Air Quality Scientist

December 5, 2021

Apply for this job

Email *

Job Overview

  • Date Posted
    December 5, 2021
  • Expiration date
  • Gender
  • Field
  • Section

Job Description



£35,895 – £43,847National: £35,895 – £40,163, London: £38,751 – £43,847. For details of our pay on appointment policy, please see below under the heading ‘Salary’.


Senior Executive Officer

Contract type


Business area

DEFRA – Environment Rural and Marine Environmental Quality and Water

Type of role


Working pattern

Flexible working, Full-time


Location is flexible nationally however occasional travel to London will be required to meet business need.

About the job


Air quality is one of the top priorities for Government: poor air quality poses a significant health risk and action to improve air quality is needed as soon as possible. Air quality is a highly sensitive, challenging policy area where science plays a central role. This makes working in Defra’s air quality teams stimulating, fast-paced and rewarding. We have an opportunity for an Air Quality Scientist to join our Joint Air Quality Unit (JAQU).

JAQU is an innovative joint Defra/Department for Transport (DfT) unit responsible for driving delivery of the UK Plan for Tackling Roadside Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) Concentrations to bring levels of NO2 within the legal limit as soon as possible. This includes supporting 61 towns and cities across England to develop and implement measures to reduce road traffic NOx emissions, supported by over £880m of funding. This is part of the government’s wider ambition to improve air quality, with £3.5bn already committed for tackling poor air quality.

The work across the unit is hugely varied and underpinned by a broad and complex evidence base. Activities include working with Local Authorities to develop and implement air quality improvement measures (including Clean Air Zones), evaluating the effectiveness of measures to reduce air pollution, using air quality monitoring and modelling to assess compliance with legal air pollution limits and improving the evidence base and modelling capabilities.

AQU is made up of policy and analytical professionals, and the analytical function of the team is multidisciplinary covering atmospheric and natural science, modelling, economics, social research, operational research and statistics.

Job description

The role of Air Quality Scientist offers the post holder an opportunity to apply their scientific skills to shape and deliver complex government policy to improve health and wellbeing, to work with others in a multi-disciplinary environment, and to develop a career as a scientist within government as part of a motivated, dynamic and supportive team.

The Joint Air Quality Unit (JAQU) requires a robust evidence base to support a broad programme of work. JAQU science team activities cover 4 main areas:

  • Managing delivery of robust national scale NO2 monitoring and modelling through external consultants to underpin assessments of compliance with NO2 limits.
  • Developing and improving the evidence base to ensure air quality assessments and policies are based on the most up to date and robust data. This includes leading innovative projects to deliver improvements to our air quality modelling, monitoring, emission estimates, and use of data.
  • Working with Local Authorities to support development and implementation of robust local air quality plans to reduce NO2 concentrations to within legal limits in the shortest possible time.
  • Provision of scientific support and advice to evaluate the effectiveness of air quality measures such as Clean Air Zones and associated adaptive policy making support.

The post-holder will work predominantly in the first two of these areas, however there is scope for some flexibility depending on specific skills and experience. This work will involve engaging with a wide range of stakeholders, including external air quality experts (e.g. Defra’s Air Quality Expert Group), consultants, and policymakers.

Strong analytical skills are essential, including an understanding of scientific modelling and monitoring, as is experience of project management and communicating technical information to non-specialists. It would be beneficial to have some knowledge or experience of air quality or atmospheric science, however this is not essential.


Defra is looking for motivated individuals who have excellent inter-personal skills and technical abilities as well as an ability to work within a highly sensitive, demanding environment with strong organisational and prioritisation skills.

Essential criteria

  • Excellent analytical skills and the ability to communicate science to a range of audiences.
  • The ability to proactively produce high-quality, policy-relevant analysis and use this to make recommendations on complex issues, often to tight timescales.
  • Experience in one or more of the following areas: data analysis, air quality monitoring, modelling, pollutant emissions, atmospheric science.
  • Experience managing scientific or technical projects, including budget management.


An undergraduate degree in a related scientific subject (such as atmospheric science, environmental science, chemistry, physics or geography) is required.


We’ll assess you against these behaviours during the selection process:

  • Making Effective Decisions
  • Communicating and Influencing
  • Delivering at Pace

Technical skills

We’ll assess you against these technical skills during the selection process:

  • Applying scientific and technical knowledge
  • Technical oversight and management


  • Learning and development tailored to your role
  • An environment with flexible working options
  • A culture encouraging inclusion and diversity
  • A Civil Service pension

Civil Service