Role details

Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment (ACRE) – Scientific Expert Members

Application deadline 26 April 2024

Summary

Organisation
OSPAR commission
Sponsor department
Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs
Location
Various
Sectors
Environment, Agriculture & Fishing
Skills
Audit and Risk, Communication, Regulation
Number of vacancies
3
Time commitment
3 meeting(s) per annum
Remuneration
£173 per day
Length of term
3 Years
Application deadline
Midday on 26 April 2024

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Timeline for this appointment

  1. Opening date

    27 March 2024

  2. Application deadline

    Midday on 26 April 2024

  3. Sifting date

    22 May 2024

  4. Interviews expected to end on

    27 June 2024

Timeline dates are only an estimate and can change

About the role

Introduction

ACRE is a non-departmental public body (NDPB) composed of leading scientists. It is sponsored by the Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs. ACRE provides statutory advice to the UK Government, and the Devolved Administrations of Northern Ireland, Wales, and Scotland on the potential risks to human health and the environment from the release of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) for research or marketing purposes. ACRE also has a role in evaluating new research findings and any science-based GM matter, as well as providing advice on releasing non-native animals and plants into the environment as bio-control agents.

Introduction from the Secretary of State

Dear Candidate

Thank you for your interest in becoming a member of the Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment (ACRE).

ACRE provides a vital function in advising the UK Government, and the countries of Northern Ireland, Wales, and Scotland on the potential risks to human health and the environment from the release of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) for research and marketing.

ACRE needs excellent people to help it achieve its vital work in providing statutory advice on GM trial applications and evaluating new research findings.

We are currently seeking expertise in three areas. We are looking for people with a proven track record of achievement in research and expertise in each of them. The three areas are:  

   i. Veterinary medicine: in particular, biotechnology-derived veterinary medicinal products and vaccines;  

  ii. Molecular biology: in particular biotechnology; 

  iii. Environmental biology: broad expertise in environmental microbiology, particularly in the context of molecular plant-soil-microbe interactions and   biotechnology applications.  

If you have the background and skills we are currently seeking, then I very much encourage you to apply.  

Mark Spencer 

Minister of State for Food, Farming and Fisheries

Role description

ACRE is a non-departmental public body (NDPB) composed of leading scientists. It is sponsored by the Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs.

ACRE provides statutory advice to the UK Government, and the Devolved Governments of Northern Ireland, Wales, and Scotland on the potential risks to human health and the environment from the release of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) for research or marketing purposes. ACRE also has a role in evaluating new research findings and any science-based GM matter, as well as providing advice on releasing non-native animals and plants into the environment as bio-control agents.

The aims, and responsibilities of the Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment are to:

  • advise the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Scottish and Welsh Ministers, and other bodies as appropriate, on the exercise of powers under Part VI of the Environmental Protection Act 1990; 
  • advise Ministers, and other bodies as appropriate, on releases into the environment of Great Britain of animals and plants covered by sections 14 and 16 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981; 
  • advise the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, (Northern Ireland) on releases of GMOs into the Northern Ireland environment for the purposes of the Genetically Modified Organisms (Deliberate Release) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1994; 
  • provide as requested by Ministers, scientific advice on GMOs, including advice to the Health and Safety Executive in respect of the human health aspects of releases to the environment;  
  • advise Ministers, and other bodies as appropriate, on research needs.

A NDPB has a role in the processes of national government, but is not a government department, or part of one. NDPBs operate, to a greater or lesser extent, independently of Government Ministers.

NDPBs have different roles. ACRE’s role as an NDPB is to advise Ministers, and other bodies that carry out regulatory functions. ACRE works within the strategic framework set by Ministers, and in accordance with appropriate legislation

As a member, you will contribute to ACRE’s overall effectiveness, and support the Committee as a whole in fulfilling its statutory functions and conducting its affairs with probity. You will take personal responsibility for helping ACRE deliver its objectives, achieve value for money, and deliver high standards of regularity and propriety.   

 As a member you will be responsible for:   

  • contributing to a cohesive and focused Committee issuing advice to, Government, and other Bodies; 
  • meeting statutory duties and deadlines;  
  • taking proper account of evidence in reaching decisions;  
  • delivering high standards of propriety, contributing efficiently and effectively and conduct ACRE business in an open and transparent manner.  

The successful candidate must abide by the Nolan Principles of Public Life, the Code of conduct for board members of public bodies and the Code of Practice for Scientific Committees

Regulation of appointment

This post is regulated by the Commissioner for Public Appointments. For more information, please refer to the Commissioner’s website 

Person specification

Essential criteria

We are looking to recruit high-calibre applicants from a range of diverse backgrounds who can discharge the full range of Committee responsibilities.

