Each of the Research Councils is established under the Science and Technology Act 1965, as a body incorporated by Royal Charter. The Royal Charter is the legal document which sets out the role and mission of each Council.
For Government accounting purposes, Research Councils are classified as Non-Departmental Public Bodies. NDPBs are organisations which have a role in the processes of national government, but they are not part of a government department and are governed by legislation which enables them to operate to a greater or lesser extent at arm’s length from Ministers. The Department of Trade and Industry has statutory control of the Councils, supported by the Director General of Science and Innovation.
Each Research Council has governing body called its "Council". The Council body is responsible for setting each Research Councils’ policy, strategy and priorities. It is also accountable for the stewardship of the Council’s budget and the extent to which objectives have been delivered and targets have been met. Council members are appointed by the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, who is answerable to Parliament for the Councils’ activities.
The full time Chief Executive is the Councils’ most senior officer. They are appointed to provide leadership both in relation to scientific research and in the direction and management of the Council.
Each Research Council has its own structure of high-level of advisory boards and groups to identify opportunities for research, training and knowledge transfer and to provide external advice on the development of strategies and policies. General information on the organisation of each Council and how it operates can be viewed here:
Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)
Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)
Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)
Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)
Medical Research Council (MRC)
Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)
Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC)