Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture (ENRA) research programme 2022-2027: mid-programme review report

Findings of the mid-programme review of the Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture research programme 2022 to 2027.

10. Theme F: Cross-cutting modelling activities

Theme F covers large scale modelling projects, which is a total of 3 projects. The grant offer for Theme F projects in 2023-24 was circa £0.8m.

10.1 Science Excellence and Reach

SAB reported evidence provided demonstrated the research is internationally competitive.

SAB members commented that material presented in the presentation and report card demonstrated the work in Theme F represents substantial novel R&D, including method developments and applications. SAB noted the research was more incremental than innovative. The work could be more strongly framed with an emphasis on innovation through collaboration.

SAB members reported convincing evidence was provided that the project outputs are being connected across SRP Themes and Centres of Expertise. However it would have been helpful if other Themes could articulate links to the Theme F research.

The potential for AI approaches across the RESAS portfolio was surprisingly limited, as was the potential to contribute to qualitative/mixed-methods approaches e.g. to elicit stakeholder perceptions/ narratives.

10.2 Research Impact

SAB agreed good examples of evidence had been provided which demonstrate the research is delivering impact.

Examples such as in Biodiversity & ecosystem tools (BET) project, new tools developed to enhance monitoring and management of biodiversity and ecosystems, e.g. population genetic modelling addressing local adaptation versus assisted migration challenge for forestry management under climate change is informing work under NERC’s Future of UK treescapes programme (e.g., risk of great spruce bark beetle spread).

In Sustainable agriculture tools (SAT), method development for real time monitoring of livestock using monitoring and validation data from challenge studies produced under the Precision Livestock Tools to improve sheep welfare project (MRI-A3-1).

In Large-scale and systems modelling (LSM), new tools to support decision makers by providing projections and enabling exploration of policy options through scenario analysis

e.g. uncertainty quantification tools applied in Emerging Water Futures project (JHI D2-1), to improve modelling for flood and drought forecasting for SEPA and Scottish Water.

SAB members commented that evidence had been provided of outputs having significance and reach, although suggested more could be made of opportunities to enhance capacity for delivering ex ante and/or ex post evaluations of the value of outputs through to outcomes/impact.

It was recognised that more interactions will be needed with social scientists, practitioners and other stakeholders in the future. Strong communication is needed on the value of Theme F, including from the other Themes/ Centres if the cross-cutting role is to be understood.

10.3 Scottish Government Priorities

The following highlights the policy priority categorisation and observations noted for research projects within Theme F. Other stakeholder priorities, such as industry, have not been reflected in the categorisation below but are considered key to a projects overall impact/importance.


1 project Total project cost £0.2m

This project has been classified as Critical as large-scale and systems modelling will provide a powerful set of tools to enhance understanding of complex systems and support decision makers by providing projections and enabling exploration of policy options through scenario analysis and better quantification of uncertainties.


2 projects Total project costs £0.5m

The underpinning modelling projects have been classified as important including projects which are essential for predicting the impacts of climate change, by developing broad use statistical and mathematical tools for modelling natural populations and community dynamics and biodiversity and environmental systems.

Also includes research into bioinformatics, modelling and statistical methods to support the transformation of agriculture data streams into information that can drive forward sustainable agriculture.

These modelling projects inform a number of projects across the SRP and are often seen as important to achieving the value and impact of the projects they underpin.


0 projects

No projects have been classified as Desirable in Theme F.

10.4 Theme F Conclusion

Overall Theme F demonstrates value and impact. Through discussions and investigation SAB was able to understand the importance of the underpinning modelling projects being

delivered by Bioss. However, interdependencies and values were not clear at central level. It is recommended:

  • SAB & RESAS Recommendation: More effort is made to map the interdependencies of the modelling work with other projects across the SRP. Currently it is not clear how the modelling work is linked to the expected impact of allied projects.
  • SAB Recommendation: Need to be more explicit about some of the collaborative work, and to develop a forward look and on new priorities and opportunities (e.g. AI), to avoid appearance of this Theme functioning solely in a service provision mode.
  • SAB Recommendation: The policy on open-source/open access vs commercialisation and data ownership needs clarifying – including criteria for such decisions.


Email: SRF@gov.scot

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