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Strategic Head of Data Assimilation Research and Development

Posted: 5 Aug 2019 Closes: 26 Aug 2019
Exeter, GB Salary starting at £56,050
Permanent & Full-time met-office/20190805092648

Salary Information:

Starting at £56,050 with opportunities to increase to £61,458 per annum

*Salary quoted is based on full-time salary (37 hours) and 27.5 days annual leave and 8 bank holidays. Leave rises to 32.5 days annual leave and 8 bank holidays after 5 years. Employees can buy or sell up to 5 days leave if full-time or for part-time staff up to their weekly contracted hours.


The Data Assimilation R&D (DAERD) section of Weather Science undertakes fundamental, world-class research in atmospheric data assimilation, as well as the further development of data assimilation (DA) algorithms for use in operational Numerical Weather Prediction (NWP) at the Met Office.

The work of DAERD is highly collaborative. Firstly, a close working relationship is required with those providing pre-processed quality controlled, bias corrected observations for ingest into modern DA algorithms. Within the Met Office, the Observations Programme and Satellite Applications (SA) section of Weather Science provide this primary input to DAERD for operational NWP applications. Secondly, it is essential that new and updated DA algorithms are robust and computational efficient, requiring a significant computational science activity within DAERD, as well as close links with related efforts elsewhere e.g. Weather Science IT section (WSIT). Thirdly, the complexity of modern NWP systems, including the advent of ensemble-based DA capabilities, demands a closely coordinated transition of DA science and technology to operations via the Research To Operations (R2O) activity of Weather Science. In parallel with the NWP application that is the primary focus for DAERD, DA activities in other earth-system components (e.g. land, ocean, wave, sea-ice, biogeochemistry, space weather, etc.) have expanded rapidly in recent years, including at the Met Office, and so sharing of DA science and technology across these diverse areas (with the potential for more strongly-coupled ESM DA in future) becomes essential.

External to the Met Office, the field of DA is a major research subject for a number of academic groups in the UK e.g. the Data Assimilation Research Centre (DARC) at the University of Reading. The Met Office is exploring closer ties with UK academia through both the Met Office Academic Partnership (MOAP) and the Met Office-NERC Joint Centre for Weather and Climate Research Programme (JWCRP). Internationally, the Unified Model (UM) Partnerships provides a framework for broad collaboration in weather and climate science, including DA, between a number of international partners. The Met Office also works closely with a number of world-leading centres of excellence for DA including the European Centre for Medium range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF), the US National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), the US Joint Center for Satellite Data Assimilation (JCSDA) and NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. 

Working with the wider Weather Science senior management team, Hd(DAERD) will define the strategic direction of Met Office DA, provide scientific leadership to the DAERD team, oversee the development of DA technology, and coordinate wider internal and external collaborations in current (Unified Model-based) and next-generation modelling system (NGMS) DA. A recent restructuring of Weather Science has transferred the immediate responsibility for transition of DA upgrades for operations to R2O, allowing DAERD to focus more on the ‘up-stream’ R&D required for future operational implementation in the next two to twenty years. This provides an exciting opportunity for the team to focus on the science (and technology) of data assimilation working, as outlined above, with others to provide a smooth transition from ideas to operations with the treatment of large volumes of ‘big data’ (forecast and observation) at the heart of DAERD’s thinking.

Job Purpose:

To define the strategic direction of Met Office data assimilation (DA), provide scientific leadership to the DAERD team, oversee the development of DA technology, and coordinate wider internal and external collaborations in current (Unified Model-based) and next-generation modelling system (NGMS) DA.

Job Responsibilities:

  • To own and develop the strategy for Met Office’s atmospheric data assimilation capabilities, including coupling within wider earth-system model.
  • To provide the scientific leadership required to ensure DAERD’s DA R&D activities remain world-leading in both publication rate and operational performance.
  • To oversee the development and maintenance of Met Office data assimilation software, in close collaboration with R2O, SA and WSIT sections of Weather Science.
  • To own and develop, in discussion with DAERD staff and others, the DAERD theme plan.
  • To pursue external data assimilation collaborations with both UK academia and international organisations where there is clear, mutual benefit.
  • To lead, motivate, recruit and develop members of the DAERD section.

Essential Qualifications, Skills & Abilities:

  1. Good first degree or demonstrable equivalent experience in physical/mathematical science.
  2. International reputation in data assimilation research and development, as evidenced by your strong publication record, membership of external scientific groups, awards, etc.
  3. Demonstrated success in the research, development and implementation of significant upgrades to real-world earth system data assimilation capabilities.
  4. Demonstrated ability to lead and manage large, multi-centre collaborative projects.
  5. Evidence of good verbal/written communications (including listening skills) tailored to a variety of audiences, including peers, senior management, external stakeholders, etc.
  6. Demonstrated desire and ability to lead a team of scientists and/or software engineers, including demonstration of coaching and staff development skills.
  7. The role requires international travel so the job holder must be able to travel overseas regularly.

Desirable Qualifications, Skills & Abilities:

  1. A PhD in data assimilation for earth system applications.
  2. Good knowledge of current Met Office atmospheric data assimilation systems (OPS and/or VAR) or other equivalent DA system.
  3. Significant scientific programming experience within a complex IT environment.

Additional Supplementary Information:

To apply, please click on the link below and complete the online application form. 

Key Dates: Closing date 26/08/2019, with interview dates  expected to be 12/09/2019. Please note that you will be notified if you are successful or unsuccessful.

Should you be offered an interview, please be aware there may be a selection exercise which could include a presentation, written test or a scenario-based activity. If you require any reasonable adjustments during these exercises, please include this information in your application.

Please note, when joining the Met Office all new employees will start on the salary band minimum.

This role will nominally be based in Exeter but we will consider applicants wishing to work elsewhere within the UK.

Full-time, part-time and job share applications are invited. The Met Office is an equal employer and flexible and UK homeworking requests will be considered within operational requirements. The post holder is required to be in Exeter for a minimum of 3 days per week for delivery reasons.

Candidates who are interviewed maybe considered for other similar science posts available in the Met Office during the next 6 months.

We are a “Disability Confident” employer, Mindful Employer, with an Athena Swan Bronze award for our work on gender equality and an LGBTi network.

As part of our commitment to redeploying staff, certain candidates will be given priority status in the application process.

This recruitment post is not offering UK Visa and Sponsorship and therefore requires all applicants to be eligible to work within the UK / EU without restriction. If you are a non–EU candidate, you will be required to provide and attach all relevant eligibility documentation to your application at the time of applying.

Please note that successful candidate/s will be required to satisfactorily undergo security clearance checks. This will generally require the candidate to have lived in the UK for at least three out of the last five years, but applicants not meeting this criteria may be considered.

Met Office

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