Terms of reference

Vision / Purpose

"Drawing on diverse perspectives to provide credible advice and strategic insight into EPSRC policy development at a cross-cutting level "

The SAN is intended 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.


Members are drawn from EPSRC's stakeholder groupings, reflecting a diverse mix of characteristics and backgrounds. They are expected to bring a broad strategic view to bear and to act as 'generous generalists', advising across the breadth of EPSRC's portfolio. Members are not required to act as representatives of their own organisation, research area or sector. and are expected to adhere to the Seven Principles of Public Life

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

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


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 whom it might wish to appoint. The Appointments Assurance Committee (AAC) acts in an oversight capacity for 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.


Membership of the SAN is usually for four years, with extensions at the discretion of the Executive. In order to ensure the maximum flexibility and to ensure long-term continuity across the membership of the SAN, EPSRC ensures there is staggering of terms. Some members may therefore serve for less than four years. If a SAN member’s circumstances should change which may affect their membership, the Executive should be informed as soon as possible.


SAN will most often be deployed in sub-sets, 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 sub-set will vary according to need, but groups of six members will be typical.

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

For each advisory work-stream, a sub-set of SAN will be convened. The sub-set will comprise a range of perspectives from across the representative stakeholder groupings. However, the Executive will select each sub-set membership as appropriate to the topic or issue in question. In some cases, the Executive will bring in additional, external expertise where it is not available from within the current SAN membership. A member of Council or a SAN member will act as chair for each work stream (see below).

For each work-stream, those members involved will be provided with a full briefing in advance. This may include opportunities to pre-review and scope the task through on-line forums. Prior to beginning each task and when the scope has been discussed and agreed, the members will be asked to consider if any additional expertise might need to be co-opted on to the sub-set. At the same time, members will be informed about the levels of confidentiality that will apply. This will be determined on a case by case basis

It is expected that SAN members will need to commit between four and ten days to SAN work per year. Every effort will be made to support remote participation to SAN activities, if this is appropriate, and to take into account flexible and part-time working. EPSRC has developed guidelines to highlight the support available to researchers with caring responsibilities.

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

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 will be assigned as chair of each work stream, primarily to provide oversight of 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.


The Executive will endeavour to:

  • Identify advisory work streams ahead of need, providing sufficient notice to enable planning arrangements including diary management
  • Provide a clear specification for each advisory work stream
  • Provide the appropriate information so that SAN members are adequately briefed and able to contribute meaningfully
  • Provide an appropriate forum and tools for members to provide appropriate, high-quality strategic advice
  • Maintain members’ knowledge of all SAN activities and of EPSRC strategic thinking and direction. This will be done through regular information flows following 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 the advice and how it will be used and in particular to explain the rationale where the advice has not been followed
  • Make public the notes of work stream meetings.

The Members of the SAN will endeavor to:

  • Act within the 'Seven Principles of Public Life', in particular to provide independent, informed advice avoiding actual or perceived conflicts of interest and taking a collegiate approach to policy and strategy development;
  • Bring a broad strategic view to bear and acting as ‘generous generalists’, advising across the breadth of EPSRC's portfolio;
  • Challenge constructively and/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
  • Operate flexibly with EPSRC and the other EPSRC advisory groups, making themselves available to participate in sub-groups, SAN work streams (task and finish groups), workshops, pre-activity briefings etc., subject to sufficient notice;
  • Use their profile as SAN members in order to sustain two-way communications within their respective stakeholder communities and, where appropriate, with decision-makers. This includes: 
    • Gathering intelligence that can be brought to bear in policy development
    • Explaining EPSRC policies to the community
    • Advocating, where relevant, on specific issues on behalf of Engineering and Physical Sciences.
  • Attend the annual meeting of the entire SAN.