About the Science Council

Science Council terms of reference and code of practice.

Terms of reference

Purpose

The FSA Science Council is an independent expert committee of the Food Standards Agency (FSA), comprising a Chair and up to seven members.  

It provides high-level, expert strategic insight, challenge and advice to the FSA’s Chief Scientific Adviser (CSA) and to the Board and executive of the FSA on the FSA's use of science to deliver FSA objectives. Its purpose is to help to ensure that the FSA identifies, sources, integrates and uses the best scientific evidence and expertise from all relevant disciplines to inform and evaluate its work. FSA defines science in a broad and inclusive way, including the natural, physical, social and economic, digital and data sciences. 

The Council's advice focuses on how FSA can deploy scientific evidence and advice to deliver its current strategic priorities, to understand new developments - risks and opportunities - and to identify and develop new ways to do things better in the future.

The Council is constituted to work at a strategic level working across and bringing together insights from different disciplines.  The Council forms a core group which is able to identify and to draw in wider inputs across relevant disciplines and perspectives to address the issues at hand.

Its members work across disciplines, think strategically, and understand how science can be used to influence and test policy and to achieve concrete impacts to benefit people. 

The Council will work with the FSA to:

  • help to ensure that FSA science has impact through advising on how the FSA can deploy the best evidence and advice to identify and to address the FSA’s big issues now and in the future
  • help the FSA to identify and access wider sources and networks and expertise and evidence relevant to FSA’s objectives
  • advise the FSA on how it should address issues of strategic importance to the FSA that are not covered by an existing Scientific Advisory Committee or which relate to general principles
  • provide advice and challenge on how the FSA identifies, gathers and uses scientific evidence and advice, with a particular focus on two areas of priority for the FSA:

(i) how the FSA uses and combines different strands of evidence and advice in its decision-making

(ii) the work of FSA Scientific Advisory Committees and how the FSA works with them to identify and define needs for SAC advice and co-ordinate its delivery, and how this advice is used by the FSA

  • advise on any other matters relating to the FSA's science as required by the FSA

The Council may also flag issues of strategic importance for the FSA which the FSA has not itself identified, for possible consideration.

Ways of working

Independence and transparency

The Science Council is an independent SAC which operates to the highest standards of openness and transparency. It will work in accordance with guidelines by the FSA and relevant guidance and rules established across Government for the operation of Scientific Advisory Committees. These include:

Key elements of practice which underpin and assure this include:

  • Council meeting agendas, papers, minutes and reports are published and meetings are open to the public.
  • The Council publishes an annual report and the Council Chair will report to the FSA Board annually at an open Board meeting.
  • The Council Chair has the right of direct access to the FSA’s CSA and  Chief Executive (CE), and to FSA Board members (via the Agency Chair), at all times. Members also have the right of access to the CSA, the CE and Board on any matter which they believe raises important issues relating to their duties as a member.
  • In addition to regular contact between meetings, the Council Chair and FSA CSA will meet for a feedback discussion each year to review the work of the Committee against its remit, and the relationship with and support from the FSA.
  • The Council Chair will meet the FSA Chair annually to discuss the work of the Council.

The Science Council is supported by a Secretariat provided by the FSA.

Work programme

The Council's work programme will focus on high-level, cross-cutting issues identified by the FSA (the Council may also flag issues of importance to the FSA for possible consideration. Current strategic issues which are likely to form part of the Council's considerations include:

  • strategic use of science
  • data exploitation
  • participatory governance
  • effective and sustainable food regulation and assurance
  • food futures
  • new technologies
  • understanding vulnerabilities
  • people’s perspectives.

In addressing these issues the Council will  work with the FSA to understand the context of the issue and what FSA is seeking to achieve. In responding to this and formulating its advice it will normally generate its own content and intellectual input and generate and convene informed discussion and analysis on strategic issues, rather than reviewing detailed papers produced by the FSA.

Its outputs will include short reports on collective insights on big issues; it will also work with FSA to convene wider discussions, events or initiatives to generate and synthesise insights from wider groups on specific issues.

The Council Chair will work closely with the FSA CSA to develop and prioritise the Council's work programme, in line with its remit.

The FSA CSA and the Council Chair and members will maintain regular communications between meetings, including through monthly teleconferences. Notes of teleconferences will be published.

As part of its work programme the Science Council will hold two open meetings a year. These will usually consist of a short, general update session reviewing developments in work by the FSA and by the Council work, as a whole, followed by a themed session devoted to a specific issue (likely to be more of a workshop mode).  These meetings will also ensure that the Council discusses in public the key issues and outcomes from its work, including work between meetings.

We expect to work with the Council to develop and use online tools to support its work and communications both at and between meetings.

The Council will establish and engage with wider networks of experts, including with other SACs whose work is relevant to the FSA.