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Social Scientist

Forest Research - Forest Research

Contract type: Fixed Term

Length of employment: This is a Fixed Term Appointment of 2 years with the possibility of extension or permanency but no guarantee.

Working pattern: Flexible working, Full-time

Location: The role can be based in Alice Holt Research Station, Farnham GU10 4LH or in Northern Research Station, Roslin, Midlothian EH25 9SY or in Forestry Commission Office, 620 Coldharbour Lane, Bristol BS16 1EJ with blended working which gives you the option to work some of the week from home, and some of the week from the workplace. You will be asked to express a location preference during the application process. Please be aware that this role can only be worked in the UK and not overseas.

Reference number: 268296

Want to work at the cutting edge of environmental science? Passionate about making a difference and playing your part in tackling the climate and nature crisis? Forest Research is all about giving top quality evidence and advice to policymakers and practitioners to make a positive impact on the ground. Internationally recognised, we need people who have the skills and passion to work on excellent science and provide practical solutions for nature.

We’re small enough that your voice is heard, yet large enough, as part of the Forestry Commission, that we have everything on hand to get the job done, as well as a variety of career pathways. Our staff are dedicated to their work and sharing it with others to bring positive change for our planet. And you will find us a flexible and inclusive employer, so you can have a work life balance that is tailor-made to your circumstances. So, whether it’s climate or carbon, pests or pathogens, behaviour or biodiversity that interests you, you can be assured of a warm welcome to the team. To find out more, visit

The postholders will be a member of the Society and Environment Research Group, within the Centre for Forest Management. The Centre leads FR's research into biosecurity threats, ecosystem robustness and resilience, land use and ecosystem services, and the way in which society values and utilises trees. Programmes within the Centre focus strongly on interdisciplinary research, using the mix of disciplines within FR to address some of the many complex social and environmental problems facing those concerned with Britain’s trees woods and forests.

Job description

The Society and Environment Research Group (SERG) is a busy, dynamic group involved in a suite of projects that develop scientific understanding and practical advice on a range of social, cultural, governance and economic issues relating to the use, engagement and management of British trees and forests. The team is comprised of twenty social scientists. SERG researchers focus on four broad thematic work areas:

1) well-being and woodlands – including research on the health benefits of woodlands, social and cultural value of trees and woods, motivations and benefits of volunteering, impacts of education, and learning in forest environments

2) land manager behaviours – including research on land managers’ decision making for woodland creation and management, adaptation and resilience, the impacts of community woodlands and social enterprises and land manager engagement in policy and governance

3) social dimensions of tree health – including research on: behaviours of public and stakeholders in tree and plant supply chains and pathways, acceptability of pest management measures, and stakeholder perceptions of risks and resilience

4) wildlife management – including research on knowledge and attitudes towards pest and threatened species, acceptability of management approaches, and social feasibility studies for reintroductions.

The group works on several cross-cutting research issues including urban forestry, climate change and society, public engagement with woods, forest and nature, evaluation of behaviour change interventions, and integration of research knowledge into policy and practice. As well as delivering high quality evidence and applied outputs direct to research commissioners, the group has a strong publishing record in a range of high impact social science, policy related and forestry journals.

Person specification

The post holder will carry out social science research that contributes to improving understanding of the values, attitudes, behaviours and actions of land managers, publics and stakeholders across SERG’s four themes of wellbeing, land manager behaviours, the social dimensions of tree health and wildlife management.

Key Work Areas:

  • Assist with the design and collection of data across a number of specific research projects by contributing social science insights and approaches
  • Assist with and conduct the analysis of quantitative data through approaches such as descriptive statistics, factor analysis, analysis of variance, and of qualitative data through thematic analysis
  • Contribute to project management of contracts for research and evaluation
  • Work with other members of the Social and Economic Research Group and in an interdisciplinary way with other scientists across FR and its partners to develop research plans, survey and interview questions and guides, and protocols for gathering and reviewing existing evidence
  • Interpret and report on social science data, including contributing to technical reports, research summaries, website and social media content, and scientific publications

Essential Criteria

  • Bachelor’s degree in social, behavioural, or environmental science plus environmental social research employment experience / or Postgraduate qualification in social or behavioural science in an environmental context
  • Track record of contributing to successful social research e.g. developing research questions, data gathering, data analysis and reporting
  • Experience in social science respondent data gathering, fieldwork and analysis of data
  • Competent user of IT
  • High standard of verbal and written communication and experience of knowledge exchange with a range of stakeholders

Desirable Criteria

  • Skilled in a range of data collection techniques, and particularly in quantitative data gathering and analysis.
  • A broad understanding of social science issues and theories as they relate to environmental and forestry issues.
  • Understanding of social and organisational learning.
  • Understanding of the use of evaluations and appropriate methods to describe the outcomes and impacts of contributing to specific programmes and policies.
  • Track record of managing projects successfully to completion and of an ability to work on multiple projects over the same period.
  • Experience of working collaboratively in a multi-project team environment to achieve results.
  • Proficient in technical report writing and preparation of scientific papers.


