U.K./Commonwealth/E.E.A nationals: Principal Research Officer (Head of Water Quality and Water Resources Research)

U.K. Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA)
U.K., Home-Based / Remote
Position Type: 
Organization Type: 
Experience Level: 
Not Specified
Degree Required: 
Bachelor's (Or Equivalent)


Please note: this job post has expired! To the best of our knowledge, this job is no longer available and this page remains here for archival purposes only.


Regular travel to London is expected- one day per week.***Due to the current COVID-19 restrictions, we are now all required to work from home if possible. This applies to this role until such time that the restrictions on travel and working arrangements are lifted, at which point location arrangements will be reviewed. In the meantime you will retain your current location arrangements.***

About the job


We are looking for an exceptional Principal Research Officer to lead Defra's Water Research.

Job description

You will be Defra’s research lead for Water Quality, and jointly lead research for water resources. Formally leading on Water research, you will work closely alongside the Floods research lead heading up an interdisciplinary team.
The Floods & Water Directorate makes a major contribution to Defra’s ambitions to deliver a cleaner, healthier environment in a generation, and leading the way in protecting the nation from environmental hazards.
Our work to deliver a healthier water environment – including rivers, lakes, estuaries and the habitats they support – is set out in River Basin Management Plans. These involve partnership working by a variety of groups in catchments to improve waters to “good status”.
This work area is entering an exciting new phase with important policy questions arising on whether, and how, our approach to water management should evolve post EU exit, to ensure our objectives match those of our society and deliver the most benefit. Other important policy issues surround the role of land management in reducing pollution and improving water environments, and how best to regulate, support and engage with farmers and others to provide this.
A key strand of our work is also improving water efficiency in society, alongside facilitating investment by the regulated water utility industry to improve supplies and reduce leakage. The habits of water consumers have important implications for the availability of water in the environment and the resilience of supply.
In addition to drought, much of the country is also at risk from flooding, with both environmental pressures being exacerbated by climate change. Floods & Water Directorate oversees Defra’s major investment programme in flood management, supporting this with work to understand and enhance the wider resilience of communities at risk. We also provide the lead government department role for response to flood and water emergencies, and recovery from contamination incidents involving chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) materials.


Our G7 researcher position (Head of Water Research) combines a specialist research role with a wider research programme management function. The latter involves overseeing a large programme of water research projects and a science and commissioning team. The leadership role reflects the weight of science and socio-economic issues in floods and water research, as well as the wide range of stakeholders across organisations that you will be leading towards a shared vision. Working closely with the head of floods research and other specialists in the inter-disciplinary Analysis & Evidence for Floods, Water and Contamination team, you will:
• Lead and develop our research offer to water policy teams. For social research this may include investigating public attitudes to the water environment and advising on interventions to encourage the sustainable use of water. For operational research this may include: providing statistical advice on abstraction, international returns, sampling methodologies etc.; and, running and developing an in-house mathematical model to project future water utility industry costs, prices and customer bills under a range of policy and other scenarios. For scientists this may include developing methodologies for measuring water quality, and developing source-pathway-receptor models for specific pollutants.
• Lead the relationship between Defra’s research team and relevant ‘Arm’s Length Bodies’ evidence teams, ensuring we are working towards a common goal of evidence based policy.
• Co-lead a team of scientists, analysts and a programme administrator to scope, deliver and disseminate the Directorate’s wider research programme on water management, including on natural science and economics (the latter in conjunction with economists). This involves building relationships with policy customers;
• Lead Defra’s input to the Joint Water Evidence Programme (JWEP) with EA, Forestry Commission (FC) and Natural England (NE). These programmes develop and prioritise collaborative research across the Defra Group, working closely with a range of external research partners.
There will be opportunity for on-the-job learning and development
We may require you to undergo a higher level of security clearance (CTC) in due course in order to access 2 Marsham Street.

We'd love to hear from you if you have the following skills and/or experience:
1) A proven track record in successfully working across organisational boundaries and across analytical disciplines to deliver results, collaborating effectively with others and engaging multiple stakeholder groups with differing priorities and perspectives to agree consensus-based solutions.

2) Strategic vision and sound judgement to identify research direction, gaps and solutions.

3) Excellent analytical skills – with the ability to identify, champion, and use both qualitative and quantitative social research approaches to explore and answer policy questions.
4) The ability to take personal responsibility for shaping, planning and driving forward work, delivering at pace and managing a team and budgets to deliver a broad portfolio of work.

5) Excellent ability to manage a multi-annual programme of research projects; including effective organisational and project management skills.
6) Excellent oral and written communication skills, including the ability to swiftly distill complex technical information and provide clear, authoritative and succinct advice for senior officials.
Evidence of these essential criteria will be gathered through asking you questions relating to one Government Social Research or Government Operational Research Service professional competency, and elements of the success profile, as set out below.


Degree in relevant scientific, social research, statistical, analytical or engineering discipline.


Candidates must be existing members of Government Social Research (GSR), Government Operational Research profession or Science profession to apply for these posts.


