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.

2. Methodology

The Mid-programme Review (MPR) was delivered by the Rural & Environmental Science and Analytical Services (RESAS) Division within Scottish Government. The review team consists of officials from the RESAS Programme Management Office (PMO) and the RESAS Scientific Advisory Unit (SAU).

Within the MPR, the Chief Scientific Advisory (CSA) ENRA led on the Scientific Evaluation of the programme. This aligns to the CSA’s responsibility for providing assurance on the quality of the scientific research undertaken in the areas covered by the programme. It also reflects the fact that the CSA ENRA co-chairs the Scientific Advisory Board (SAB) which provides ongoing scrutiny of the ENRA programme as part of the existing governance structures. Overall responsibility for delivering the review, and its conclusions sits with civil servants in RESAS.

The mid-programme review evaluates the programme through three Work Packages:

Programme Delivery

A desktop assessment on the deliverability risk of the projects and programme functions utilising available delivery datasets

Science Evaluation

An independent evaluation of Theme A-F provided by the Scientific Advisory Board (SAB) to assess Science Excellence, Reach and Impact

Alignment to Policy Priorities

Theme workshops with Senior Policy Sponsors to assess the research against the current policy priorities to provide understanding of priority gaps and opportunities

The findings from the mid-programme review are presented in this report as follows:

  • Science Evaluation presented by Theme
  • Policy Priorities presented by Theme
  • Strategic Research Programme Delivery
  • Underpinning National Capacity

Programme Delivery (Led by RESAS PMO)

This work package identifies potential delivery risk based on available datasets such as Researchfish and finance reporting. This work package looks at the research projects in the Strategic Research Programme. Delivery risk is identified if a project meets either of the delivery triggers outlined below:

  • Trigger 1: Key project milestones missed, without an agreed mitigation plan and project re-baselining.
  • Trigger 2: Two or more substantial changes to a project. This may indicate significant change in project scope/direction.

Science Evaluation (Led by CSA ENRA & RESAS SAU)

This work package uses the research programme’s existing governance structure, specifically the SAB to independently evaluate the research in the Strategic Research Programme, at a Theme Level.

The SAB are asked to evaluate the research based on the evidence presented to them via Theme Level Scientific Delivery Group reports and interviews between SAB and Theme Leaders at Board Meetings. A series of questions were put to SAB members, which in turn provided an evaluation of the research. This science evaluation output centres around ‘Science Excellence and Reach’ and ‘Research Impact’.

The following questions were answered by SAB members for each Theme:

Evaluation Framework

Questions to SAB members

Science Excellence and Reach

1. Has evidence been provided that demonstrates that the research is i) internationally competitive and ii) unique and innovative.

2. Are components of this Theme duplicating past research?

3. Has evidence been provided to demonstrate how the outputs of projects are being [will be] connected across the SRP Themes?

4. Are there any key research gaps identified across the Theme?

Research Impact

5. Has evidence been provided that demonstrates that the research is delivering outputs with impact or demonstrating good progress toward impact in support of key policy and broader end user needs within this theme?

6. Do the outputs delivered have significance and reach?

7. Are there opportunities to enhance research impact?

8. Are there significant risks highlighted that could affect the impact of key elements of this theme?

The SAB did not evaluate the UNC programme but will examine it in 2024-25.

Policy Priorities (Led by RESAS PMO)

This work package undertook engagement with policy officials, via a workshop, to prioritise the policy evidence needs delivered through the research projects in the Strategic Research Programme. Other stakeholder priorities, such as industry, have not been reflected in the workshop assessment but are considered key to a projects overall impact/importance. Project-project dependencies across the programme were also considered in the evaluation, as such projects were not evaluated on their own where key known connections existed.

All research being delivered via the Strategic Research Programme is considered valuable; the following categorisation was used to assist in prioritisation:

Priority Categorisation



Critical priorities are the most pressing. These are projects that absolutely must be accomplished by a given due date. Failure to do so would mean the Scottish Government being unable to deliver on a key policy commitment. In these scenarios, the project input to policy and timing are fixed. It is possible to have multiple critical priorities of equal importance at a given time.


Important priorities are subordinate to critical priorities. These are projects that can provide significant improvements to policy decisions but where there may be more flexibility on timing, composition or delivery of outputs, without major damage to policy or reputations.


Desirable priorities are projects which are useful to have, they may inform long-term thinking or help to broaden the evidence base on a given topic. However, they are not central to delivering key immediate policy priorities, nor are they relied upon by other parts of the programme, or key SG stakeholders. Their delivery is also not time critical for policy or stakeholders.


Email: SRF@gov.scot

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