Strategic Research Programme 2011-2016: highlights

Report highlighting environment and rural economy research outputs, and resulting impact, funded through the programme.

Research Collaborations

Local, national and international collaborations are critical to the success of SRP research, ensuring the most appropriate and up-to-date methods are used, and that the findings of research are utilised as widely as possible and have maximum impact. Collaborating with international partners ensures cutting edge research is carried out which will extend the benefits of SRP funding beyond Scotland, and helps promote Scotland as a research destination to the international science community. We strongly encourage Scottish, UK and International collaborations.


Highly Cited Papers and Researchers

Two SRP-funded researchers (Professors Philip White, Plant and Animal Sciences and Harry Flint, Microbiology) were listed in the Clarivate Analytics list of highly cited researchers for 2016.

Between 2011-15 65 highly cited papers were published by SRP-funded researchers. Highly cited papers are defined as a paper which received enough citations to place it in the top 1% of its academic field based on a highly cited threshold for the field and publication year.

The highly cited papers cover a wide range of programme research including: plant and cattle genetics, gut microbiology, soil science, plant pathology, food production and knowledge exchange. They are featured in a wide range of high-impact journals including Science, Nature, Ecology Letters, Gut, Plant Cell and Genome Biology.

DNA Barcoding Vegetation

DNA barcoding is a technique that uses short sections of DNA to identify an organism. This speeds up the process of cataloguing life on earth, and also has applications in forensics, conservation, disease control and ecosystem monitoring. This research is led across the globe by the International Barcode of Life Project ( IBoL), which involves collaborators from 26 countries, including Canada, China, France, Germany and, within the UK, more than 25 different research groups. RBGE researchers, partly supported by SRP funding, are leading in this research. Professor Pete Hollingsworth of RBGE chaired the Scientific Steering Committee of IBoL, is on IBoL's International Scientific Cooperation Committee and is chair of IBoL's Plant Working Group. Within Scotland this has led to the testing of new techniques which have helped to resolve cryptogam (such as mosses and lichens) diversity, leading to the discovery of new native species. Molecular data from DNA projects has also contributed to international efforts to understand global diversity of fungi, and has been used to clarify taxonomic problems affecting designation of Schedule 8 species in the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981), on behalf of Scottish Natural Heritage.

Chinese Collaborations

Strong links and strategic collaborations have been developed with China over the course of the 2011-16 programme. Formal links have been agreed between both James Hutton Institute and Scotland's Rural College with a number of Chinese research organisations, including the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences and Zhejiang Agriculture and Forestry University. Collaborations include training workshops, run jointly with the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, an Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council ( EPSRC)-funded project and workshops at Universities of Hohai and Zhengzhou to share knowledge on flood risk management and hydropower; a workshop and a peer reviewed publication with the China Agricultural University of Beijing on the potential for intercropping to deliver improved yields and a Visiting Professorship to the Institute of Urban Environment in Xiamen and Ningbo. SRP researchers are also participants in two Newton Fund projects between UK and Chinese scientists, focussing on sustainable intensification of agriculture in China through increased use of organic fertilisers, and improving nitrogen use efficiency and pollution reduction in both China and Europe. SRP researchers also assist in maintaining the Lijiang Field Station which is one of the centres of the Flora of China Project, a major collaborative project to produce an English language revision of the original Chinese text.

Strengthening Links With Malawi

Scotland has many long-standing links with Malawi and the Scottish Government has been funding projects there since 2005. Projects incorporating the skills of SRP-funded researchers have helped to strengthen the links between Scotland and Malawi. These include a project funded by the Scottish Government's Climate Justice Fund, and led by Voluntary Service Overseas, which supported sustainable, effective and equitable water management in Malawi. Researchers from the James Hutton Institute spent a month in Malawi facilitating and participating in workshops with district officials and communities, helping ensure community voices are heard and supporting them to proactively plan for the future. Economic and Social Research Council ( ESRC) and Department for International Development ( DFID) have also awarded funding to SRUC to examine the role of the dairy sector in Malawi, with the aim of raising the efficiency and sustainability of the sector. Key to the success of the project was the multidisciplinary interaction of SRUC and Malawian researchers, from Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources, and the African Institute of Corporate Citizenship. The milk supply chain in Malawi and the barriers to achieving maximum throughput were explored, with a number of techniques for assessing supply chain efficiency, developed through research in the SRP, were applied in the project.


Email: Jenny Watson,

Phone: 0300 244 4000 – Central Enquiry Unit

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