Research and Development Fellowships


Based in one of Defra’s core hubs: Bristol, London, Newcastle, York (with expectation of attendance at least 60%).

Contract Type
Short-term appointment, of up to 12 months, to be completed by 30th March 2025

HEO National: £30,317; HEO London: £33,827; SEO National: £37,295; SEO London: £40,262. These fellowships may be eligible for a non-pensionable, non-consolidated Specialist Skills Supplement of £3,000 per annum (pro rata as appropriate).

Closing Date
8 January 2024

More info

About the Fellowship Programme:

Defra is here to make our air purer, our water cleaner, our land greener and our food more sustainable. The importance of our work, and the importance of science and analysis to inform that work, has never been greater.

We’re delighted to launch the first Defra R&D Fellowship Programme for Defra, championed by our Chief Scientific Adviser, Professor Gideon Henderson. This programme provides an opportunity for researchers to gain experience in a policy or operational focused environment.

Our Defra R&D Fellows will use their scientific or analytical skills to work alongside Defra policy and evidence teams on a range of priority and strategic policy issues.

Some examples of these Defra policy issues include:

  • Animal and Plant Health – pathogen surveillance and disease control, animal welfare, woodland management, tree health
  • Biodiversity – landscape resilience, intersections between biodiversity, climate and poverty
  • Environment and Net Zero – water quality, environmental monitoring and reporting, emission reduction
  • Food and Farming – soil pollution, land management, horticulture, food supply chain, genetic improvement, fertilisers, paludiculture
  • Marine and Fisheries – marine conservation zones, land-sea interface, fisheries management, marine litter
  • Resources and Waste – circular economy data observatory and textiles focus
  • Systems, Innovation and Futures – novel Earth Observations technology, ecological modelling, innovation, behavioural insights, economic growth

Research and innovation are critical for government’s work to reduce risk to the UK, to achieve positive societal, environmental and economic outcomes, and to inform policy. These R&D Fellows will work alongside Defra’s existing staff of scientists and analysts who work to bring relevant and recent research into government activity. They offer an opportunity to experience working at the science-to-policy interface while helping to address some of the most pressing challenges faced by society today.

Fellows will join us as short-term appointments in Defra, for up to 1 year, with salary costs provided by Defra. We aim to onboard most Fellows as a cohort by 1st April 2024, but we can offer flexibility about start date and duration on a case-by-case basis. Our Fellowship contracts will end before 30th March 2025.

By participating in the Defra R&D Fellowship programme, you will gain skills and experience in project delivery, evidence synthesis, communicating complex information to non-experts, writing for a policy audience, working at pace, and balancing use of policy and evidence in government. You will be involved in work that will have a high impact, and you will benefit from networking with other scientists and analysts, including those in your cohort. You will gain valuable insight into the policy making process in a central Government department.

About you:

We welcome applications from a range of backgrounds, career stages and experiences. The available roles cover a wide variety of topics and a breadth of skills, so we would encourage applications from a broad range of candidates, including social scientists, modellers, economists, as well as natural and environmental scientists.

As a Defra R&D Fellow, you will have the following qualifications and skills:

  • An undergraduate degree, including degree apprenticeships, in a science, engineering, or analytical discipline.


  • A postgraduate degree, or expect to have a postgraduate degree before 1st April 2024, in any science, engineering or analytical discipline;


  • Be a chartered engineer or scientist registered by one of the professional institutions licensed by the Engineering Council or by the Science Council;


  • Demonstrable equivalent experience gained in any science, engineering, or analytical discipline.

For all roles we are looking for candidates to demonstrate the following:

  • Experience of working as a researcher and/or in an R&D environment
  • Good communication skills; being able to translate science to both peers and non-specialists
  • Evidence of being able to manage your own workload and prioritise
  • An ability to work effectively in a team environment
  • Experience of delivering sustained projects (e.g. research projects)

For the more senior fellowships, at SEO grade, candidates will also be able to demonstrate the following:

  • Experience in project or programme leadership in a science, engineering, or analytical context
  • Experience in creating and using networks across organisational boundaries

Things you need to know:

Selection process details
We will assess your technical skills, expertise, communication skills, and motivation for the role. You are not expected to already have policy experience, as we will help you to develop these skills during your Fellowship.

Application Process
As part of the application process, you will be asked to complete an online form including your employment history, qualifications, and a 500-word Personal Statement outlining your relevant experience and skills, and your motivation to join Defra and our Fellowship Programme. We will ask you to select your policy area(s) of interest and to demonstrate your experience in these areas in your personal statement.

We will shortlist applications after the closing date. Shortlisted candidates will be invited for an informal virtual or in-person chat with relevant Science and Analysis teams, and we will match you with your Defra project, based on your experience and expertise. This is also an opportunity for you to learn more about the specific projects available. Feedback will only be provided to candidates following the informal chat.

Contact point for applicants
For any queries, please email

Links to Candidate Pack and Privacy Statement:

Posted on 13th December 2023 in Job Opportunities in Acoustics