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Director of SAMS / CEO of SAMS Group
Competitive salary plus benefits

SAMS winter location Dunstaffnage

The Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS) is Scotland's largest and oldest independent marine science organisation: a research and education institute, a learned society and registered charity based on Scotland's stunning west coast.  We are delivering marine science for a healthy and sustainable marine environment through research, education, innovation and engagement with society. Our research activities span the breadth of marine science, tackling diverse interdisciplinary research questions.

We invite applications for the role of Director of SAMS, CEO of SAMS Group.  This requires an exceptional individual who is able to develop, motivate and inspire staff and students.

The ideal candidate will be a marine scientist of distinction: dynamic with a clear and compelling vision for the future.  They will have a proven track record of delivering success and growth in the marine research environment, excellent organisational and people skills; bring energy and drive; and have a pro-active approach and commitment to the development and delivery of SAMS strategy.  The post-holder will have the ability to manage and lead the SAMS Group in the delivery of its mission to be recognised for its world class research and to continue to provide an outstanding and distinctive student experience.

General enquiries should be directed to the SAMS President, Professor Geoffrey Boulton OBE PhD DSc FRS FRSE (; +44 131 667 2531) and/or the Acting Director, Professor Axel Miller MBA PhD MRSC FHEA (; +44 1631 559272).

To apply for this position please submit a CV and cover letter to or write to: Director/CEO SAMS Group (D10/14.AM), Human Resources, SAMS, Scottish Marine Institute, Oban, Argyll PA37 1QA, UK

The closing date for receipt of applications is Monday 2nd February 2015.

SAMS is a registered Scottish charity (SC 009206), has an equal opportunities policy and
welcomes applications from all sections of the community.

Job description

Director job description

Job description: Director of SAMS, CEO of SAMS Group


The Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS) is Scotland's largest and oldest independent marine science organisation.  Its mission is to carry out cutting-edge research, to apply the understanding gained for the public good and to provide education on the marine environment.

Based in Oban, Scotland, staff operate locally, nationally and overseas.  Recently, SAMS extended its mission delivery by setting up the SAMS Group. This includes SAMS Research Services Ltd and the Ocean Explorer Centre.  SRSL is a specialist marine consultancy and survey service while the Ocean Explorer Centre is SAMS' interface for the public to explore the scientific understanding of our oceans.

To deliver its education mission, SAMS works closely with a number of universities, most prominently as a full academic partner of the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI).

The SAMS Group employs 165 staff and has an annual turnover of ~£11 million.



The post described here is Director of SAMS who is also CEO of the SAMS Group and 'Principal' of SAMS as a partner of the UHI.



To provide strategic leadership to sustain and develop SAMS, building on the strengths of research, education and enterprise provision; and to foster a strong portfolio of interdisciplinary activity.



The SAMS Director is responsible to the Board and Council of SAMS.  The post holder is also accountable to the UHI and other HEIs for education delivery.  The SAMS Director has responsibility for all SAMS staff.


  1. Strategic Vision. The SAMS Director will take responsibility for the development and execution of a strategy that delivers excellence across the SAMS Group.
  2. Research. This is the main focus of SAMS and the SAMS Director is expected to foster research of the highest quality by staff.  The post-holder will need to engage with a range of stakeholders locally, regionally, nationally and internationally.
  3. Understanding for the public good. With an increasing emphasis on impact in research, the post holder is expected to ensure SAMS is fully engaged in this process.
  4. Education. The SAMS Director is expected to engage staff fully with the delivery of higher education undergraduate and postgraduate courses; and to develop alliances with other HEIs for specialist postgraduate education as appropriate.
  5. Management. The Director is expected to ensure that SAMS is compliant with all laws and regulations relevant to delivery of the SAMS mission. The post holder will take overall responsibilities for SAMS communications and SAMS membership.

The successful candidate will have strong academic credibility, a wide range of management skills gained working in complex organisations, while sharing an understanding and empathy with the concerns of staff and students. The successful candidate will develop and deliver the mission and strategy of SAMS for the next decade while inspiring staff to work together to deliver exceptional outcomes in education and research.

It is highly likely that the successful candidate will be knowledgeable of UK and European research systems, with proven political and diplomatic skills to work concurrently across several fronts including, for instance, the UHI, Scottish Government, UK Research Councils, Europe and internationally.



The post is open-ended following a probationary period of one year. A salary commensurate with the role and responsibilities of this post will be offered.  The post-holder will have the option of joining the USS Pension Scheme.  A relocation allowance is negotiable.

