The following is a summary of the Council’s membership policies and procedures. It covers:

  1. Make-up of the Membership Committee
  2. The responsibilities of the Membership Committee
  3. Recruitment process
  4. Membership terms
  5. Renewal process
  6. Induction process
  7. Role description
  8. Code of conduct

1 Make-up of the Membership Committee

The Membership Committee consists of:

  • Independent chair
  • Member of the Governing Board
  • Chair of Council
  • Two / three members of Council (reviewed every two years)
  • Other members of Council may be asked to advise / attend depending on the areas of expertise that are being recruited

The Executive Administrator attends in an advisory capacity and to provide minutes of meetings.

2 The responsibilities of the Membership Committee

The Membership Committees’ responsibilities are:

  • To advise the Council on membership policies and processes, including:
    • Recruitment process
    • Renewals process
    • Role description and code of conduct
  • Monitor the make-up, diversity and expertise of the Council
  • Consider what disciplines or areas of expertise should be recruited
  • Short list posts and make recommendations to the Council
  • Discuss renewals and make recommendations to the Council
  • Where appropriate, be consulted over breaches in the Code of Conduct

3 Recruitment process

The stages of recruitment are as follows:

  • What disciplines are advertised – With reference to the current make-up of Council in terms of expertise and experience, the Membership Committee recommends to the Council what disciplines should be advertised.
  • Advertising – The way that posts are advertised may vary depending on the discipline and if the Council is trying to reach a particular group. Methods used include the following:
    • Council newsletter / website
    • Social media
    • Council members (including some former Council members) are asked to recommend individuals who it might be suitable to approach
    • Suggestions are sought from others, for example the network of affiliates, funders, Governing Board, key contacts, the Executive
    • A list is maintained of potential members who have either expressed an interest or who have been identified as potential candidates
    • Depending on the disciplines being recruited – organisations such as professional bodies, charities, royal colleges and university departments are contacted
    • Adverts in the relevant media / newsletters
  • Information for candidates – Interested individuals will be directed to an information pack on the website, which will consist of information on how the Council works, current work programme, a role description and code of conduct.
  • Short-listing – A long-list is prepared by the Chair and Director using criteria established by the Membership Committee. The Membership Committee then produces a short list for interview which is shared with the Council for feedback. At both stages a full list of applications is made available which includes a thumb nail sketch of the applicants. Any relevant conflicts of interest with candidates should be made clear.
  • Interviews – All shortlisted candidates are interviewed. Interviews are normally carried out by a combination of the Chair of the Membership Committee, the Council Chair, another member of the Membership Committee and others as needed. Ideally the same people will see all the candidates in any one category.
  • Recommendations to Council – The interview committee decides who should be recommended to Council.
  • Decision – The Council decides whether it is happy to endorse the Interview Committee’s recommendations. Any relevant conflicts of interest with the short-listed candidates should be made clear

4 Membership terms

The initial term for membership is three years with the possibility of renewal for up to three years depending on an individual’s preference and their performance. Renewals may be for a period of one to three years depending on an individual’s circumstances. The Council has the discretion to change the terms of membership should the need arise, but this should not be for a membership of more than three terms of three years.

5 Renewals

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 Membership Committee who evaluate an individual’s performance, taking into account the member’s response and their contribution. Recommendations are then made to the Council for endorsement. The final decision rests with the Council, who can ask the Membership Committee to review its decision.

6 Induction process

The induction process for new Council members will be as follows:

  • New Council members are provided with information on how the Council works including:
    • the role and responsibilities of Council members – this includes a role description and code of conduct (see 7 and 8 below)
    • practical information about time commitment, expenses etc
    • the structure and function of the Executive
    • the Governing Board and funders
    • the work programme and working methods of the Council
    • how the Council fits into the policy landscape, nationally and internationally.
  • Before their first meeting, they will be invited to visit the Council offices to meet and talk to the Director and the rest of the Executive staff. They will also speak / meet with the Chair of the Council.
  • To help new members settle in they will also be put in touch with another Council member to discuss their experiences and ask any questions.
  • The Chair of Council will contact new members after their first two meetings and then again after their first year to discuss how they are finding Council and if they have any concerns.

7 Role description

Council members sit on the Council, a deliberative body that drives the intellectual function of the NCOB. They decide on the strategic direction of the Council, 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 Council working group
  • Being a member of a report subgroup that pays particular attention to a Council project
  • Participating in activities such as workshops
  • Advising on the content of Council publications such as briefing papers during the drafting process
  • Representing the Council at external meetings or conferences
  • Writing blogs
  • Acting as a media spokesperson for the Council, where appropriate.

Appointments

Applications for membership consist of a statement which outlines a candidate’s interest in the Council, including previous involvement, 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:

  • Must be able to demonstrate an interest in bioethics;
  • Must be willing to contribute to bioethical debate in an open and constructive manner;
  • Must be prepared and able to work with others;
  • Must have good skills in analysis and communication.

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. 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 up to three years depending on an individual’s preference and their performance. Renewals may be for a period of one to three years depending on an individual’s circumstances. The Council has the discretion to change the terms of membership should the need arise, but this should not be for a membership of more than three terms of three years.

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 Membership Committee who evaluate an individual’s performance, taking into account the member’s response, their contribution and the needs of the Council. Recommendations are then made 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 time commitment averages one day 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 that members may be involved in.

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

8 Code of conduct

The role of the Council

Nuffield Council on Bioethics examines and reports on ethical issues arising from developments in biological and medical research.

