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.

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 refreshed Defra group research and innovation interests document 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:

Open access policy for publications

Our Defra group open access policy for research publications aims to increase access to, sharing and use of findings arising from research funded by the Defra group.


Across Defra group, our statisticians produce a wide range of official and national statistics providing insight for external users and for policy-makers on state and on change across our environmental, food and farming, rural and marine portfolios. The products are developed in accordance with the principles and guidelines set out in the UK Statistics Authority’s Code of Practice for Official Statistics.


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.

Geospatial data

Geospatial data is any data that is referenced to a specific location, such as a postcode, field parcel or grid reference. Types of data include imagery, features, basemaps and tabular data with links to specific locations.

Defra makes extensive use of geospatial data to support the development, monitoring 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 geospatial data in government and has been at the forefront of a number of innovative developments using geographic information systems (GIS).

Defra is the lead department for the implementation of the INSPIRE regulations. If you would like to know more, email

Defra group has a large number of members of the Government Geography Profession.

Research integrity

Defra has signed up to the principles of the concordat to support research integrity, which provides a national framework for good research conduct and its governance. 

Defra publishes an annual compliance statement summarising the processes and measures in place to support research integrity across Defra group. This includes the governance, culture, guidance, training, external engagement, and open science principles that underpin the research that is conducted in Defra.

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.