Testing a novel method for integrating research, policy and practice to identify solutions and research priorities

Lead Research Organisation: University of Cambridge
Department Name: Zoology


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Description This project compiled a list of 118 interventions to benefit wildlife on agricultural land. Evidence for the effectiveness of each intervention was gathered using systematic review methods, and each piece of evidence (743 in total) summarised in plain English. These summaries will be published as a synopsis of evidence on farmland conservation in temperate Europe, on the website www.conservationevidence.com and as a book. A preview of two interventions is already available on the website.

A team of ten experts in agricultural ecology, policy or rural social science evaluated the evidence for each intervention, based on the compiled synopsis. They assessed how much we know about each intervention (per cent certainty) and whether the evidence showed a benefit to wildlife.

Fifty-four people involved in the policy and practice of farmland conservation scored how important each intervention is for farmland conservation, and answered more detailed questions about a subset of interventions. They showed high awareness of the range of farmland interventions. On average, they had heard of 29 out of the 34 interventions for which levels of awareness were tested. They also had good knowledge of the amount of scientific evidence that exists about the interventions - their assessment correlated with our expert evaluation of how much evidence exists.

However, the practitioners generally had less good understanding of the results of research. Their answers to whether each intervention benefits wildlife did not correlate with expert responses to the same question, based on evidence. For example, for the intervention 'Increase crop diversity', 74 per cent of practitioners answered 'yes, this will benefit wildlife', while experts unanimously responded 'don't know'. Increasing crop diversity is a compulsory greening element in the proposed reformed Common Agricultural Policy, so the mismatch between our assessment of evidence and practitioner opinion is of particular interest.

We identified ten interventions that should be research priorities for farmland conservation, having high importance to practitioners and low certainty of scientific knowledge about their effectiveness for wildlife conservation.

We ran a similar process for wild bee conservation based on a previously published synopsis of evidence. There are remarkable similarities between the two lists of research priorities, even though they were devised using different sets of evidence, and independent assessment processes with different groups of practitioners and experts. Both processes identified training land managers, connecting areas of semi-natural habitat and enhancing floral resources at a landscape scale as priorities for research.

For wildlife conservation on farmland, we also identified advocacy priorities. These interventions had high importance to practitioners, high certainty of scientific knowledge about effectiveness for wildlife conservation and unanimous agreement among ten experts that the evidence demonstrates a benefit to wildlife. Based on this work, we advocated that some of these interventions be incorporated into the proposed compulsory greening requirements of the future CAP, in a response to the UK Government's consultation on Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) Reform post-2013.
Exploitation Route The compiled evidence and the process of identifying priorities could inform policy development in international, national and local Government, private and third sectors.

For example, nature conservation agencies could use them to develop new and existing agri-environment scheme options. Private sector food and farming business, or organisations developing certification schemes for wildlife-friendly farming, could use them in a similar way.

The process of synthesizing evidence and setting evidence-based priorities could be applied in many other areas where policy and science interact, such as public health, waste management, pollution control and climate change mitigation.

The database of synthesized evidence is freely available and designed to be accessible to stakeholders. It has been constructed to be futureproof (it is flexible and meets developing data exchange standards). Both the compiled evidence and the list of possible interventions can easily be added to and future synopses can be published in a variety of formats, including bespoke formats to suit individual organisations. The website should therefore continue to develop, and remain the authoritative information resource for the policy and practice of wildlife conservation on farmland.
The synopsis of evidence on farmland conservation in temperature Europe will be published as a book by Pelagic Publishing and made freely available as a searchable database and pdf on the website www.conservationevidence.com. Once published we will publicise it through the University press office, our own websites, Twitter, on-line book retail outlets, and by exhibiting it at conferences such as the Society for Conservation Biology and sending out review copies. We have pre-ordered a hundred copies of the book to send out to key people in agricultural conservation and policy in the UK and Europe. All 54 practitioners who completed the survey will be sent a pdf copy of the synopsis and papers identifying research and advocacy priorities for farmland conservation.

The website is already well-known and popular amongst policymakers and practitioners in Government and conservation NGOs. For example, it is used by the Science Co-ordinator at Defra and the Chief Executive of Buglife among others.

The research findings have been submitted to the UK Government in response to a Defra consultation on CAP Reform Post 2013.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Education,Environment,Government, Democracy and Justice,Retail,Transport

URL http://www.conservationevidence.com/
Description Farmland Conservation: Evidence for the effects of interventions in northern and western Europe 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact A synopsis of evidence. This is a narrative summary of 741 scientific studies that test any of 119 practical management interventions that could be used to benefit wildlife on farmland. For each intervention, evidence is summarised into a set of concise key messages.

The synopsis is freely available as an online searchable database (individual sections separately available to download as text or references), or as a pdf to download. The synopsis is published on the website www.conservationevidence.com.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013