The Terms of Reference of the SSAC are: to support the Scottish Government to make effective use of science advice, knowledge and techniques when formulating and implementing policies, further enhancing Scotland's status as a science and innovation nation, and supporting Scotland’s Economic Strategy’s two mutually supportive goals of increasing competitiveness and tackling inequality.

It does this by:

  • Providing scientific advice to inform Scottish Government (SG) policy and priorities;
  • Providing advice on developments in science and technology and implications for policy areas that are underpinned by or affected by science; and
  • Developing advice based on a medium to long term, horizon-scanning, strategic view to identify and harness future opportunities and mitigate future threats. 

Distinctive features of SSAC (relative to many of the other advisory bodies) include:

  • a remit that cuts across all sectors and policy areas;
  • we provide independent science advice at “arm’s length” to SG ;
  • we have no disciplinary or sectoral “agenda”; 
  • we operate as a “collective” (i.e. Members have a responsibility to provide checks and balances within the Council);
  • our combined knowledge of Scottish science skills and context enables us to ensure that advice commissioned from outside Scotland is appropriate to the Scottish context.

Principles of engagement:

  • Our focus is on science advice, where science includes social and economic disciplines;
  • We need to be thinking of future needs and highlighting the potential value of science;
  • We can be both reactive (responding to requests from within SG) and proactive (identifying topics we think are opportunities or risks for Scotland);
  • We can co-opt additional Council members for 6-12 month periods to fill skills gaps;
  • At least two SSAC members will engage in each piece of work;
  • In developing Terms of Reference for specific pieces of work we need to take into account the broader landscape of advice available (e.g. Centres of Expertise, other advisory committees and organisations, the RSE etc)
  • Where we convene roundtables or workshops we should actively use our networks to engage with the wider scientific community and stakeholders, particularly from the private sector. Retiring SSAC members can continue to serve on sub-Groups


The council membership are respected senior figures drawn from right across the science, business and academic communities and as a result will be an effective conduit between the SSAC and the science communities that make up the science base in Scotland and further afield.

Appointments to the SSAC, which do not receive any remuneration, are made for a three year period with the possibility of extension. The appointments are made following a public advertisement and selection process.  All appointments are made on merit and in order to achieve a balance across the scientific community.

The SSAC is not a formal public advisory body and there are no legal requirements in connection with the manner appointments are made or the way its conducts its business.  However, the arrangements for appointments to the SSAC draw strongly on the original Nolan recommendations in connection with appointments to public bodies.

The Council membership is supported by the SSAC Secretariat. The SSAC Secretariat is located within the Science in Government Team of the Scottish Government.  The primary function of the secretariat is to support SSAC by assembling and analysing information and recording conclusions.  It advises SSAC on the processes and procedures and brings to its attention emerging issues of concerns to inform its deliberations.