John Loughhead was appointed as chief scientific adviser for the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) in October 2014, and remained in the role for the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy from 2016. He replaced Professor David MacKay, who served a five-year term. 
As chief scientific adviser his role is to ensure that DECC's policies and operations, and 'its contributions to wider government issues, are underpinned by the best science and engineering advice available'.
Loughhead is a former vice-president of French energy and nuclear company Alstom.
Professor Loughhead is a staunch supporter of the all-out push for shale gas exploration in the UK. When DECC announced the lifting of a moratorium on fracking in December 2012, he said:
- There is no doubt that it is possible to recover shale gas safely, and in an environmentally acceptable way.
- The ability to exploit shale gas could dramatically increase accessible UK reserves of the cleanest fossil energy and is an economic opportunity that cannot be ignored. If successful, it is likely to eventually displace coal from the UK’s energy supply, and make more gas available to do the same elsewhere in the world, which has major environmental benefits.
In November 2013 Loughhead was appointed chair of the ReFine Independent Science Board, which was formed to oversee research on fracking in Europe.
Energy secretary Ed Davey emphasised Loughhead's focus on shale gas in a statement welcoming the scientist's appointment in October 2014:
- With vast engineering experience across academia and the private sector, Professor Loughhead brings a depth of knowledge that will be invaluable in areas such as shale gas, as well as keeping the UK as an energy world leader and creating momentum towards a global climate change deal.
Shale gas conference speaker
Just six months before his 2014 government appointment, Loughhead was a speaker at a shale industry conference in London entitled 'Fracking: The Debate on Hydraulic Fracturing for Gas'. The event's aim was to 'discuss how the advancement of fracking could contribute significantly to the UK's energy security and reduce the reliance on imported gas as the country moves to a low carbon economy'.
Loughhead is a chartered engineer. He graduated in Mechanical Engineering from Imperial College, London where he also spent five years in computational fluid dynamics research.  John is Past-President of the UK’s Institution of Engineering and Technology, Fellow of both the UK and Australian national Academies of Engineering, Professor of Engineering at Cardiff University and Fellow of Queen Mary University of London. Loughhead's "vast engineering experience across academia and the private sector,"  means that he will bring a depth of knowledge that will be invaluable in key areas such as shale gas, and will help the UK remain as an energy world leader.
Loughhead has been active in energy research for more than 30 years, he has mainly focused on industrial development for the electronics and electrical power industries.
Before joining UKERC, Loughhead was corporate vice-president of technology and intellectual property at Alstom head office in Paris.
Loughhead is a member of the EPSRC Council and of the European Advisory Group on Energy. Loughhead is presently the UK-China science focal point for energy and renewables, and a member of the European Energy Research Alliance Executive Committee. 
- DECC appoints new chief scientific advisor GOV.UK, 2 October 2014, accessed 3 October 2014
- James Murray Professor John Loughhead appointed DECC's new Chief Scientific Adviser Business Green, 2 October 2014, accessed 3 October 2014
- 'Fracking: The Debate on Hydraulic Fracturing for Gas' held at The Mermaid, London, 19 May 2014