We are looking to recruit 3 members to ACRE. Candidates must demonstrate the general essential criteria outlined below, and one of the specific areas of expertise. Your expertise will be applied to the formulation of ACRE advice, particularly on the potential risks to human health and the environment posed by the use of GM products in research trials or in commercial use, and non-native species used as bio-control agents.   

The following general essential criteria applies to all 3 roles:

  • the ability to assimilate complex information and participate fully in Committee deliberations, including offering contributions and challenges outside the area of your main expertise; 
  • possess strong analytical skills and the capacity to examine issues and evidence relevant to GMO safety considerations, in an impartial way, with the ability to apply this when ACRE is assessing applications to use GMOs; 
  • effective interpersonal and communication skills, demonstrating an ability to work collaboratively and identify key issues and communicate conclusions to a non-specialist audience, if necessary. 
  • skills in risk assessment, or an ability to develop these skills, in order to help ACRE advise on the potential environmental risks (including risks to human health) associated with the use of GMO products in research trials and commercial use. 

Specific areas of expertise are being sought as follows:

Post 1 – veterinary medicine: 

A proven track record of achievement in research and expertise relating to veterinary medicine, in particular, biotechnology-derived veterinary medicinal products and vaccines. 

Post 2 – molecular biology

A proven track record of achievement in research and expertise relating to molecular biology and biotechnology.

Post 3 – environmental microbiology 

A proven track record of achievement in research and broad expertise in environmental microbiology, particularly in the context of molecular plant-soil-microbe interactions and biotechnology applications.

Application and selection process

How to apply

To apply you will need to create an account or sign in to “Apply for Public Appointment Service” on gov.uk by the deadline of midday on 26 April 2024 quoting reference APPT04-24. Once logged onto your account, click on ‘apply for this role’ and follow the on-screen instructions. 

To apply, all candidates are required to submit:  

  • A CV of no more than two sides of A4, with the names and email addresses of two referees,  
  • A supporting statement of suitability of no more than 1,000 words, setting out how you meet the essential criteria and the and the area of expertise you are applying for,  
  • Equality information, and  
  • information relating to any outside interests or reputational issues, real or perceived, relevant to the work of ACRE.

Overview of the application process

Public appointments are made on merit following a fair and open competition process which is conducted in accordance with the Governance Code for Public Appointments. We will deal with your application as quickly as possible and will keep you informed at key stages. We aim to conclude the appointment process within three months of the deadline for applications – this is in accordance with the Governance Code.

The assessment process

  1. Ministers are responsible and accountable to Parliament for the public appointments made within their department. As a result, they must be consulted at every stage of the appointments process.

  2. An Advisory Assessment Panel (“Panel”) is appointed by Ministers to assist them in their decision making. The role of the Panel is to decide, objectively, which candidates meet the eligibility criteria for the role.

  3. At the shortlisting meeting the Panel will assess applications against the eligibility criteria and decide which candidates have best met the criteria, who should be recommended for interview. Ministers will then be consulted on the Panel’s recommended shortlist. If you have applied under the Disability Confident Scheme and you meet all the essential criteria, then you will also be invited for an interview.

  4. Once the shortlist has been agreed by Ministers, you will be advised (by e-mail) whether you have been shortlisted. Those shortlisted will be invited to an interview.

  5. The Panel will meet again to interview candidates and determine who is appointable to the role. The Panel may invite you to make a brief presentation at the start of the interview and will go on to question you about your skills and experience, including asking specific questions to assess whether you meet the criteria set out for the post. The Panel will also explore with you any potential conflicts of interest or any other issues arising from your personal and professional history which may impact on an appointment decision.

  6. Details of the panel’s assessment of interviewed candidates are provided to Ministers, including whether they have judged a candidate to be appointable to the role. It is then for Ministers to determine merit and decide who should be appointed. In some circumstances, Ministers may choose not to appoint any candidates and re-run the competition.

  7. Ministers may choose to meet with candidates before deciding the outcome. Candidates should therefore be prepared for a short time gap between interview and a final appointment decision being made. Candidates who have been interviewed will be kept informed of progress.

  8. Once the decision on the appointment has been made, interviewed candidates will be advised of the outcome of their application, including whom they may approach for feedback. Successful candidates will be issued with their Terms & Conditions and a letter of appointment should they agree to take up the position.

Further information about appointments, including tips on applying, can be found on our guidance pages on gov.uk.

