NERC Advisory Network - Terms of reference

Terms of Reference for the NERC Advisory Network


The Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) is the UK’s leading public funder of environmental science. We work with our research centres, higher education institutions, government, civil society and business to shape the direction of environmental research and innovation, fund cutting edge discovery science and strategic research, and provide the training, skills and infrastructure the UK needs to remain at the forefront of environmental science. NERC’s long-term ambitions and the next steps to delivery are detailed in the NERC Strategic Delivery Plan.

NERC is part of UK Research & Innovation, a new body which works in partnership with universities, research organisations, businesses, charities and government to create the best possible environment for research and innovation to flourish. UKRI aims to maximise the contribution of each of its component parts, working individually and collectively. We work with our many partners to benefit everyone through knowledge, talent and ideas.


The NERC Advisory Network (the Network) is a flexible pool of individuals, with diverse stakeholder perspectives and expertise, who advise the NERC Council and Executive as required in a timely manner.

An important principle governs the Network function: the separation of the provision of strategic advice from decision-making and delivery by the Executive.

The purpose of the Network is to provide NERC with:

  • Advice in developing new strategies, policies and plans;
  • Advice on specific issues with a particular emphasis on the translation from strategy and policy to implementation and operation;
  • An appropriate environment for testing new ideas with the breadth of our stakeholder community;
  • An avenue for two-way dialogue with the research and user communities on topical issues;
  • Perspectives from a diversity of NERC stakeholders and partners to inform the breadth of NERC’s mission, remit and funding operations.


The Network will comprise of up to 60 members.

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

The names of all Network members together with a register of potential conflicts of interest will be published on the NERC website.

This Network will include a range of disciplines, backgrounds and career stages, some of which will be from outside environmental sciences and cover:

  • Specific areas of NERC portfolio (e.g. Capital, Innovation, National Capability, Training and Research Careers, Policy, Public Engagement, International).
  • Members will represent at least the following areas:
    • Active researchers at various career stages;
    • Users of research, including business and UK national government;
    • Others including public engagement experts, international partners and representative bodies.

Appointment of members

Members will normally be appointed for a three year period. In order to ensure the maximum flexibility and to ensure long-term continuity across the Network membership, NERC will ensure there is staggering of terms.

NERC Advisory Network members are appointed by the NERC Executive in line with HMT and Cabinet Office guidance.

All NERC Advisory Network members and other invited attendees should uphold the seven principles of public life: selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty and leadership.

Modus Operandi

The Network will typically be deployed via time-limited Task and Finish groups brought together to address specific questions, on which the Executive requires advice. Each group will be chaired by a senior responsible person from the commissioning body for that task (i.e. Executive, Council or Science Committee).

The Network will also meet as a group annually at a ‘Network meeting/retreat’ with the aim of exchanging knowledge and experience and allowing the Executive to provide an update to all members on broader strategic context and priorities for NERC. Members will be expected to make every effort attend this event.

Network Members may be asked to attend other NERC events or meetings (including Science Committee) for specific issues, and to advise UKRI more broadly on relevant environmental science and policy issues.

Members are expected to bring a broad strategic view to bear and advise across the breadth of NERC’s portfolio.

Members are not required to act as representatives of their own organisation, research area or sector.

Reporting and engagement

NERC Advisory Network is formally overseen by NERC Management Board, and its terms of reference will be approved by Council.

NERC Advisory Network members may be invited to attend the annual Council retreat.

The NERC Executive will facilitate business planning and engagement and constitution of Task and Finish groups between the Network, Council and the Executive, to be led by NERC’s Director of Research and Skills.

On matters of policy advice to NERC, Science Committee may also engage with working groups convened from the wider NERC Advisory Network.

Committee Secretariat

Network Task and Finish groups will be supported by a secretariat provided by NERC.

Review of Terms of Reference

This document will be reviewed regularly, taking account of UKRI-NERC governance, policy and strategy.

The Executive anticipates that, for example, tasks in 2019 will include inter alia:

  • How does NERC generate better insights into the nature of the community it funds?
  • How should NERC seek to engage businesses to advocate for environmental science?
  • What considerations are key to address NERC’s ambition to invest at an institutional level to identify and address complex environmental solutions?
  • How can NERC best support our communication along the talent and skills career pathway?