We'll assess you against these behaviours during the selection process:

  • Working Together
  • Managing a Quality Service
  • Making Effective Decisions
  • Communicating and Influencing
  • Leadership

We only ask for evidence of these behaviours on your application form:

  • Working Together
  • Managing a Quality Service

Technical skills

We'll assess you against these technical skills during the selection process:

  • Either Government Social Research ‘technical skills’ (detailed in JD) or Government Operational Research Service ‘achieving impact with analysis’ professional competency dependent on their skills


• Learning and development tailored to your role
• An environment with flexible working options
• A culture encouraging inclusion and diversity
• A Civil Service pension

Things you need to know


Successful candidates must pass a disclosure and barring security check.

Successful candidates must meet the security requirements before they can be appointed. The level of security needed is security check.

People working with government assets must complete basic personnel security standard checks.

Selection process details

This vacancy is using Success Profiles, and will assess your Behaviours, Strengths, Ability, Experience and Technical skills.

Application Process
As part of the application process you will be asked to complete a personal statement and behaviour statements.
Further details around what this will entail are listed on the application form.

Online tests

After submission of the first stage of your application, you will be invited to complete a Civil Service Judgement test . If you successfully pass the test, you will be invited to complete the second stage of the application.

Please complete the online tests as soon as possible (within 24-48 hours is recommended), the closing date for the tests is 23:55 on 06/11/2020. If you fail to complete the online test before the deadline your application will be withdrawn. Guidance for the test will be available when you are invited to take the test. The tests are administered online and accessed via the CS Jobs website.

Should a large number of applications be received, an initial sift may be conducted using the lead behaviour, Working Together. Candidates who pass the initial sift may be progressed to a full sift, or progressed straight to assessment/interview.

Sift and interview dates as well as the interview location to be confirmed.

If successful at application stage, you will be invited to interview where you will be assessed on your Ability, Experience, Behaviours and Technical skills. You will be asked to give a 5 minute presentation at interview (details will be provided in advance should you reach this stage).

Reserve List
A reserve list may be held for a period of 12 months from which further appointments can be made.

Merit Lists
Where more than one location is advertised, candidates will be posted in merit order by location. You will be asked to state your location preference on your application.


If you are experiencing accessibility problems with any attachments on this advert, please contact
the email address in the ‘Contact point for applicants’ section.

Reasonable Adjustment
If a person with disabilities is put at a substantial disadvantage compared to a non-disabled person, we have a duty to make reasonable changes to our processes.

If you need a change to be made so that you can make your application, you should:

Contact Government Recruitment Service via as soon as possible before the closing date to discuss your needs.
Complete the “Assistance required” section in the “Additional requirements” page of your application form to tell us what changes or help you might need further on in the recruitment process. For instance, you may need wheelchair access at interview, or if you’re deaf, a Language Service Professional.

Criminal Record Check
If successful and transferring from another Government Department, a criminal record check maybe carried out.

In order to process applications without delay, we will be sending a Criminal Record Check to Disclosure and Barring Service on your behalf. However, we recognise in exceptional circumstance some candidates will want to send their completed forms direct. If you will be doing this, please advise Government Recruitment Service of your intention by emailing stating the job reference number in the subject heading.

Childcare Vouchers
Any move to Defra will mean you will no longer be able to carry on claiming childcare vouchers. You will however have access to the governments Tax Free Childcare scheme.

Internal Fraud Database Check
Applicants who are successful at interview will be, as part of pre-employment screening subject to a check on the Internal Fraud Database (IFD). This check will provide information about employees who have been dismissed for fraud or dishonesty offences. This check also applies to employees who resign or otherwise leave before being dismissed for fraud or dishonesty had their employment continued. Any applicant’s details held on the IFD will be refused employment.

If you feel your application has not been treated in accordance with the Recruitment Principles and you wish to make a complaint, in the first instance, you should contact Government Recruitment Services via email: .

If you are not satisfied with the response you receive from the Department, you can contact the Civil Service Commission: Click here to visit Civil Service Commission

We are closely monitoring the situation with regard to Coronavirus, and will be following central Government advice as it is issued. There is therefore a risk that recruitment to this post may be subject to change at short notice. Please continue to follow the application process as normal and ensure that you check your emails regularly for any updates from us as this is how we will communicate with you.

Feedback will only be provided if you attend an interview or assessment.

Nationality requirements

Open to UK, Commonwealth and European Economic Area (EEA) and certain non EEA nationals. Further information on whether you are able to apply is available here.

Working for the Civil Service

The Civil Service Code sets out the standards of behaviour expected of civil servants.

We recruit by merit on the basis of fair and open competition, as outlined in the Civil Service Commission's recruitment principles.

The Civil Service embraces diversity and promotes equal opportunities. As such, we run a Disability Confident Scheme (DCS) for candidates with disabilities who meet the minimum selection criteria.

Apply and further information

Once this job has closed, the job advert will no longer be available. You may want to save a copy for your records.

Contact point for applicants

Job contact :

Name :
Jessica Phoenix / Clare Rowntree

Email :


Recruitment team :

Email :