Research at Defra

An overview of research and analysis undertaken by Defra.

Research and analysis provides evidence for decision-making, ensuring Defra’s polices are based on a sound, comprehensive understanding of current evidence. It helps us find new policy solutions and identify and tackle future issues.

We use the term ‘evidence’ to encompass material from a variety of disciplines – science research, statistics, economics, social research or operational research, and geographical information. We use a variety of quality assurance processes.

Evidence strategy

We have set out our research priorities in our strategy, ‘Making the most of our evidence’. We work with partners to design and deliver high impact research in support of policy priorities now and in coming years.

Science Advisory Council

Defra’s Science Advisory Council provides independent advice and challenge to Defra’s Chief Scientific Adviser and ministers on the science underpinning Defra policies.

Science research and analysis

To inform sound policy-making, Defra needs access to the right information and needs to be confident of the quality of that information. Understanding the knowledge base and using targeted investment to fill critical gaps will help achieve value for money and innovative approaches.

Our areas of research interest report sets out our high level areas of science, evidence and analysis interest across the Defra group.

Information about individual projects is available in our science and research projects database

Commissioning research and analysis projects

Research and analysis projects are commissioned through a competitive process and advertised on our e-Tendering site. You can express your interest by registering for an account and logging in.

Research project reporting

Contractors should use the following forms when reporting to Defra on projects:


High quality, accessible statistical information and analysis is an essential part of policy development. Defra’s statistical team develops relevant data sources and research in accordance with the UK Statistics Authority guidelines, in order to support the policy-making process.


Defra economists provide analysis, appraisal and evaluation for all aspects of Defra policy, to ensure policy decisions are informed by high quality and robust evidence in order to meet Defra’s strategic objectives.

Social research

Good social science research helps make good government strategy, policy and delivery. Social science research informs the development, implementation and evaluation of a wide range of government policies. The best results are often the result of teamwork, with Government Social Research Profession members, other analysts and policy or delivery officials working together throughout the development and implementation of an idea to ensure it is as evidence based as possible. Engagement as early as possible in this process helps ensure the results of any analytical work are as useful as possible.

Operational research

Operational research is all about helping people to understand complex problems, achieving the best outcomes and making the best use of public money. It provides flexible techniques that can be applied to a variety of problems, from discussions and logical problem structuring through to analysing statistics and building predictive models. It is especially useful to conduct ‘what if’ analyses, to help policy-makers evaluate different policy options.

Geographical information

Geographic information (GI) constitutes any information that is referenced to a specific location, defined by a grid reference, postal address or an agricultural field or holding number, for example - information capable of being represented on a map and analysed spatially.

Defra has made extensive use of GI to support the development and delivery of its policies, as well as underpinning the communication of the impact of those policies to a wide variety of audiences. Defra is one of the leading users of GI in government and has been at the forefront of a number of innovative developments using geographic information systems.

Defra is also the lead department for the UK Location Programme which is a UK pan-government initiative to improve the sharing and re-use of public sector location information. The programme is also responsible for the implementation of the EC INSPIRE Directive.

If you would like to know more, please contact the GI Co-ordination Team

Quality assurance

Defra makes a substantial investment in commissioning, assessing and using evidence to inform policy and it is important to ensure that evidence is fit for purpose.

Peer review

Defra uses peer review of selected evidence proposals and outputs to help ensure the evidence it funds is good quality and fit-for-purpose.

The Joint Code of Practice for Research

The Joint Code of Practice for Research (JCoPR) sets out standards for the quality of science and the quality of research processes that contractors who carry out research on behalf of Defra, and other signatory organisations, must follow.

The Joint Code of Practice for Veterinary Activities

The Joint Code of Practice for Veterinary Activities sets out standards for the quality of evidence processes, to help assure the quality of veterinary data across animal health activities.

Social Research

The Government Social Research (GSR) Code sets out 7 principles to guide the work and behaviour of the Government Social Research Profession.


The UK Statistics Authority’s Code of Practice for Official Statistics sets out principles that help ensure the range of official statistics meets the needs of users; that the statistics are produced, managed and disseminated to high standards; and that the statistics are well explained.