Announcement of Opportunity: Systematic Review of the Role for Environmental Science in Mental Health Research

role for environmental science in mental health research

Applications must be received via the online application form by midday, May 22nd 2020.

N.B. The deadline to apply for this call has now passed. Thank you very much to everyone who applied or expressed interest in the call. Applicants will be notified of the outcome by Friday 5th June 2020.

Staff of institutes eligible for UKRI grant funding ( are invited to apply for up to £40,000 (including VAT) to develop lead and carry out a systematic review of the role for environmental science in mental health research for the Valuing Nature Programme Coordination Team on behalf of the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), part of UK Research and Innovation. NERC is part of UK Research & Innovation and is the UK's largest funder of independent environmental science, training and innovation, delivered through universities and research centres.”

The purpose of the review is to understand the potential contribution that environmental science can make to mental health research and innovation. The review is intended to answer the question ‘what is the role of environmental science in human mental health research?’  The review will be published in a peer-reviewed journal and its expected outcomes will be case studies where environmental science has contributed to mental health research, highlighting gaps where environmental science and mental health researchers can collaborate, and the identification of potential areas for future investment.  The review is intended, therefore, for a broad audience of researchers and funding agencies.

Background to Valuing Nature Programme

The Valuing Nature Programme is a £7 million programme which aims to better understand and represent the complexities of the natural environment in valuation analyses and decision making. It considers the economic, societal and cultural value of ecosystem services.  The Programme funds research and supports researchers in making links with policymakers, businesses and practitioners through the Valuing Nature Network.

One of the goals of the Valuing Nature Programme is to fund research related to the role of the natural environment for human health and wellbeing.  This particular announcement of opportunity helps fulfil this goal as it aims to improve our understanding of the cross-disciplinary role environmental science can have in mental health research, from cognitive development to healthy ageing to mental wellbeing.


Environmental research funding often gathers minimal traction with mental health research initiatives and in consequence, very little environmental science is funded through cross-disciplinary initiatives.  While review papers already exist that evidence some correlation, mental health research largely resides in social science and psychology disciplines. So the question being posed is “what is the role for environmental science, not just the ‘environment’?”.

The Systematic Review (SR) should investigate where environmental science has contributed or can contribute to mental health research (including cognitive development and decline, not just psychiatric/wellbeing definitions of mental health). It should focus specifically on environmental science, but will need to be in an interdisciplinary context.

The full review process will engage environmental scientists in mental health research and build interdisciplinary links that will position the NERC community to contribute more fully to initiatives that address priority areas including mental health and healthy ageing.

The work will comprise a workshop that would bring together no more than 30 researchers who have studied how the natural environment impacts and benefits mental health so that they can collaborate and identify the causal links connecting nature, the mental health outcomes, and the contribution of environmental science in this space.


A collaborative synthesis of the evidence between the environment/environmental science and mental health, and a definition of the evidence gaps, will be carried out. The overall aim of the Systematic Review will be to provide a complete, exhaustive summary of current evidence relevant to the research question formulated at the start. The review team will develop and manage a workshop to engage relevant researchers around the role of environmental science in the mental health agenda. The workshop outputs will then be used, with input from the workshop attendees, using the specific methodologies required to produce the systematic review. The main outputs of the review will be:

1.  Final synthesis report to be shared with UK Research and Innovation, which will include relevant discussions and contributions from the workshop. 

2. A short report will also be developed outlining case studies and recommendations for NERC about the role of environmental science community Vis a Vis research and mental health and how that community can work with and engage more effectively in that space.

3. A published peer reviewed journal paper, which should help engage the wider environmental science and mental health research community(ies) to identify research opportunities.

All the outputs from this work will be openly accessible, and will be shared with NERC and UK Research and Innovation.  The journal paper should be published as an open access unrestricted output.

Note: Due to the current situation around the coronavirus pandemic, the workshop can be delivered as a single day e-meeting or series of smaller meetings. The Valuing Nature team can help facilitate e-meetings if required.

Available Resource and Eligibility

Up to £40,000 (inclusive of VAT) has been allocated to this funding call. The selected Strategic Review team will be responsible for deciding how the budget should be used. You might choose to use some of the available funds to enable smaller subgroups to meet to produce specific sections of the report.  If the application involves team members at different organisations, then the award will be made to the lead organisation, who will need to administer any costs that need to be passed on to other parties. The budget should also include any necessary fees for facilitating an open-accessed paper. The award will be funded at 100% FEC.

Awards can only be made to institutions eligible for funding from NERC (this includes all UK Higher Education Institutions that receive grant funding from UK higher education funding bodies – full details here ).

If an application involves team members who are not part of a UKRI eligible organisation, then the lead applicant must be based at a UKRI eligible organisation.

Application Process

Applicant should complete the application form by May 22nd at 12:00 pm.

Assessment Procedure

Applications will be assessed against the following criteria:

  • Quality of proposal (clear objectives, effective proposed approach, fit to call)
  • Expertise of applicant team (experience of lead / team (i) at this type of activity (ii) in this topic area)
  • Feasibility of proposal (realistic timescales and scope of project)
  • Value for money

Applications will be assessed by members from the Valuing Nature Programme Coordination Team.

Duration and Timelines

  • May 22nd - Deadline for Applications
  • June 1st - Successful team notified
  • Early June - Kick off meeting (date TBC with successful team)
  • July - Workshop/E-Meeting
  • End of October - Draft Synthesis Report submitted and draft case studies and recommendations document
  • Begining of December - Final case studies and recommendations and final report submitted to NERC
  • End of February 2021 - Review article submitted to journal for peer-review.
  • April 2021 - Approximate month for acceptance of peer-reviewed paper (online open access).

For further information please contact the Programme Coordination Team at .