Do you have a high scientific standing? A wide appreciation of different research disciplines? Fancy earning £300,000 ($400,000)? If so, the UK government has a job for you.
The advertisement for chief executive of the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) — arguably the biggest job in UK science — went online on 30 August, prompting speculation about who might fill the role. Current favourites are UK university chiefs whose experience leading big interdisciplinary organizations prepares them to helm a body that will join together the UK’s nine existing research funding bodies.
The salary — well beyond that of most working scientists and roughly twice what heads of existing UK research councils earn — “demonstrates the ambition that’s there to recruit a really serious, heavy-weight person”, says James Wilsdon, who studies research policy at the University of Sheffield.
The wage should be high enough to lure university heads, says John Womersley, chief executive of the UK Science and Technology Facilities Council in Swindon. Including pensions and benefits, heads of UK universities, known as vice-chancellors, earned an average of around £270,000 in 2014–15, according to a survey by Times Higher Education. “So that’s the talent pool they want to fish in,” says Womersley.
The advertisement comes in advance of the legislation that will form the UKRI, the Higher Education and Research Bill, which has not yet passed through Parliament. The body will unite several disparate organizations: the seven research councils; the research funding activities of the Higher Education Funding Council for England (to be named Research England); and innovation funder Innovate UK. Expected to start in 2018, the UKRI head will oversee an annual budget exceeding £6 billion. The bill’s wording leaves much open to interpretation, and the UKRI’s first chief executive will have a huge amount of power to shape the research system, …