Environment, natural resources and agriculture research: strategy 2022 to 2027

We fund a multi-million pound portfolio of research on the environment, natural resources and agriculture. This strategy outlines our vision, priorities and mechanisms for funding the next cycle of research which starts in 2022.

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Annex B: Knowledge Exchange and Horizon Scanning

Knowledge Exchange

Knowledge Exchange (KE) is a specific discipline, and an activity which is necessary for the research portfolio. The KE intent substantially distinguishes our funding from, for example, UKRI funding. There should be as far as possible a direct line to policy impact for each section of the research portfolio. In practice however there are a wide range of ways of improving the research impact of the portfolio. Focusing on the questions that are most important to Scottish policy in relation to environment, natural assets, agriculture and rural communities is clearly important for impact. However, here are important and unavoidable differences between evidence making and policy making as activities. Relationships of trust and respect between researchers and KE professionals have been critical for this area. This section of the portfolio will both develop strategies and approaches that support impact; and also practically support and develop the social infrastructure needed for useful knowledge exchange.

We expect that this will mean funding a wide range of activities, both traditional knowledge exchange, such as through fellowships, fast-action KE workshops and reports etc. and also working to improve the KE skills of the people we fund across the research portfolio.

We see KE into the Scottish Government as a target for the evidence produced by our research portfolio, but our research must also seek out impact with: our agencies; independent NGOs; industry and commercial organisations; the Scottish Parliament; and the wider public in Scotland, where relevant.

We want the maximum impact from our research and from our researchers. We will support organisations and staff who span the relevant sectors, and are equipped with effective KE skills and approaches.

To achieve this we aim to:

  • Produce influential reports as a result of workshops and rapid KE events.
  • Support boundary-spanning experts, through fellowships in industry and government.
  • Support training in KE and policymaking for researchers and organisations funded via the programme.
  • Support wider KE opportunities through the Centre for Knowledge Exchange.

This should connect to all of the remainder of the portfolio, coordinated with the KE that Centres of Expertise will continue to undertake within their domains. The Royal Society of Edinburgh runs substantial KE and KE training events such as The Scottish Crucible, which we could mirror or support.

Horizon Scanning

More than ever in the age of EU exit, Covid-19 and future uncertainty around climate change, we recognise the need for our research to identify emergent systemic risks and opportunities. These could be the so-called 'Black Swan' events (rare but with outsize consequences), or new evidence, technologies and innovations concerning well-established but still challenging problems such as climate change.

By definition horizon scanning means it is not possible to put together a detailed research programme in advance, but we can be clear about the methods. We expect the horizon scanning will cut across all disciplines, and all parts of the research portfolio. Similar to KE, skills and methodologies are being developed for horizon scanning that are distinct from research skills. We expect this activity to be adaptive and proactive in identifying new issues, and to lead into solutions, or ways to enhance the benefits.

We want to have regular outputs on the emerging threats and opportunities for Scotland’s environment, natural resources, agriculture and rural communities. Multidisciplinary thinking should lead to identification of Black Swans and high-risk edge cases.

To achieve this we aim to:

  • Produce influential reports on emerging systemic high-risk issues, and identify potential mitigations.
  • Report on emerging disruptive technologies and innovations, and identify potential policy or legislative support.
  • Directly influence the national risk picture, and influence the national risk register.
  • Ensure Scotland’s policymakers are well informed about new innovations and opportunities.

This activity should connect to all of the portfolio, and should inform updates of this research strategy by the scientific strand of governance (Section 7). UKRI and GO-Science run UK-level horizon scanning programmes; this activity should link to them where relevant.


Email: helen.m.jones@gov.scot

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