announcement has been made on the outcome of this appointment.

Stian Westlake has been appointed as Executive Chair of ESRC for a term of up to six years.

Date: 22/02/2023

Assessment Panel

Panel Member
Alexandra Jones
Panel Role
Panel Chair
Director, Science, Research & Innovation, BEIS Departmental Official
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Political Activity-
Panel Member
Dame Ottoline Leyser
CEO, UKRI Representative of Organisation
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Political Activity-
Panel Member
Gerard Lyons
Independent Member
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Political Activity-
Panel Member
Lord David Willets
Representative of Organisation
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Political Activity-

Vacancy Description

About UKRI and ESRC

All the key opportunities and challenges for the UK have people and behaviour at their core. Responding to the COVID 19 pandemic and its aftermath, raising productivity, realising the full potential of medical and technological advances, coping with an ageing population, addressing climate change and improving public services; all require a rich understanding of how individuals, firms, markets, communities and governments behave and interact.

ESRC, as the UK’s largest funder of economic, social, behavioural and human data science, supports social science that generates this rich understanding. Its focus is on creating a world leading portfolio of research, data and training that builds fundamental understanding of our social and economic world, and on improving how we align this research with pressing societal challenges in order that it delivers significant benefits to the economy and society.

The ESRC is an integral part of UKRI alongside the other six Research Councils, Research England and Innovate UK. This facilitates the closest possible collaboration across the whole breadth of UK’s research and innovation activity, allowing completely new integrated ways of working to thrive. UKRI is led by Dame Ottoline Leyser as CEO and overseen by an influential independent Chair and Board. It is funded by UK taxpayers via the Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy. The successful applicant will be accountable to the Board and CEO, have access to Ministers and will be selected by the Secretary of State for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy.

The Role

We are seeking an outstanding leader for the Economic and Social Research Council who will build and enhance its worldwide reputation for excellence in economic and social sciences research and oversee its investments in research centres and infrastructure. This is a uniquely exciting opportunity to shape the future profile of economic and social sciences research in the UK and help to develop and train the researchers of the future.

As Executive Chair of ESRC, you will have responsibility for an annual core budget of over £180m alongside cross UKRI funds and lead circa 210 dedicated staff based across Swindon and London. The Executive Chair, working with the ESRC Council members, is responsible for setting and implementing the strategic vision for ESRC and through this, shaping UKRI’s direction and position on the social sciences. As a visible and credible leader of both ESRC and the wider social science research community, you will provide direction ensuring delivery of world class research, innovation, skills development and infrastructure investment. You will be closely involved in the wider leadership and decision making of UKRI and have the opportunity to lead on one or more major cross cutting themes for UKRI.

The Responsibilities

  • As a member of the Executive Committee, work with the UKRI Board to deliver best value from the science and innovation funding system and contribute to the development and implementation of the overall UKRI Strategy;
  • Act to ensure UKRI is a strong, unified voice for research and innovation, in facilitating dialogue with key stakeholders including government and with partners on the world stage;
  • Enhance ESRC’s capability as a major contributor to world leading research in the social sciences both nationally and internationally;
  • Work to ensure the linkage of research to innovation, i.e. by supporting the innovation work of other UKRI Councils but also more widely to support the sector in working closer to the market and with businesses;
  • Lead ESRC in the successful pursuit of its objectives providing the inclusive vision necessary to maintain and develop the quality and outputs of its research, postgraduate and capital investment portfolio, ensuring routes to innovation where appropriate;
  • Work with the Senior Independent Member and ESRC Council to lead and develop ESRC’s strategic approach to the funding of research and alignment with innovation, in relation to both directed and responsive mode programmes, to the funding of postgraduate/skills training and its investment in major longer term capital projects; and to ensure that the UK develops its world leading position in economics and social science;
  • Work collaboratively across UKRI to foster interdisciplinary work and build on collective capabilities, ensuring cross-Council working, links through to innovation where appropriate and providing support and challenge when required. This is likely to include specific responsibility for the strategy and delivery of one or more cross-cutting activities, presenting opportunities for the Executive Chair to develop UKRI functions within their experience and expertise that support the work of all of the councils;
  • Maximise efficiency and ensure value for money from public investment;
  • Represent and develop positive relationships between the ESRC and its diverse stakeholders in government and public funding agencies, higher education institutions, academic and research communities, third sector, industry and the public at large and internationally; and advocate for the value of the economic and social sciences; and
  • As a core member of the senior leadership team, continue to drive forward the ongoing programme of transformational change to build UKRI and its capabilities as a steward of the research and innovation system, led by and accountable to the UKRI CEO.

Person Specification

Essential Criteria

Strategy skills

  • A commitment to demonstrate and maximise the economic and societal value of UK social and economic research, and
  • An ability to develop a clear and transformative strategic vision for ESRC’s disciplines through the development of high quality programmes that maximise value for money

Sector leadership and stakeholder management

  • A credible leader with acknowledged experience in the application of social and economic science and research.
  • A good communicator able to command confidence and have credibility across both the wide academic domain of ESRC and stakeholder landscape including with Government Ministers, world class social science and industry;

Management and corporate leadership

  • Demonstrable capability as a senior leader and manager, able to deliver research and innovation results;
  • An ability to advise on major business developments that impact on the Council’s role or activities and on its exposure to, and management of, risk;
  • Ability to manage and build the capability of a diverse cadre of skilled employees and programme managers and able to inspire and motivate colleagues throughout the organisation

Partnering and impact

  • Capable of a collegiate approach across UKRI, working with peers on the Executive Committee to deliver against a shared strategy for innovation and research;
  • Expertise and credibility in communicating the insights from social science and turning them into impact

Desirable criteria:

  • Commitment and ability to drive interdisciplinary working and advance links to innovation and public policy

Additional Information

This is a Public Appointment, made by the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and regulated by the Commissioner for Public Appointments. The post holder will be an office holder and an employee of UKRI.

The successful candidate will be encouraged to take up their appointment as soon as possible, following the successful completion of pre-appointment checks and security clearance.

If you are shortlisted for the role, due diligence will be carried out.

Shortlisted candidates may also be required to complete a written exercise as part of their assessment. The written exercise will be assessed against the essential criteria for this campaign and support will be offered to those candidates requiring a reasonable adjustment.

Interviews will be held in person at UKRI’s office in Central London.

This appointment is subject to pre-appointment scrutiny by the Science and Technology Select Committee. Pre-appointment scrutiny is an important part of the appointment process for some of the most significant public appointments made by Ministers. It is designed to provide an added level of scrutiny to verify that the recruitment meets the principles set out in the Governance Code on Public Appointments.

Information concerning the appointment and the Government’s preferred candidate will be shared with the relevant select committee. As part of this process you will need to be content for your name and your CV to be shared with the Science and Technology Select Committee as the Government’s preferred candidate.

Further information can be found in the applicant pack.

How to Apply

Your application is submitted in two parts.

Both parts must be submitted by 23:59 on 12 August 2022 in order for your application to be considered complete. Applications received after this date will not be considered.

Part one: CV and Statement of Suitability

One document combining a two-page statement of suitability and two-page CV (no more than four sides of A4 in total). (no more than four sides of A4 in total). The key to a good application is to give the reader specific information about how you meet the criteria for appointment. Think about your knowledge, skills, experience and personal attributes, and take full advantage of the space available. Provide practical evidence that best demonstrates how you meet the essential criteria

Save the document as ‘Surname, First initial URN553 ESRC, Exec Chair.

Send to with URN553 ESRC, Exec Chair in the subject heading.

Part two: Diversity Monitoring and Conflict of Interest Form. Please click here to complete this form.