The Council’s terms of reference are:

  • to identify and define ethical questions raised by recent developments in biological and medical research that concern, or are likely to concern, the public interest;
  • to make arrangements for the independent examination of such questions with appropriate involvement of relevant stakeholders;
  • to inform and engage in policy and media debates about those ethical questions and provide informed comment on emerging issues related to or derived from NCOB’s published or ongoing work; and
  • to make policy recommendations to Government or other relevant bodies and to disseminate its work through published reports, briefings and other appropriate outputs.

The Council is the deliberative body that drives the intellectual function of the organisation, deciding on the future work programme, strategic direction, function and membership of the Council. In particular, it is responsible for developing the five-year Strategic Plan; for maintaining an active horizon scanning programme; selecting topics and deciding on the approach to be taken; and for scrutinising and approving reports and other outputs of the Council.

Appointments

Chair – the Chair of Council is appointed by the funders and is accountable to the Chair of the Governing Board. The term of membership for the Chair is five years.

Deputy Chair – the Council is responsible for appointing its own members and electing the Deputy Chair. The Deputy Chair is appointed by asking for a brief statement from any interested members, outlining their suitability for the post and addressing the points set out in the job description. Council members are asked to vote in a secret ballot for their preferred candidate. The initial term for the Deputy Chair is three years. Close to the end of the term, the Deputy Chair is asked by the Executive if they would like to continue in the role. The rest of Council are also asked if they are interested in the position. If there is more than candidate, the election takes place in the standard format. If not, and the existing Deputy Chair wishes to continue, re-election is by acclamation in Council.

Council member – the initial term for Council membership is three years with the possibility of renewal for up to three years depending on an individual’s preference and their performance. Renewals may be for a period of one to three years depending on an individual’s circumstances. The Council has the discretion to change the terms of membership should the need arise, but this should not be for a membership of more than three terms of three years.

Gifts and hospitality

The Council maintains a policy setting out the standards of behaviour related to bribery and other forms of inducement, and requires members to complete the Council’s Gift and Hospitality Register where necessary and declare any potential inducements/compromises under the normal provisions of the Conflicts of Interest policy.

Conflicts of interest

All members are required to fill out a Register of Interests and notify the Executive if there are any changes. Should a particular matter give rise to a conflict of interest, a member is required to inform the Chair in advance, and this may result in withdrawing from the relevant discussions.

During the membership process, the Membership Committee and Council members should declare any relevant conflicts of interest when deciding on the short-list for interview and appointments.

PRINCIPLES AND STANDARDS

Principles of membership

  • Appointment – members are appointed to discharge the terms of reference and the primary activity of discussing bioethics in a deliberative context. Members are appointed for their knowledge, expertise or insight, which may derive from their professional or personal background or experience.
  • Interdisciplinarity – the work of the committee is interdisciplinary – members should strive to contribute in a way that is accessible to colleagues and contributes to shared and inclusive discussion. They should also be respectful of the contribution of other disciplines.
  • Impartiality – members are not appointed to represent a particular viewpoint, whether personal or professional, or the interests of a particular organisation, group or industry.

Standards of conduct

  • Integrity – members should not, by their speech or actions, do anything that may be expected to bring the Council into disrepute. They should regard themselves as discharging their duties in the public interest, and not seek to use membership to promote their private interests.
  • Confidentiality – members should keep confidential any information imparted to them in circumstances or on terms requiring them to be held in confidence.
  • Candour – members should deal honestly and openly; their advice should be truthful and complete to the best of their knowledge.
  • Courtesy and respect – members should respect their colleagues and staff and show them courtesy in all their dealings.

Positive obligations

  • Declarations of interest – members are expected to declare all relevant interests and to accept any determination of the Chair with regard to their participation in discussion of all or part of a particular matter. Relevant interests include not only financial interests, but interests, involvements or relationships that, in the view of the Chair, may cast doubt on the Council’s independence, which is important for the credibility of its advice.
  • Participation – members are expected to give priority to Council membership unless there is an unavoidable conflict with a necessary commitment entailed by their primary occupation. Members are expected to contribute, according to their knowledge and expertise, to all the business before the Council throughout their membership, not merely those issues that interest them or in which they have an interest.
  • Collective responsibility – members are expected to engage fully in collective consideration of the issues and should strive to reach consensus on matters requiring agreement and take collective responsibility. It will not always be possible to reach agreement; however, members should take collective responsibility for any final decision made. In respect of outputs published in the name of the Council, such as the Reports of Working Parties, Members of Council who are not at the same time Members of the Working Party should play their role in the review and adoption of these Reports. They are free to express their personal opinions in such instances, as long as it is clear that this is done in a personal capacity and does not bring the Council into disrepute.
  • Representing the Council – when representing the Council, members should behave with integrity and respect. Members should make it clear when they are speaking on behalf of the Council and when they are expressing their personal opinions or those of others. In both instances, they should say or do nothing that would bring the Council into disrepute or call into question its independence.
  • Promoting the Council’s work – throughout their period of membership, members should seek and take suitable opportunities to promote the work of the Council among relevant audiences and in public. This includes taking the opportunity to refer to relevant Council activities and publications in professional and media interviews, unless to do so would interfere with the integrity of their presentation.

If there are concerns that a Council member is in breach of the Code, this will be first be discussed with the Chair of the Council. If it is felt appropriate the Chair of the Membership Committee will also be consulted, and any further action considered, which could range from an informal conversation with the member in question, to their being asked to leave Council.

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