17-12-2013 11:36 AM | Appointments, News

Rothamsted Research announce new appointment

Rothamsted Research has announced the appointment of Professor John Crawford. He joined Rothamsted Research at the beginning of November 2013 and he will lead the Institute's Delivering Sustainable Systems Strategic Programme, which is funded by the BBSRC. His aim is to support the growth of integrative research at Rothamsted.

Professor John CrawfordProfessor John Crawford said: "I am delighted to join Rothamsted because there is no better place to do research that integrates from soil to society. The famously long tradition of fusing theoretical and empirical approaches across lab and field to provide real solutions is globally unique. More important than that though, I strongly believe that the Rothamsted philosophy is fundamental to the future of global food production. Nationally, the UK has an incredibly strong research base in soil research and systems biology and there is fantastic scope for collaboration and integrative research."

His personal research ambitions include an attempt to create a synthesis of systems biology, soil and plant science approaches to get a better understanding of the soil phenotype and how the natural productivity of the soil-plant-microbe system may be enhanced and complemented by efficient use of additional inputs. Soil is essential for providing our food, carbon cycling, filtering water and much more. The UK has a strong base and tradition in soil research. The appointment of Professor John Crawford at Rothamsted Research, one of the eight strategically funded Institutes by the BBSRC, is a further demonstration of the UK’s commitment to lead internationally at soil research.

John Crawford is also working with colleagues at North Wyke where the Farm Platform is located, a National Capability funded by the BBSRC. John and colleagues aim to explore the potential of a nutritional ecology approach to integrate the flow of nutrition (and hence energy) between soil, plants, animals and humans, and between the managed and natural environment.

Crawford said: "The Farm Platform is another world first for Rothamsted and provides a fantastic opportunity to study the rates, efficiencies and resilience of nutritional flows at the farm scale. There is no other place where this kind of integrative research can be done, and where potential unifying principles connecting food, environmental regeneration and societal health can be tested".

Prior to joining Rothamsted Research, Professor John Crawford held the inaugural Judith and David Coffey Chair in Sustainable Agriculture at the Faculty of Agriculture and the Environment at the University of Sydney. He was Head of Sustainability and Complex Systems, in the Charles Perkins Centre at the University of Sydney, the University’s flagship $0.5B research hub. He also established and led the University’s Integrative Systems Laboratory, a cross-Faculty research centre focussing on systems approaches linking agriculture, environmental regeneration and human health.

John Crawford holds an adjunct Chair at the Australian National University and hopes to work with them and other international partners to better integrate and preserve the world's long-term experiments relating to the agri-environment.

Professor Crawford is a theoretical biologist with a research focus on systems approaches, and he has active programmes of research on the integrated behaviour of the soil-plant-microbe system; microbiology; the structure and dynamics of plant and microbial communities; and in the systems biology of plant, microbial and human cells. He has more than twenty years experience working at the interface between the physical and life sciences, and twelve years experience in change management through the conception and successful establishment of 5 major interdisciplinary research centres.

In addition to academic work, Prof. Crawford established and ran UK Regional Mathematical Biology Masterclasses for school pupils that gained endorsement from the Royal Institution and funding from the BBSRC. He sat on the Panel responsible for developing the UK Government’s strategy on sustainable agriculture research and served on the Strategic Advisory Team for the Life Sciences Interface programme of the EPSRC. He was the Chair of the BBSRC Agri-Food Committee, up until his departure for Sydney, and then a member of the Australian Federal Ministerial Working Group on Soil, Water and Food. He is a Director of the Outcomes Australia Soils for Life Program, and sits on the Board of the Mulloon Institute, a privately-funded research organisation focussing on regenerative agriculture. In addition he sits on the Programme Advisory Committee for the Malaysian Palm Oil Board to assist in sustainable palm oil production.

He has written several policy documents that have changed the way UK Research Councils deliver interdisciplinary science, and initiated the first strategic Research Council funding stream for of mathematics in biology. He was invited to become a Fellow of the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications in recognition for services to mathematics in 2003, and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 2007 in recognition of his contribution to science. Grantsmanship exceeds £12M and he has published more than 170 peer-reviews articles with over 5000 citations (h-index 38) at the interface between the physical and life sciences, around 10% of which are in Nature or Science.


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