Press release

Science research programme launched to inform Defra policy making

Defra appoints six new Academic Fellows to lead Systems Research Programme

This was published under the 2016 to 2019 May Conservative government

A new Systems Research Programme will look at some of the UK’s most pressing environmental issues to inform and shape key future policy decisions.

The Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (Defra) has appointed six senior academic Fellows to focus on five key areas: Rural Land Use, Food, Air Quality, Marine, and Resources and Waste.

The Programme will be led by Professor Ian Boyd, Defra’s Chief Scientific Adviser, and will be delivered in close partnership with the research community.

Each of the five systems will be covered by a senior academic Fellow, taking a so-called ‘systems mapping’ approach to identify how a policy change in one area might affect another, and make sure the connections between environmental issues are properly considered.

A sixth Fellow, the ‘design authority’, will look at broader methodology and make sure that cross-cutting themes are identified.

Professor Ian Boyd, Defra Chief Scientific Adviser said:

The Systems Research Programme breaks new ground by taking a systems approach to understanding the key policy questions across the Defra group to deliver innovative, evidence-based solutions for the future.

This is a very busy and exciting time for policy making in Defra. This programme gives us the chance to concentrate on the UK’s priority environmental issues and use the best possible science to inform our solutions.

I look forward to working across the Defra group and the wider science community on this programme.

The new project will support Defra’s extensive EU Exit work and will ensure that future policies are informed by the best possible research.

Sir Patrick Vallance, Government Chief Scientific Adviser said:

It is important that government policies and decisions are informed by the best scientific evidence and strategic long-term thinking.

The Defra’s Systems Research Programme is important to delivering this aim by bringing together multidisciplinary science in a policy-relevant manner.

The successful candidates are based at universities across the UK and will spend part of their time supporting Defra in this project alongside continuing their academic roles. They will take up their role for Defra by the start of May.

The newly appointed Fellows are:

  • Design Authority– Professor Tom Oliver, University of Reading (School of Biological Sciences);
  • Air Quality system – Dr Sarah Moller, University of York (National Centre for Atmospheric Science);
  • Food system – Professor Bob Doherty, University of York (York Management School)
  • Marine system – Dr Abigail McQuatters-Gollop, University of Plymouth (Marine Conservation);
  • Rural Land Use system – Dr Pam Berry, University of Oxford (Environmental Change Institute);
  • Waste and Resources system – Professor Frank Boons, University of Manchester (Sustainable Consumption Institute).

The Design Authority, Professor Tom Oliver, University of Reading, said of the collaborative approach:

The Systems Research Programme provides an excellent opportunity to strengthen ties between the academic research community and government to develop a common understanding of complex environmental issues.

I am excited to bring together the broad expertise in the scientific community to develop a step change in how the environment is managed.

The programme sees Defra taking a leading role in steering the UK science research agenda to inform policy decisions that maximise environmental and social benefits.

Examples of a ‘systems mapping’ approach might include factoring in marine, waste management, landscape and other issues when looking at future policies on plastic, or considering the impact of food waste policies on waste and landscape management as well as water and air quality.

As is common practice for all Defra research programmes, final reports from the Systems Research Programme will be published on the Defra Science Search Website.

Updates to this page

Published 3 May 2019