SI Network

Lead Research Organisation: Rothamsted Research
Department Name: Sustainable Agriculture Sciences-H

Abstract

Feeding an ever growing global population in a sustainable way is one of the most pressing challenges facing humanity. A key knowledge gap is how to increase crop and livestock yields from existing farmland while maintaining or enhancing the natural capital on which all ecosystem services depend. This idea of 'sustainable intensification' (SI) is now embedded into strategic goals across RCUK, has gained traction within UK government policies and has attracted considerable investment. However, despite this level of activity, SI remains a controversial concept amongst some parts of the research community. Further, there is a risk that a lack of definition and co-ordination across the diverse research community that are engaging with this area could result in duplication, wasted effort and missed opportunities. There are tensions and unresolved issues: in particular the need to reconcile the opposing views surrounding exploiting or conserving natural resources. SI is sometimes seen as a natural science issue but there is a need to ensure the economic and social welfare of rural communities and it is vital to engage the managers of land who will implement measures to deliver SI. There is thus a clear need to facilitate the development of interdisciplinary working and enable different combinations of researchers and other stakeholders to share ideas, skills, expertise and capabilities in order to maximise the UK's capacity to meet the diverse current and future SI challenges.

The Sustainable Intensification Research Network (SIRN) will build on an existing, bottom-up initiatives, developed by UK researchers and scientists, to better integrate RCUK communities and enable fuller use of infrastructure, expertise and capabilities to address the challenges posed by SI. Establishing SIRN will allow the community to further develop a clear and coherent, shared vision of SI and enable the realisation of tangible benefits that will deliver fundamental discovery science, improved business performance and support evidence-based policy making to all levels of society. To date community-led workshops have already developed a research manifesto and identified and ranked priority issues (see report at www.sustainableintensification.org.uk). SIRN will build on these foundations by providing multiple opportunities for the wider research community to take ownership of these (and new) areas, link them to the needs of different stakeholders and appraise knowledge gaps and identify mechanisms to fill them. Our shared vision for the network is to build a platform that will ensure the diverse research community is able to easily become fully engaged in order to:

(i) optimise major investment into SI across the biological sciences, social sciences, economics and agri-tech,
(ii) respond facilitate a across- disciplinary approach es to inform and respond to RCUK initiatives and UK Gov and Industry needs and
(iii) develop effective links with new research areas (e.g. synthetic biology, predictive biology, molecular technologies), more established research areas (eg. agro-ecology, plant breeding, soil science) and new ways of working (e.g. big data).

Technical Summary

Feeding an ever growing global population in a sustainable way is one of the most pressing challenges facing humanity. A key knowledge gap is how to increase crop and livestock yields from existing farmland while maintaining or enhancing the natural capital on which all ecosystem services depend. This idea of 'sustainable intensification' (SI) is now embedded into strategic goals across RCUK, has gained traction within UK government policies and has attracted considerable investment. However, despite this level of activity, SI remains a controversial concept amongst some parts of the research community. Further, there is a risk that a lack of definition and co-ordination across the diverse research community that are engaging with this area could result in duplication, wasted effort and missed opportunities. There are tensions and unresolved issues: in particular the need to reconcile the opposing views surrounding exploiting or conserving natural resources. SI is sometimes seen as a natural science issue but there is a need to ensure the economic and social welfare of rural communities and it is vital to engage the managers of land who will implement measures to deliver SI. There is thus a clear need to facilitate the development of interdisciplinary working and enable different combinations of researchers and other stakeholders to share ideas, skills, expertise and capabilities in order to maximise the UK's capacity to meet the diverse current and future SI challenges.

The Sustainable Intensification Research Network (SIRN) will build on an existing, bottom-up initiatives, developed by UK researchers and scientists, to better integrate RCUK communities and enable fuller use of infrastructure, expertise and capabilities to address the challenges posed by SI. Establishing SIRN will allow the community to further develop a clear and coherent, shared vision of SI and enable the realisation of tangible benefits that will deliver fundamental discovery science, impro

Planned Impact

Expected outcomes

It is expected that the activities of the network will contribute to outcomes such as:

1. closer links between researchers from different disciplinary communities with roles to play in informing the delivery of SI

2. increased sharing of capabilities and resources of expertise, facilities and data

3. closer integration of ongoing SI research

4. enhancement of researchers' ability to produce new high-quality, systems-oriented interdisciplinary proposals relevant to SI

5. an increased number of excellent interdisciplinary proposals, addressing aspects of SI, submitted to funders (and funded) through available mechanisms

6. greater understanding of the current and future challenges faced by the UK in delivering SI

7. the UK being better placed to address the complex challenges of SI through excellent interdisciplinary research

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description BBSRC ISP S2N ASSIST
Amount £8,500,000 (GBP)
Organisation Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 04/2017 
End 03/2022
 