SAMS overview

Further particulars for the appointment of a Director


  1. The Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS) has evolved from a body set up in 1884 by Sir John Murray, naturalist on the Challenger Expedition of 1872-76, editor of its 50 published reports and the first person to use the term 'oceanography'.  Today SAMS is located at Dunstaffnage near Oban on Scotland’s west coast. With a fine setting, modern laboratories and an international research portfolio, it is one of the largest marine research establishments on the east shore of the Atlantic.
  2. SAMS is one of the largest high-technology enterprises in the highlands and islands of Scotland and the largest private sector employer in Argyll. It is affiliated to the United Nations University, collaborates in research and postgraduate education with Scotland’s principal research-intensive universities (Edinburgh, St Andrews, Aberdeen) and delivers undergraduate education in marine science as a partner in the University of the Highlands and Islands. SAMS is also a member of two Scottish research pools: the Marine Alliance for Science and Technology for Scotland (MASTS) and the Scottish Alliance for Geoscience, Environment and Society (SAGES).
  3. The need for appointment of a new Director follows the untimely and unexpected recent death of our previous Director, Professor Laurence Mee

People and departments

  1. Staff are the primary resource of the organization and rate SAMS highly as an employer as evidenced by staff surveys. SAMS culture is engaged and supportive.
  2. The SAMS group employs 166 staff. These are grouped in seven departments: Biogeochemistry & Earth Science; Marine Ecology; Microbial & Molecular Biology; Physics & Technology; Education; Finance; and Infrastructure. 14 of our staff are employees of our subsidiary company SRSL.


  1. Whilst administered through its departments, much of SAMS research is highly multidisciplinary. This is reflected in some of our research themes (e.g. Arctic Science, ‘Blue Energy’) and the recent creation of three Research and Innovation Centres (RICs): Aquaculture; Marine Biotechnology; and Society and the Sea.
  2. Arctic Research has a long pedigree of multidisciplinary studies and field operations in polar regions.  The programme  has an international reputation for development and deployment of autonomous polar technology. It has mature partnerships with Norwegian and South Korean Arctic research institutes, and a unique educational programme, a BSc(Hons)Marine Science with Arctic Studies.
  3. Blue Energy Research has focused on dual renewable energy strands; on environmental interactions (e.g. collision risks, reef effects, biofouling, smothering, survey techniques, monitoring); and on algal biofuel source assessment and development (now captured in our Biotechnology RIC).  Its achievements include the creation of a team that is widely recognised for their understanding of environmental and societal interactions of wave, tidal & algal energy technologies.   A current priority is to provide leadership in scientifically valid monitoring so that impacts can be quantified in step with UK, European and international development.
  4. The Aquaculture Centre  focuses on environmental interactions and invertebrate and macro-algae cultivation.  Its work has a leading reputation for its industry-research agenda through pioneering work on understanding the complex relationships between marine food production and the environment . It works closely with government and regulatory bodies.  A major concern is the economic, social and environmental sustainability of the aquaculture industry.
  5. The Marine Biotechnology Centre provides a clear focus on natural products, bioremediation and algal bioenergy.  Recently it has become the only UK marine institute to co-lead a BBSRC ( Network in Industrial Biotechnology and Bioenergy (PhycoNet).  It has been instrumental in developing the national Industrial Biotechnology Innovation Centre (IBioIC), which has also lead to an to an MSc programme in Industrial Biotechnology, with a much enhanced international profile.  It leads an EU Marie Curie early stage (PhD) training programme on micro-algal biotechnology.  Its current priority is to consolidate and strengthen its industrial engagement.
  6. The Laurence Mee Centre for Society and the Sea developed in early 2014 as a result of large-scale staff investments through EU Framework 7 contract and building on the work of recent years on innovative approaches to understanding the social and policy arena relating to the changing marine environment.  It played a leading role in a range of European and UK social-ecological projects (e.g. UK National Ecosystem Assessment). Building on this, our Centre will focus on three key research areas: ecosystem services, marine policy and governance, and socio-cultural dynamics of coastal and island communities.
  7. SAMS also hosts three national capabilities that are funded by the Natural Environment Research Council: the Culture Collection of Algae and Protozoa, the National Facility for Scientific Diving and the North Atlantic Glider Base.


  1. SAMS currently has 123 full-time students:
    * BSc (Hons) Marine Science (with Arctic Science strand): 74 students
    * MSc Ecosystem-Based Management of Marine Systems: 13 students
    * MRes Algal Biotechnology: 2 students
    * PhD: 34 students
  2. Undergraduate students are registered with the University of the Highlands and Islands, and postgraduate students mostly with UHI or the Universities of St Andrews or Edinburgh.
  3. SAMS also contributes to the Doctoral Training Centre in Offshore Renewables and to the Industrial Biotechnology Innovation Centre. It offers a range of short CPD courses. It has been funded to create an Erasmus Plus joint Masters in Aquaculture, Environment and Society with the universities of Nantes and Crete.

