Defra hires six researchers to focus on post-Brexit policy

Defra has launched the research programme to inform policy-making post-Brexit
Defra has launched the research programme to inform policy-making post-Brexit

A new programme spearheaded by Defra will look at some of the UK’s most pressing environmental and food issues to shape future policy post-Brexit.

The Systems Research Programme seeks to strengthen ties between researchers and the government to develop a common understanding of complex issues which affects the department.

Six senior academic Fellows will focus on five key areas: Rural Land Use, Food, Air Quality, Marine, and Resources and Waste.

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.

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.

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.”

The new project will support Defra’s Brexit work. 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 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 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).