Director for Science

Job Summary

Tenure and Tenure-track Faculty Positions
European Southern Observatory
Directorate for Science
Number of Positions Available
3 Years
Could the duration be extended?
Work Arrangement
In-Person Location(s)

Garching near Munich

Job Description

For the definition, planning, management and execution of the Organisation's scientific programme, ESO is advertising for its Directorate for Science (DSC) at its Headquarters in Garching, near Munich, Germany, the key position of Director for Science.

Reporting directly to the Director General, the Director for Science (DfS) provides the scientific drive of ESO's programme. The DfS is responsible for maintaining a vibrant scientific environment at ESO and coordinates and manages all scientific aspects, including educational ones, of ESO's activities and is accountable for their execution. As a member of the ESO Directors' Team the DfS works closely with the Director General and with the other Directors (both bi-laterally and as a team) in the development of overall policy and strategic planning across the Organisation. As a collaborative and inspirational manager and leader, the DfS empowers their staff in carrying out ESO's objectives.

The DfS reports as required to the ESO Council (main governing body of ESO) and is the primary point of contact with the Scientific Technical Committee and its sub-committees. The DfS ensures a lively and close liaison between the organisation and the scientific community at large, represents ESO in international scientific forums and participates in conferences and special events. As an active scientist and Full Astronomer of the ESO Astronomy Faculty the DfS maintains personal scientific and technical contacts internationally at the highest level.

Main Duties and Responsibilities:

  • Work together with the Director General and the other Directors to develop and implement ESO-wide policies and strategies aimed at delivering ESO's objectives;
  • Take a leading role in the development of science-related strategies, plans and policies;
  • Provide scientific leadership on ESO's Programme, its facilities and activities, according to the Organisation's strategic framework;
  • Provide visible and proactive management and leadership to the Science Directorate, comprising approximately 120 members of personnel, including ca. 70 Students and Fellows;
  • Maintain and further develop an active and attractive scientific environment at ESO, by supporting efforts of all ESO scientific staff, postdoctoral fellows and students to carry out scientific research at the highest international level and support the Faculty according to the ESO Astronomer Charter;
  • With the support from the Programme Scientists, liaise constructively with the astronomical community around ESO's Programmes and activities;
  • Ensure compliance with science requirements and provide scientific support in projects under development through the Project and Programme Scientists;
  • Ensure smooth and comprehensive preparation for and operation of the Scientific and Technical Committee and the Observing Programmes Committee;
  • Report to Council and internal and external committees on ESO Science as required and to the astronomical community at large via conferences and special events;
  • Support international relations activities and represent ESO in international forums as needed;
  • Conduct internationally recognised high-quality personal astronomy research, preferably using ESO's facilities.

This role reports to:

The Director General.

Key Competences and Experience:

Essential competences and experience include:

  • More than 10 years postdoctoral experience;
  • Outstanding scientific credentials, including the use of ESO's or similar astronomical facilities across the wavelength spectrum;
  • Successful experience in science management;
  • Successful experience in managing / supervising people and teams;
  • Excellent leadership qualities, inspiring colleagues inside the team and beyond;
  • Evidence of outstanding teamwork skills both at peer level as well as with the reporting colleagues;
  • Able to set aside individual needs in support of the strategic and operational needs of ESO;
  • Able to constructively suggest improvements to established ways of working to create positive change;
  • Evidence of delivering to required standards, on time and optimising resources;
  • Expresses self in a clear, concise and structured manner and possesses outstanding communication and diplomatic skills.

Desirable competencies and experience, which are not mandatory, but will be considered an asset:

  • Experience in similar roles in organisations developing or operating Research Infrastructures;
  • High-level liaison and representation experience with major national and international scientific bodies;
  • Experience of supporting / contributing to wider organisational initiatives as e.g. strategy and planning, mentoring and coaching, diversity, equity and inclusion programmes;
  • Experience of working in a multi-cultural and international context.

Education and Qualifications:

PhD in astronomy, astrophysics, physics or related fields. Evidence of continuing professional development, e.g. in leadership or management, will be an asset.

Language Skills:

The position requires an excellent command of the English language, both oral and written.

Compensation and Benefits

Compensation Type
Compensation Range
$120USD to $180USD
Included Benefits

Remuneration and Contract:

We offer an attractive remuneration package including a competitive salary, comprehensive pension scheme and medical, educational and other social benefits, as well as financial help in relocating your family and support to place your child/children in daycare.

Our Salary Structure:

ESO's salary structure is based upon a range of career paths which reflect the nature and level of our jobs. Each career path is made up of two or three grades which are used to further reflect experience.

Please follow this attached link for more details

ESO aims to support members of personnel in maintaining a good work-life balance ( between their professional and private life. ESO is also committed to offering family-friendly support (, creating a work environment and policies which allow staff to balance their professional and private responsibilities through flexible working arrangements and financial support for families.

The contract is for a fixed term duration of three years and is subject to successful completion of the probation period. An appointment is furthermore offered subject to formal approval by ESO Council. There may be a possibility of extension(s) of this contract subject to individual performance, organisational requirements and approval by Council, and as defined in the applicable policies and staff rules and regulations. For any further information, please visit ESO's conditions of employment ( Please note that the contract policy and in particular the regulations concerning fixed-term and indefinite contracts are currently under review which may lead to changes in the contractual conditions applicable to this position.

Application Details

Application Instructions
If you meet our criteria of a top-level, internationally recognised scientist and are interested in working in areas of frontline science and technology and in a stimulating international environment, please visit for further details.

Applicants are invited to apply online at

Applications must be completed in English and should include a motivation letter and full Curriculum Vitae (CV) with a publication list and a research plan. Also required are the names and contact details of three persons familiar with your work and international scientific standing and willing to provide a reference letter upon request. Referees will not be approached without your consent.

If you want to know more practical details about the job, you can contact ESO's Director of Programmes Dr Adrian Russell, through [email protected].

The closing date for applications is 7 June 2024.

Panel interviews for shortlisted candidates are expected to be held around September / October 2024 in Garching near Munich. Applicants may be required to participate in assessment activities as part of the selection process.

The successful candidate is expected to formally take up duty on 1 April 2025. To facilitate a hand-over from the current Director for Science, it is highly desirable that the successful candidate could start working at ESO 2-3 months before.
Publication Start Date
2024 Apr 15
Application Deadline
2024 Jun 07
Reference Code


Human Resources