Commercial activities

  1. Most commercial activity is undertaken by SRSL (SAMS Research Services Limited) which provides specialist marine consultancy and survey services to industry in the UK and abroad. SRSL currently focuses on the renewables, mining, marine technology and aquaculture sectors. SRSL employs its own staff and buys time of SAMS staff to deliver many of its projects. An independent Board governs SRSL. The new Director of SAMS will be a director of SRSL. Profits from SRSL are gift-aided to SAMS.
  2. SAMS operates a second wholly owned subsidiary company, SAMS Ltd, which is more closely integrated within the SAMS structure and includes commercial activities provided by the Culture Collection of Algae and Protozoa, the hyperbaric facility and our visitor and European Centre for Marine Biotechnology tenant services.


  1. SAMS is a charitable organisation working in accordance with Articles of Association and a Memorandum of Association. Acting as a learned society it has a current membership of 274. SAMS is governed by a Council, chaired by the SAMS President. Council members are elected for a term of 3 years (renewable for a second term) and are SAMS trustees. The principal function of the Council is to agree the strategy of SAMS. The Council is supported by a Board which meets more frequently than Council and oversees delivery of the strategy, particularly through its research, education and finance committees.

The role of Director

  1. A Director is sought who will exercise strategic leadership for SAMS by stimulating and guiding its research activities, in ensuring that it continues to contribute to major developments in ocean science, in promoting the useful application of ocean science in business and public policy, and in stimulating understanding of the oceans by the wider public.
  2. The Director will be expected to represent SAMS both nationally and internationally, and to ensure that it is able to benefit from developing national and international opportunities.
  3. The Director is supported by the Deputy Director (Professor Axel Miller), who is responsible, in consultation with the Director, for day-to-day management of SAMS. Both the President (Professor G. S. Boulton FRS FRSE) and Chair of the Board (Mr Michael Gibson  CBE – from the 1st of January 2015 to be succeeded by Commodore Angus Ross RN) are readily available to support the Director. 


  1. SAMS is located three miles outside the Scottish west coast town of Oban, which is a transport hub for the region serviced by ferries, trains, buses and a small number of commercial flights. It is located on a picturesque peninsula adjacent to the 13th century Dunstaffnage Castle. The nearest cities are Glasgow, Inverness and Stirling.
  2. SAMS estate consists of two major buildings. The Sir John Murray Building, opened in 2004, is the main research centre, incorporating laboratories, the Culture Collection of Algae and Protozoa, a 160m2 research aquarium, a library, various meeting  rooms as well as the majority of staff offices. It incorporates the European Centre for Marine Biotechnology, our business incubator with currently two tenant companies (Glycomar Ltd and Lallemand Aquapharm).
  3. The Sheina Marshall Building, opened in 2011, is dedicated to education. Equipped with four modern teaching labs, two computer suites, several lecture and seminar rooms, a large study room, a canteen with outstanding views, and some offices. It also includes the Ocean Explorer Centre with Café Scientifique, as our public visitor and outreach facility which opened in 2013.
  4. SAMS operates two research vessels moored on our own pontoon and a dive centre with a hyperbaric chamber (commercially operated for the NHS), which houses the NERC National Facility for Scientific Diving. Our main vessel and dive centre require upgrading or replacement in the coming years.
  5. Highlands and Islands Enterprise have been developing the European Marine Science Park next to SAMS, where SRSL is located.


  1. SAMS has an annual operating income of £10-12 million and has consistently delivered a modest surplus in its budget over the past 5 years, although this is becoming increasingly challenging. In 2013-14 research contributed a little over two thirds of our income (from research councils, EU, RAE and other sources). Commercial activities contribute about 20% and education 10% of its income.
  2. SAMS has followed a strategy of diversification of income streams to reduce its vulnerability to external changes in national and EU research budgets, research priorities, policies and structures. Currently SAMS has over 100 active projects funded from 60 different sources. It has 25 significant commercial customers in addition to the multitude of customers purchasing from the Culture Collection and Ocean Explorer Centre. 


  1. Further information for potential candidates can be obtained on a confidential basis by contacting the Acting Director, Professor Axel Miller (; +44 1631 559272 ), and/or the President, Professor Geoffrey Boulton FRS FRSE (; or through the Director’s secretary, Ms Lorna MacKinnon - +44 (0)1631 559272).



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Contact us
Scottish Marine Institute
Oban, Argyll, PA37 1QA
T: 01631 559000
F: 01631 559001