Advisory Assessment Panel (AAP)


Dr Lucy Foster - Agri-Food Science Lead - Departmental Official – Panel Chair


Professor Jim Dunwell - Chair of ACRE Committee - Representative of ACRE


Professor Sallie Bailey - Deputy Chief Scientific Advisor (Scottish Government) - Other Panel Member


Dr Tim Riley - Livestock Farmer and Non-Executive Director on the Board of the Food Standards Agency and a member of the Defra UK Genetics for livestock and Equines (UKGLE) Committee - Senior Independent Panel Member


Advisory Assessment Panels (AAP) are chosen by ministers to assist them in their decision-making. These include a departmental official and an independent member. For competitions recruiting non-executive members of a board (apart from the Chair), the panel will usually include a representative from the public body concerned.
AAP’s perform a number of functions, including agreeing an assessment strategy with ministers, undertaking sifting, carrying out interviews in line with the advertised criteria and deciding objectively who meets the published selection criteria for the role before recommending to ministers which candidates they find appointable. It is then for the minister to decide who to appoint to the role.

Eligibility criteria

In general, you should have the right to work in the UK to be eligible to apply for a public appointment.

There are a small number of specialist roles that are not open to non-British citizens. Any nationality requirements will be specified in the vacancy details.

The Government expects all holders of public office to work to the highest personal and professional standards. 

You cannot be considered for a public appointment if:

  • you are disqualified from acting as a company director  (under the Company Directors Disqualification Act 1986);

  • have an unspent conviction on your criminal record;

  • your estate has been sequestrated in Scotland or you enter into a debt arrangement programme under Part 1 of the Debt Arrangement and Attachment (Scotland) Act 2002 (asp 17) as the debtor or have, under Scots law, granted a trust deed for creditors.

When you apply, you should declare if:

  • you are, or have been, bankrupt or you have made an arrangement with a creditor at any point, including the dates of this. 

  • you are subject to a current police investigation.

You must inform the sponsor department if, during the application process, your circumstances change in respect of any of the above points. 

When you apply you should also declare any relevant interests, highlighting any that you think may call into question your ability to properly discharge the responsibilities of the role you are applying for. You should also declare any other matters which may mean you may not be able to meet the requirements of the Code of Conduct of Board Members (see Outside interests and reputational issues section below)
If you need further advice, please contact  ACRE.Secretariat@defra.gov.uk

Security clearance

The successful candidate will be required to undertake Baseline Personnel Security Standard checks in line with the Civil Service guidelines. Additional Security Clearance may also be required for certain roles. However, where this applies, candidates will be notified during the appointment process. Further information on National Security Vetting can be found on the Gov.uk website here.

Additional information for candidates

Equality and diversity

We encourage applications from talented individuals from all backgrounds and across the whole of the United Kingdom. Boards of public bodies are most effective when they reflect the diversity of views of the society they serve and this is an important part of the Government’s levelling up agenda.
We collect data about applicants’ characteristics and backgrounds, including information about people’s educational and professional backgrounds, so that we can make sure we are attracting a broad range of people to these roles and that our selection processes are fair for everyone. Without this information, it makes it difficult to see if our outreach is working, if the application process is having an unfair impact on certain groups and whether changes are making a positive difference.
When you submit your application, your responses are collected by the Cabinet Office and the government department(s) managing your application. The data is used to produce management information about the diversity of applicants. You can select “prefer not to say” to any question you do not wish to answer. The information you provide will not be seen by the Advisory Assessment Panel who review applications against the advertised criteria and conduct interviews.

Disability confident

We are a member of the Government’s Disability Confident scheme. We use the Disability Confident scheme symbol, along with other like-minded employers, to show our commitment to good practice in employing people with a disability. The scheme helps recruit and retain disabled people. As part of implementing the scheme, we guarantee an interview for anyone with a disability whose application meets the essential criteria for the role, set out in the advert, and who has asked that their application is considered under the scheme. Indicating that you wish your application to be considered under the scheme will in no way prejudice your application. By ‘essential criteria', we mean that you must provide evidence which demonstrates that you meet the level of competence required under each of the essential criteria, as set out in the job-advert. When you apply you will have the opportunity to select if you would like your application considered under this scheme.

Reasonable adjustments

We are committed to making reasonable adjustments to make sure applicants with disabilities, physical or mental health conditions, or other needs are not substantially disadvantaged when applying for public appointments. This can include changing the recruitment process to enable people who wish to apply to do so.
When you apply you will have the opportunity to request reasonable adjustments to the application process.

