Strategic Research for SEERAD 2005-2010: Environment, Biology and Agriculture
Context and Strategy Review
Research plays an important role in assisting and supporting the development of SEERAD policies.
Since 1999, the Scottish Executive Environment and Rural Affairs Department (SEERAD) has published a number of strategies, particularly in the areas of Agriculture, Rural Development and the Environment. 1 These set out how SEERAD will go about achieving its main aims which are:
To help improve the economic performance of Scotland's agriculture, aquaculture, fishing and food industries within the wider context of sustainable exploitation of our land, sea and freshwater resources and rural development, while safeguarding the interests of consumers, protecting and enhancing the environment, and ensuring a fair deal for taxpayers
To support Ministers in helping the people of Scotland secure a high quality of life through sensitive stewardship and sustainable development of the natural resources of Scotland; in particular by securing a clean, healthy and safe environment, ensuring a safe and effective water industry, and improving people's enjoyment of the environment
In addition, SEERAD takes the lead for the Scottish Executive (SE) in supporting and promoting sustainable development.
Research has an important role to play in assisting and supporting the development of policies in all these areas. SEERAD therefore funds a range of agricultural and related biological and environmental science covering basic and strategic research through to more developmental work.
This document deals with the research supported through the SEERAD Science and Research Group (previously the Agricultural and Biological Research Group (ABRG)).
A large proportion of the research (>85% by value) supported by the Group is carried out within its main research providers (MRPs) of Hannah Research Institute (HRI), Moredun Research Institute (MRI), Macaulay Land Use Research Institute (MLURI), Rowett Research Institute (RRI), Scottish Crop Research Institute (SCRI), the Scottish Agricultural College (SAC), the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE) and Biomathematics and Statistics Scotland (BioSS), ( see Annex 4), with the remaining work being contracted to a number of Universities, Research Council Institutes and private research organisations.
However, this is only part of the scientific work supported by SEERAD. The work of the Fisheries Research Service, Scottish Agricultural Science Agency, the Forestry Commission and the environmental agencies is also highly relevant but is commissioned and managed elsewhere in SEERAD.
The Science Coordinating Committee, comprising SEERAD's Senior Management, ensures consistency of approach to science across SEERAD, minimises overlaps and identifies the potential for mutually beneficial scientific collaborations.
The Strategy Review
The previous research strategy was published by ABRG in 1999. Considerable progress has been made in all its key objectives.
Strategy for Agricultural, Biological and Related Research 1999-2003
To support and maintain the scientific base including the development of three areas of scientific opportunity (Genomics, Socio-economics and Systems)
To widen further the range of end-users of the Department's Research Programme
To enhance the quality and effectiveness of the Research Programme through improved focus, co-ordination and competition
To foster knowledge and technology transfer
To improve information dissemination
Key progress under Strategy:
Significant broadening of the end-user base for the Research Programme
The proportion of the underpinning core programmes with relevance to policy divisions' needs increasing more than two-fold, from 25% to 54%
Increases in competition for research funding and in collaboration between research organisations
The quality of the MRPs Research Programmes having increased and been assessed as on a par with Research Council Institutes
In 2003-04 SEERAD reviewed this Strategy to identify continuing Departmental needs for underpinning research.
The Strategy Review involved extensive consultation and discussion following the publication of a consultation paper in July 2003. The review aimed:
To identify strengths and any weaknesses in the current Research Programme
To consider the mechanisms of funding and identify potential improvements
To identify scientific opportunities that should be taken forward within the research base
To explore views on the research base's quality, balance (between basic, strategic and applied research) and relevance to end-users
To consider whether the Research Programme is sufficiently focused on Scottish priorities for research
To consider how information from the Research Programme could be effectively transferred to a wide spectrum of end-users ranging from practitioners to the general public
To consider the effectiveness of the research base in providing value for money (vfm) in meeting end-user needs
To consider the potential for benefits to the Research Programme of closer links with other research organisations, especially Universities
The major conclusions from the consultation and other discussions were:
Within the research funded there are areas of the highest international quality and areas of lower quality
There needs to be a greater emphasis on the relevance of the funded research to policy and other end-user communities
The focus of the research needs to move towards new priorities in the environment, agriculture and food chain areas
Commissioning of the research in future should be through a Programme Approach rather than through sponsorship of organisations
Commissioned research should move towards support through grants for rolling Programmes rather than grant-in-aid to the MRPs
There should be a further increase in the focus on knowledge transfer and uptake, and on publicising more generally the research outputs from the Programme
More of research funding should be awarded competitively
MRPs are funded to make an important contribution to the UK science base by undertaking strategic research which should complement rather than duplicate the basic research undertaken by Universities
There is a need to address the lack of critical mass within the MRPs and to consider the potential for structural re-organisation
New Research Strategy
This new strategy describes how these conclusions will be taken forward and will guide the work of the SEERAD Science and Research Group for the years 2005-2010.
This Strategy is guided by the vision of establishing a Research Programme which:
Supports the policy and other functions of SEERAD, and the work of its various client groups, through the provision of high quality and relevant scientific knowledge
Gains international recognition for its value and quality
Is a fundamental and essential part of the research effort in Scotland
In support of this vision the Strategy is based on 3 main objectives:
To procure scientific research that is of high quality and strategically relevant to Scottish Ministers' policy, legislative and enforcement functions
To improve knowledge and technology transfer from, and public awareness of, the research and its outputs
To ensure that those parts of the research base funded by SEERAD Science and Research Group are effective and efficient
The following pages describe how these objectives will be addressed. Some of the identified actions will depend on further analysis and review to clarify the steps needed to reach the goals. Where this is the case, a timetable and outline of activities is laid out in Annex 1.
Over 85% of the funded research is undertaken by the MRPs. This strategy therefore provides the basis for SEERAD's future relationships with them. Their positive response to the challenges facing them and SEERAD will play an important role in ensuring that the research needs are met on a continuing basis.