Page last updated at 02:19 GMT, Friday, 17 April 2009 03:19 UK

MI5 set to recruit science chief

By Pallab Ghosh
Science correspondent, BBC News

MI5 HQ - Thames House (BBC)
The role is "unique and challenging", according to MI5

MI5 is to appoint a chief scientific adviser, BBC News has learned.

The role will involve working with senior intelligence staff to combat terrorism and support counter-intelligence operations.

The advert on MI5's website says candidates will need to have world-class scientific expertise and outstanding communication skills.

MI5 is the more common name for the Security Service, the UK's domestic intelligence agency.

The successful candidate will be "leading and co-ordinating the scientific work of the Security Service", the ad says.

A chief scientist for MI5 will change Britain's capability to manage terror attacks
Dr Sally Leivesley
Security consultant

The UK government's chief scientific adviser, Professor John Beddington, told BBC News: "There is a really important role in providing scientific and technological advice on addressing problems agents in the field will face.

"[The chief science adviser] has a role to frustrate terrorism to prevent espionage hurting the UK, protect our critical national infrastructure and to frustrate the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

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"There's an enormous amount of scientific content in this role."

Dr Sally Leivesley, from security consultancy New Risk, told BBC News: "The appointment of a chief scientific adviser is an acknowledgement of the emerging threat of chemical, biological and radiological attack by terrorists and also the security threat to computer systems," she said.

"A chief scientist for MI5 will change Britain's capability to manage terror attacks."

Dr Leivesley believes that the chief scientist would also be an important point of contact for experts in other countries at high risk of terrorist attack, such as the US.

"This means that large science labs around the world can be co-ordinated in the event of an incident," she said.

According to Professor Beddington, the adviser will have to keep up with the latest developments in science and technology - so that British intelligence officers can stay one step ahead of the country's enemies.

"It will involve a sort of future gazing to see where technology will be taking us in a year or so," he explained.

Applications for the job close on April 24.

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