Principles of public life

The Seven Principles of Public Life (also known as the Nolan Principles) apply to anyone who works as a public office-holder.
1. Selflessness
Holders of public office should act solely in terms of the public interest.
2. Integrity
Holders of public office must avoid placing themselves under any obligation to people or organisations that might try inappropriately to influence them in their work. They should not act or take decisions in order to gain financial or other material benefits for themselves, their family, or their friends. They must declare and resolve any interests and relationships.
3. Objectivity
Holders of public office must act and take decisions impartially, fairly and on merit, using the best evidence and without discrimination or bias.
4. Accountability
Holders of public office are accountable to the public for their decisions and actions and must submit themselves to the scrutiny necessary to ensure this.
5. Openness
Holders of public office should act and take decisions in an open and transparent manner. Information should not be withheld from the public unless there are clear and lawful reasons for so doing.
6. Honesty
Holders of public office should be truthful.
7. Leadership
Holders of public office should exhibit these principles in their own behaviour and treat others with respect. They should actively promote and robustly support the principles and challenge poor behaviour wherever it occurs.

Code of conduct for board members

The Government expects all holders of public office to work to the highest personal and professional standards. In support of this, all non-executive board members of UK public bodies must abide by the principles set out in the Code of Conduct for Board Members of Public Bodies. The Code sets out the standards expected from those who serve on the boards of UK public bodies and will form part of your terms and conditions of appointment.

Management of outside interests and consideration of reputational issues

Holders of public office are expected to adhere and uphold the Seven Principles of Public Life and the Code of Conduct for Board Members of Public Bodies. Before you apply you should consider carefully: 
  • any outside interests that you may have, such as shares you may hold in a company providing services to government; 
  • any possible reputational issues arising from your past actions or public statements that you have made; 
  • and/or - any political roles you hold or political campaigns you have supported; 
which may call into question your ability to do the role you are applying for.
You will need to answer relevant questions in relation to these points when making an application. Many conflicts of interest can be satisfactorily resolved and declaring a potential conflict does not prevent you from being interviewed. If you are shortlisted for an interview, the panel will discuss any potential conflicts with you during that interview, including any proposals you may have to mitigate them and record that in their advice to ministers. Alongside your own declaration, we will conduct appropriate checks, as part of which we will consider anything in the public domain related to your conduct or professional capacity. This may include searches of previous public statements and social media, blogs or any other publicly available information. The successful candidate(s) may be required to give up any conflicting interests and their other business and financial interests may be published in line with organisational policies. 
Details of declared political activity will be published when the appointment is announced, as required by the Governance Code (political activity is not a bar to appointment, but must be declared).

Status of appointment

As this is an office holder appointment, you will not become a member of the Civil Service. You will not be subject to the provisions of employment law.

Appointment and tenure of office

Appointments are for the term set out in this advert, with the possibility of re-appointment for a further term, at the discretion of Ministers.  Any re-appointment is subject to satisfactory annual appraisals of performance during the first term in the post. There is no automatic presumption of reappointment; each case should be considered on its own merits, taking into account a number of factors including, but not restricted to, the diversity of the current board and its balance of skills and experience. In most cases, the total time served in post will not exceed more than two terms or ten years in any one post. 

Remuneration, allowances and abatement

Remuneration for this role is treated as employment income and will be subject to tax and National Insurance contributions, both of which will be deducted at source under PAYE before you are paid. 
Members are entitled to claim remuneration and all reasonable travel and subsistence expenses

Pension and redundancy

This is an office holder appointment and does not attract any benefits under any Civil Service Pension Scheme. You will not be eligible for redundancy pay as you are not an employee. No other arrangements have been made for compensation upon the end of your term of appointment because an office holder who is appointed for a limited duration would have no expectation of serving beyond that period.

Application feedback

We will notify you of the status of your application. We regret that we are only able to offer detailed feedback to candidates who have been unsuccessful at the interview stage.

How to complain

We aim to process all applications as quickly as possible and to treat all applicants with courtesy.
Please contact the ACRE.Secretariat@defra.gov.uk if you would like to make a complaint regarding your application. They will acknowledge your complaint upon receipt and respond within 15 working days.

How to complain to Office of the Commissioner for Public Appointments (OCPA)

If you are not content with the appointing department’s response you may wish to further complain to the Commissioner at publicappointments@csc.gov.uk.Further information on how the Commissioner handles complaints can be found on the Commissioner for Public Appointments’ website https://publicappointmentscommissioner.independent.gov.uk/regulating-appointments/investigating-complaints/

Data protection

The Cabinet Office will use your data in line with our privacy policy.

Contact details

Applications are invited for three scientific experts to join the Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment. If you have any questions about the appointments process, please email the Public Appointments Team PublicAppts@defra.gov.uk 

For an informal discussion about the role please email the ACRE Secretariat ACRE.Secretariat@defra.gov.uk

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