Head of Earth System Assimilation Section
Reading, UK or Bonn, Germany

Job reference: VN21-54

Location: Reading, UK or Bonn, Germany

Deadline for applications: 07/02/2022

Publication date: 10/11/2021

Salary and Grade: Grade A4: £91,435.80 or EUR 111,886.20 basic salary, net of tax + other benefits

Contract type: STF-C

Department: Research

Contract Duration: Four years, with possibility of further contract


ECMWF is the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts. It is an intergovernmental organisation created in 1975 by a group of European nations and is today supported by 34 Member and Co-operating States, mostly in Europe. The Centre’s mission is to serve and support its Member and Co-operating States and the wider community by developing and providing world-leading global numerical weather prediction. ECMWF functions as a 24/7 research and operational centre with a focus on medium and long-range predictions and holds one of the largest meteorological archives in the world. The success of its activities relies primarily on the talent of its scientists, strong partnerships with its Member and Co-operating States and the international community, some of the most powerful supercomputers in the world, and the use of innovative technologies such as machine learning across its operations. 

Over the years, ECMWF has also developed a strong partnership with the European Union, and for the past seven years has been an entrusted entity for the implementation and operation of the Climate Change and the Atmosphere Monitoring Services of the EU Copernicus Programme, as well as a contributor to the Copernicus Emergency Management Service. The collaboration does not stop there and includes other areas of work, including High Performance Computing and the development of digital tools that enable ECMWF to extend its provision of data and products covering weather, climate, air quality, fire and flood prediction and monitoring.

ECMWF has recently become a multi-site organisation, with its headquarters based since its creation in Reading, UK, its new data centre in Bologna, Italy, and new offices in Bonn, Germany.

It has also recently adopted a hybrid organisation model which allows its staff to mix both office working and teleworking. This generous and flexible model provides our staff with considerable flexibility to spend time outside or away from their duty station and decide how they wish to manage their professional working time at ECMWF. ECMWF is an organisation that values the whole being and both understands and values the need for flexibility in the way its staff work. 

For details, see www.ecmwf.int.

Summary of the role

The Earth System Assimilation Section works on research and development in data assimilation and the use of observations to initialise Earth System models. As such its activities feature prominently in the ECMWF 10-year strategy and it plays a central role in contributing to continued improvement in ECMWF’s predictions and reanalyses. The Section comprises around 40 staff, with roughly three quarters in Reading and one quarter to be located in Bonn. These are distributed across teams covering data assimilation methodology, coupled assimilation, microwave radiance observations, infra-red radiance observations, actively-sensed observations and UV and visible observations.

New science, in the use and interpretation of observations and data assimilation methods, is needed to meet the challenges of the Earth System approach, higher spatial resolution and more diverse applications. In particular ever more non-linear observations are being used, often sensitive to multiple components of the system (e.g. atmosphere and surface). The role requires to provide strategic and scientific direction to these efforts and the choices that need to be made.

The successful candidate will have excellent knowledge and advanced thinking in the area of data assimilation and a deep understanding of Earth System observations. This is a senior management position reporting to the Director of Research. The incumbent will have direct responsibility for the Earth System Assimilation Section, and is expected to deal with a wide spectrum of technical and scientific complexity, people management and the management of financial resources.

Main duties and key responsibilities

  • Leading the Earth system assimilation section by providing scientific direction, coaching and support, including direct management of the Team Leaders in the section
  • Initiating and stimulating scientific developments
  • Planning, organising and managing the resources of the Section, and complementing these when appropriate by attracting funds from externally funded projects (e.g. EU research funds, ESA and EUMETSAT) and by developing further collaborations
  • Developing and enhancing relations with observation providers, notably space agencies, with particular attention to challenges for new observation providers, for example in the commercial sector
  • Developing and maintaining strong relationships with key internal stakeholders from across all departments at ECMWF to ensure a timely delivery of upgrades to the forecasting system
  • Co-ordinating the planning and monitoring of the strategic actions on ‘Earth system assimilation’ and ‘Earth System Observations’ of the 10-year ECMWF strategy, in particular ensuring delivery from the Section
  • Acting as a member of the Research Department Management Team and of the ECMWF Senior Management Team

Personal attributes

  • Excellent leadership, communication and interpersonal skills
  • Ability to motivate and develop diverse (and distributed) teams, whilst creating a compelling scientific vision
  • Good technical skills, diplomacy, and tact
  • Positive attitude with a willingness to embrace change and new challenges
  • Ability to develop strong relationships and influence others
  • Excellent organizational skills to ensure delivery of multiple projects to diverse funders

Education, experience, knowledge and skills (including language)

  • An advanced university degree (EQF Level 8) in a relevant subject or equivalent experience is essential
  • Demonstrated scientific leadership in the area of Earth system assimilation
  • Senior management experience in a research, ideally in an operational environment
  • Excellent knowledge of Earth system assimilation and observations
  • Excellent ability to analyse complex, diverse, and sometimes conflicting requirements and to deploy adequate strategic responses
  • Experience of successfully obtaining and utilizing additional funding to deliver strategic objectives
  • Candidates must be able to work effectively in English and interviews will be conducted in English
  • A good knowledge of one of the Centre’s other working languages (French or German) would be an advantage

Other information

Grade remuneration

The successful candidate will be recruited at the A4 grade, according to the scales of the Co-ordinated Organisations and the annual basic salary will be £91,435.80 or EUR 111,886.20 net of tax. ECMWF also offers a generous benefits package, including a flexible teleworking policy. The position is assigned to the employment category STF-C as defined in the ECMWF Staff Regulations. Full details of salary scales and allowances available on the ECMWF website at www.ecmwf.int/en/about/jobs, including the ECMWF Staff Regulations and the terms and conditions of employment.

Starting date: As soon as possible

Length of contract: Four years with the possibility of a further contract.

Location: Given the location of most of the staff in the section, there is a preference for the position to be based at ECMWF’s duty station in Reading, UK. However, for the right candidate, ECMWF will consider the position being based in Bonn, Germany.

As a multi-site organisation, ECMWF has adopted a hybrid organisation model which allows flexibility to staff to mix office working and teleworking.

Successful applicants and members of their family forming part of their households will be exempt from immigration restrictions.

Interviews by videoconference (via Teams ) are expected to take place in late February 2022.

Who can apply

Applicants are invited to complete the online application form by clicking on the apply button.

At ECMWF, we consider an inclusive environment as key for our success. We are dedicated to ensuring a workplace that embraces diversity and provides equal opportunities for all, without distinction as to race, gender, age, marital status, social status, disability, sexual orientation, religion, personality, ethnicity and culture. We value the benefits derived from a diverse workforce and are committed to having staff that reflect the diversity of the countries that are part of our community, in an environment that nurtures equality and inclusion.

Applications are invited from nationals from ECMWF Member States and Co‑operating States, listed below:
Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Montenegro, Morocco, the Netherlands, Norway, North Macedonia, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey and the United Kingdom.

Applications from nationals from other countries may be considered in exceptional cases.