Sustainable Intensification & Valuing Nature in Dialogue:Enabling researchers to work across environment and farming policy interests

Image by <a href="">Johannes Plenio</a> from <a href="">Pixabay</a>


The Valuing Nature Programme in partnership with the Sustainable Intensification Research Network (SIRN) invited applications from early-career researchers to take part in a three day workshop (5 - 7 March 2019) to enable researchers to work across these two areas. 

Government policies across the UK increasingly connect objectives for farming with the environment and broader natural capital approaches (e.g. 25 Year Environment Plan, Agriculture Bill).  These connections bring research challenges which will need novel and interdisciplinary approaches as policies aim to improve both agricultural productivity and the condition of the natural environment.

Workshop aims - to support the development of capability for researchers to work across the diverse disciplines needed to link Sustainable Intensification and Natural Capital frameworks. 

    Confirmed speakers and mentors included Michael Winter (University of Exeter), Matthew Heard (UKCEH), Andrew Whitmore (Rothamsted Research), Ece Ozdemiroglu, (eftec), Rosie Hails (National Trust), and Robert Fish (University of Kent).

    The workshop, which was held at Aston University, Birmingham, comprised of:

    • presentations from experts in Sustainable Intensification, Natural Capital and interdisciplinary working
    • interactive sessions where attendees worked in groups to consider research evidence and prioritise research needs and opportunities
    • networking opportunities to build connections with researchers from other disciplines
    • experience of cross-disciplinary working in groups, each developing the outline of an output to be completed after the meeting (e.g. a research bid, a policy and practice impact paper, a “thought-piece” or a peer-reviewed journal paper).  Each group were supported by a mentor with experience in the area.

    Twenty four applicants were selected to attend the workshop, representing sixteen different UK universities and five UK research institutions.  Working with their mentors, groups of participants were asked to provide a personal statement indicating their views on what the challenges are, what they have learned from the workshop and what they will do differently in their future careers.  Fifteen of the 24 participants submited their statements.

    The groups were also offered financial support from the Valuing Nature programme to cover travel costs in order to continue their discussions in order to complete their outputs that comprised one proposal and 5 research/review/non-academic papers. 

    Check out the paper written by one of the group's on 'How to transition to reduced-meat diets that benefit people and the planet'

    “I thought the workshop was brilliantly run and the mentors were highly engaged and knowledgeable. I learnt a lot about the opportunities and challenges of working in the area of SI. I learnt more about the different perspectives of researchers in other disciplines, from those working in other areas of the environmental sciences (e.g. soils, arable crops etc) to those working in economics and the social sciences. It was interesting to see the issues framed in a different context. It was also interesting to see how to meet other Early Career Research Fellows in other institutions who would make great collaborators in the future to push forward the agendas of SI. Also, the mentors clearly showed novel ways (to me anyway) to identify key issues, prioritise those of interest and importance and then to develop research project or review papers to try to tackle them. The mentors also went the extra mile to explain to us the possible funding streams, something that is often omitted from training.”