Strategic Advisory Network

The Strategic Advisory Network (SAN) provides the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) executive with advice and guidance on EPSRC policy development at a cross-cutting level, and makes appropriate recommendations to EPSRC Council. The SAN is a flexible resource, enabling the executive to obtain the advice it needs in a timely manner, drawing on a range of perspectives from across our key stakeholder groups including academia, business, third sector and government.

The SAN was established in June 2011, replacing the previous advisory bodies of the technical opportunities, user, and societal issues panels.

Terms of reference

Vision and purpose

The strategic advisory network exists to draw on diverse perspectives to provide credible advice and strategic insight into EPSRC policy development at a cross-cutting level.

It is expected to:

  • provide advice in helping EPSRC to develop new cross-cutting strategies
  • provide an appropriate environment for testing new ideas
  • provide a means of two-way dialogue with the research and user communities on topical issues, including EPSRC strategy.

Membership

SAN members are drawn from across EPSRC’s stakeholder groups, reflecting a diverse mix of characteristics and backgrounds. They are expected to bring a broad strategic view and to act as ‘generous generalists’, providing advice across the breadth of its portfolio. Members are not required to act as representatives of their own organisation, research area or sector, but are expected to adhere to the seven principles of public life.

Membership of the SAN is usually for four years, with extensions at the discretion of the executive. To ensure maximum flexibility and long-term continuity across the membership of the SAN, some members may serve for less than four years.

The network comprises around 30 individuals from EPSRC’s stakeholder groupings. They are usually deployed in subsets called work streams, brought together to address specific questions on which the executive requires advice, or to explore and test new strategies and policies as they are developed. All the members are brought together for an annual meeting.

Current members

  • Claire Adjiman
  • Paula Booth
  • Veronica Bowman
  • Alison Burdett
  • Edmund Burke
  • Samantha Chadwick
  • Jonathan Cooper
  • Andy Crabtree
  • Jonathan Dawes
  • Michael Fisher
  • Steven Harris
  • Gareth Jenkins
  • Matthew Juniper
  • Tony Kenyon
  • Trevor Linney
  • Mercedes Maroto-Valer
  • Francesca Medda
  • Paul Meredith
  • Alan Newby
  • Awais Rashid
  • Nia Roberts
  • Peter Robertson
  • Mary Ryan
  • Ifor Samuel
  • Tim Softley
  • John Stairmand
  • Danaë Stanton Fraser
  • Krasimira Tsaneva-Atanasova
  • Su Varma
  • Ceri Williams
  • Julie Yeomans

Declarations of interests

Members are required to declare any personal, private or commercial interests that might conflict with the interests of the EPSRC, and must withdraw from any discussion of topics in which they have such an interest.

Declarations of interest for EPSRC’s strategic advisory network.

Recruitment

Recruitment for the SAN is carried out every two years through an open call for applications. Based on the competencies and characteristics required for the role, detailed in the SAN person specification, the executive identifies those it might wish to appoint. The Appointments Assurance Committee (AAC) has oversight of all appointments of EPSRC’s strategic advisers, including the SAN. This committee considers and reviews the executive’s proposals and the rationale for these recommendations, challenging as appropriate, and reviews the appropriateness of the recruitment process. The AAC is ultimately responsible for confirming and ratifying appointments.

16 new members were recruited to the strategic advisory network in April 2021.

The next recruitment exercise for members will commence in autumn 2023.

Operation

The members of the strategic advisory network are usually deployed in subsets, brought together to address specific questions on which the executive requires advice, or to explore and test new strategies and policies as they are developed. The size of each subset varies according to need, but, typically, there are six members per group.

Each of the SAN’s individual activities or work streams is framed by a specification setting out the context, the desired outcomes, and how the outcome will be used.

For each advisory work stream, a subset of SAN is convened which comprises a range of perspectives from across the representative stakeholder groupings. The executive selects subset membership on the basis of the topic or issue in question. Occasionally, the executive brings in additional, external expertise if it is not available from within the current SAN membership. A member of council or a SAN member acts as chair for each work stream.

A briefing is provided for the members of each work stream at the outset of the task. This could include opportunities to pre-review and scope the task through online forums. The members are informed about the levels of confidentiality applying to the task on a case by case basis. Once the scope has been discussed and agreed, the members are asked to consider if any additional expertise might need to be co-opted to the subset.

SAN members are expected to commit between four and ten days to SAN work per year. Every effort is made to support remote participation in SAN activities where appropriate, and part-time working may be considered. Support is also available to researchers with caring responsibilities.

Members are paid a fee for each activity they are involved with and, when attending meetings in person, are reimbursed for travel and subsistence expenses in line with our policy.

Quality assurance

EPSRC relies on the quality of the strategic advice it receives. This provides an external check on the development of EPSRC’s direction and plans. A council member or SAN member is assigned as chair of each work stream, primarily to oversee these aspects and to ensure that the reported outcomes accurately reflect the nature of the advice received. The advisory function of the SAN is separate from the:

  • responsibility for decisions made by the executive and by council
  • independent peer review processes managed by EPSRC.

Expectations

The executive endeavours to:

  • identify advisory work streams ahead of need, providing enough notice to facilitate planning arrangements, including diary management
  • provide a clear specification for each advisory work stream
  • provide information so that SAN members are adequately briefed and can contribute meaningfully
  • provide forums and tools for members to provide appropriate, high-quality strategic advice
  • maintain members’ knowledge of SAN activities and EPSRC strategic thinking and direction by ensuring the flow of information from each council meeting and through at least one annual meeting of the whole SAN
  • be clear about the information SAN members can share more widely and that which is provided in confidence
  • inform members about the outcome of their advice and how it will be used and, in particular, explain the rationale where the advice has not been followed
  • make public the notes of work stream meetings.

The members of the SAN endeavour to:

  • act within the seven principles of public life, in particular to provide independent, informed advice avoiding actual or perceived conflicts of interest, and to take a collegiate approach to policy and strategy development
  • bring a broad strategic view and act as ‘generous generalists’, advising across the breadth of EPSRC’s portfolio
  • constructively challenge or validate EPSRC’s perspectives, drawing on the available evidence and their own experiences
  • take individual and collective ownership of the advice they provide whilst recognising the separation of that advice from responsibility for the decisions made (which rests with the executive)
  • work flexibly with EPSRC and other EPSRC advisory groups, making themselves available to participate in subgroups, SAN work streams (task and finish groups), workshops and pre-activity briefings, subject to receiving sufficient notice.

They are also expected to use their profile as SAN members to sustain two-way communications with and between their respective stakeholder communities and, where appropriate, with decision-makers. For example:

  • gathering intelligence that can be brought to bear in policy development
  • explaining EPSRC policies to the community
  • advocating on specific issues on behalf of the engineering and physical sciences
  • attending the annual meeting of the SAN.

Last updated: 19 May 2022

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