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

  • Changing and Improving
  • Managing a Quality Service


Your career

  • Excellent professional development opportunities which are tailored to your role, with paid professional membership subscriptions, mentoring, and Civil Service Learning available to all
  • access to world class laboratory facilities, as well as state of the art buildings within forest or science park settings

Your work/life balance

  • flexible working options such as: up to two days flexi leave per month, blended working, part-time working, paid special leave, career breaks, and unpaid leave. Parents and carers will be supported to enable you to manage work and family responsibilities
  • generous annual leave allowance of 25 days per year, rising to 30 days after 5 years (pro-rata for part-timers). Plus 2.5 days of additional leave and 8 days’ paid bank/public holidays

Your wellbeing

  • Wellbeing support and staff networks and including Mental Health First Aiders, Rainbow Canopy (LGBTQ+) and an Employee Assistance Programme
  • We want you to feel part of something bigger and we encourage a community feel in our workplaces, with everything from cookery competitions to Pilates and fell running, plus topical talks at Wellbeing Wednesdays and Feelgood Fridays
  • Paid volunteering leave of 3 days per year so you can give back to your community and charitable causes by sharing your skills and time

Your benefits

  • a highly competitive Civil Service Pension where employer contributions are up to 26% of your salary
  • an employee benefits scheme offering discounts on groceries, gym memberships, holidays, days out, online retailers and high street shops
  • Cycle to Work scheme and Interest free loans
  • Free parking is offered on-site, alongside electric car charging ports
  • With maternity, adoption, and/or shared parental leave there’s the flexibility to have up to 26 weeks full pay, followed by 13 weeks statutory pay and a further 13 weeks unpaid leave. Paternity leave of up to two weeks is available with full pay.

Any move to Forest Research from another employer will mean you can no longer access childcare vouchers. This includes moves between government departments. You may however be eligible for other government schemes, including Tax-Free Childcare. Determine your eligibility at

Things you need to know

Selection process details

This vacancy is using Success Profiles (opens in a new window), and will assess your Behaviours and Experience.

Sift date: 28 March 2023.

Interview date: 11 or 12 April 2023.

If a large volume of applications is received, then we will sift on Experience/Technical Expertise and the Lead Behaviour Changing & Improving. However, candidates will be expected to answer questions on all behaviours at the interview stage.

Candidates who are judged to be a near miss at interview may be considered for other positions in Forest Research which may be at a lower grade but have a potential skills match.

Diverse perspectives and experiences are critical to our success and we welcome applications from all people from all backgrounds with the experience and skills needed to perform this role.

If a person with disabilities is put at a substantial disadvantage compared to a non-disabled person, we have a duty to make reasonable changes to our processes.

Complete the “Assistance required” section in the “Additional requirements” page of your application form to tell us what changes or help you might need further on in the recruitment process. For instance, you may need wheelchair access at interview, or if you’re deaf, a Language Service Professional.

Feedback will only be provided if you attend an interview or assessment.


Successful candidates must undergo a criminal record check.

People working with government assets must complete baseline personnel security standard (opens in new window) checks.

Nationality requirements

This job is broadly open to the following groups:

  • UK nationals
  • nationals of Commonwealth countries who have the right to work in the UK
  • nationals of the Republic of Ireland
  • nationals from the EU, EEA or Switzerland with settled or pre-settled status or who apply for either status by the deadline of the European Union Settlement Scheme (EUSS) (opens in a new window)
  • relevant EU, EEA, Swiss or Turkish nationals working in the Civil Service
  • relevant EU, EEA, Swiss or Turkish nationals who have built up the right to work in the Civil Service
  • certain family members of the relevant EU, EEA, Swiss or Turkish nationals

Further information on nationality requirements (opens in a new window)

Working for the Civil Service

The Civil Service Code (opens in a new window) sets out the standards of behaviour expected of civil servants.

We recruit by merit on the basis of fair and open competition, as outlined in the Civil Service Commission's recruitment principles (opens in a new window).

The Civil Service embraces diversity and promotes equal opportunities. As such, we run a Disability Confident Scheme (DCS) for candidates with disabilities who meet the minimum selection criteria.

The Civil Service also offers a Redeployment Interview Scheme to civil servants who are at risk of redundancy, and who meet the minimum requirements for the advertised vacancy.

Apply and further information

This vacancy is part of the Great Place to Work for Veterans (opens in a new window) initiative.

The Civil Service welcomes applications from people who have recently left prison or have an unspent conviction. Read more about prison leaver recruitment (opens in new window).

Once this job has closed, the job advert will no longer be available. You may want to save a copy for your records.

Contact point for applicants

Job contact:

Recruitment team:

Further information

Our recruitment process is underpinned by the principle of appointment on the basis of fair and open competition and appointment on merit, as outlined in the Civil Service Commissioners’ Recruitment Principles. If you feel your application has not been treated in accordance with these principles and you wish to make a complaint, you should in the first instance contact FR HR Services by email: you are not satisfied with the response you receive, you can contact the Civil Service Commission, which regulates all Civil Service recruitment.


Closing date: Apply before 11:55 pm on Sunday 26 March 2023.


Location: Farnham
Salary: £27,779 to £30,168
Hours: Full Time
Contract Type: Fixed-Term/Contract
Placed On: 10th March 2023
Closes: 26th March 2023
Job Ref: 268296
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