Council members sit on the Council, a deliberative body that drives the intellectual function of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics.

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Council members sit on the Council, a deliberative body that drives the intellectual function of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics. They decide on the strategic direction of the organisation, matters of topic selection and scrutinise and agree its outputs. Their core responsibilities are to:

  • Decide questions of strategic direction and topic identification.
  • Ensure a thorough horizon scanning process.
  • Scrutinise and ensure the quality of reports and other outputs at key stages during. projects so as to ultimately adopt the final outputs and reports.
  • Decide on the direction, function and membership of the organisation.
  • Provide support and advice to the Executive.

Other responsibilities will normally include:

  • Sitting on Council subgroups, for example the Horizon Scanning Advisory Group / Membership Committee.
  • Being a member of a working group.
  • Being a member of a report subgroup that pays particular attention to a NCOB project.
  • Participating in activities such as workshops.
  • Advising on the content of publications such as briefing papers during the drafting process.
  • Representing the NCOB at external meetings or conferences.
  • Writing blogs.
  • Acting as a media spokesperson for the NCOB, if and where appropriate.


Applications for membership consist of a statement which outlines a candidate’s interest in the Council and what they can contribute, together with a CV and the names of two referees. The referees may be consulted at different stages of the process with the permission of the applicant. The Membership Committee considers applications and short-listed candidates are interviewed. Recommendations for appointment are then made to the Council. Selection is based on the following criteria:

  • A demonstratable interest in bioethics – this could be a professional interest or an interest that comes from general engagement with bioethical issues.
  • A willingness to contribute to ethical debate in an open and constructive manner by contributing thoughts and ideas and by listening to and respecting the views of others from a wide range of disciplines and positions.
  • A willingness and ability to work with others in a multidisciplinary environment, where all contributions are valued. This includes working with the other members of the Council, the Executive and individuals who might attend Council events and can include academics, healthcare workers, individuals personally affected by issues, policy-makers and people from a variety of professions.
  • An understanding and commitment to the aims and values of the Council and to maintaining the principles of equality, diversity and inclusion in all of its activities.

Subject area

The Council is a deliberative body and aims to maintain a wide range of expertise. Council members therefore have backgrounds across the fields of science, medicine, social science, philosophy, law, industry and the media. It also seeks to have members who have practical and policy experience outside of academia. We welcome and value diversity and are keen to encourage applications from all sections of the community. The Council aims to achieve an appropriate balance as regards gender and ethnic background.

Terms of office / renewals / Code of Conduct

The initial term for membership is three years, with the possibility of renewal for one to three years, which may be staggered, depending on an individual’s preferences, and the needs of the Council.

Members approaching the end of their third year are asked by the Chair whether they would like to be considered for a further term. If they wish to continue, they are asked to provide thoughts on their membership so far, how they feel they have been able to contribute and why they would like to continue. They will also be asked for any general comments on how the Council operates.

Renewals are then discussed by the Chair and the member whose term is coming to an end. Together they will review the member’s contribution, capacity and appetite for continuation and consider how this meets the future needs of the Council. The Chair will report the key points of these discussions to the Membership Committee for consideration in making their recommendations on renewals to the Council for endorsement. The final decision rests with the Council, who can ask the Membership Committee to review its decision.

There is a Code of conduct, which outlines the required standards of behaviour and the positive obligations of membership.

Other matters

The basic time commitment averages one to two days a month (but can be very varied) and includes meetings and preparation time. The Council meets quarterly, but as mentioned above there are a number of other activities, such as advisory or working groups, or one-off workshops, that members may be involved in and which will increase the time commitment.

Members do not receive remuneration but are paid reasonable travel and other expenses.