Description BBSRC NERC ISP NC
Amount £5,000,000 (GBP)
Organisation Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 04/2017 
End 03/2022
 
Description nb I have not applied for this. It arises as a result of the network: 'entitled A Social Science Literature Review to Inform AHDB on Different Approaches to Changing Behaviour and Influencing Decision Making On-farm '
Amount £20,000 (GBP)
Organisation Agricultural and Horticulture Development Board 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 03/2018 
End 06/2018
 
Description Attendance of the FACCE-SURPLUS Knowledge Network on Sustainable Intensification 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact FACCE-JPI wishes to coordinate funding for research in the area of Sustainable Intensification research in Europe
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Attendances TempAg meeting 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Coordination of research on sustainable agriculture in Temperate Agriculture
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Blog - How can we work across disciplines and why should we try? 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Ruth Welters presented at the first annual SIRN meeting and worked her presentation up into this blog
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://sirn.org.uk/2016/11/23/new-blog-how-can-we-work-across-disciplines-and-why-should-we-try/
 
Description Blog Collaboration of experts needed to meet new challenges in a post-Brexit world 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Supporters
Results and Impact Make the case for collaboration between scientists and the need to retain environmental support in any post CAP UK agriculture
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://sirn.org.uk/2016/09/19/new-blog-collaboration-of-experts-needed-to-meet-new-challenges-in-a-p...
 
Description Blog Making sustainable connections 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Outlining the natures and purpose of our SI network
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://sirn.org.uk/2016/08/03/making-sustainable-connections/
 
Description Blog More Funding for SI 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Research councils have varied funding. It is possible, but not well known, that they welcome suggestions from scientists as to how to shape these calls. This blog explained the ways and means of how to suggest topics for research funding calls
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://sirn.org.uk/2016/10/17/new-blog-more-funding-for-si/
 
Description Blog Policy, Science and Agrimetrics 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Matt Miller explains how scientists can engage with the Agrimetrics Data centre
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://sirn.org.uk/2016/12/08/new-blog-data-science-and-agrimetrics/
 
Description Blog Sustainable Intensification, Efficiency Substitution and Redesign 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Jules Pretty spoke at the First annual SIRN meeting on his views on SI and worked the presentation up into this blog
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://sirn.org.uk/2016/11/16/sustainable-intensification-efficiency-substitution-and-redesign/
 
Description First Annual Meeting of the SI research Community 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The purpose of the SI network was outlined and discussed
Participants fed back the kinds of activities and actions they would like to see
As a result a discussion forum is being set up and a workshop to engage social and biological scientists is being organised
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://www.sirn.org.uk
 
Description Horizon Scanning 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Workshop participants were asked to identify threats to the sustainability of agriculture from changes that are on the horizon. they were also invited to consider whether these threats might also offer an opportunity. In either case having identified the issues, participants ranked them by importance and then developed ideas into fully specified programmes of work that NERC and BBSRC might use to pursue funding opportunities with UKRI
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Mid Career Scientists training group 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact 30 young scientists were given training and took part in exercises to simulate grant and report writing. The focus was on the Defra 25 Year plan and the sustainable intensification research network. The event provided an opportunity for the scientists to network with one another
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://sirn.org.uk/event/sustainable-intensification-valuing-nature-in-dialogue-enabling-researcher...
 
Description Support AAB meeting on Sustainable Intensification 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact At the end of the Defra-funded Sustainable Intensification Programme, a science meeting was held. We helped organise publicise and ensure scientific quality for this meeting
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Tree of Tradeoffs - engagement with members of the public 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact As part of the Rothamsted Festival of ideas celebrating 175 years of Rothamsted, we held an event over the last weekend in June 2018 to ask members of the public about what they would like to see from Agriculture. We had a manufactured tree on which visitors were invited to hang different coloured leaves representing their 4 choices from 6 possibilities: cheap food, rural livelihoods, environment, nutritious food, farm profit or food security. Crucially visitors were limited to the 4 choices. This enabled us to engage with them and talk about what issues were more important than others. Visitors were also encouraged to write comments on the leaves that they hung on the tree. We reached over 600 people in this way, many of them children
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Workshop Between Social and Agricultural Scientists 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Means of working together, closer understanding of one another's methods of researching and science
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Workshop Eliciting targets for the sustainable development goals and goal 2 in particular 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact A workshop was convened in order to identify the views of stakeholders on the nature of agriculture in 2030 and 2050 and the ways in which agriculture might change to deliver to the UN SDGs in an full and meaningfull way as possible. Stakeholders were divided in to those representing arable, livestock or diary sectors and having identified reasonable targets by way of improving agriculture, reflected on pathways over time to reach these targets and goals
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018