Policy and Practice for Environmental Change

Lead Research Organisation: Newcastle University
Department Name: Agriculture Food and Rural Development


The Rural Economy and Land Use (Relu) Programme is an unprecedented collaboration between ESRC, BBSRC and NERC. Running 2003 - 12 it has had a budget of £24m, with additional funding from Scottish Government and Defra. The programme has the following specific objectives:

Science Objective
To deliver integrative, interdisciplinary research of high quality that will advance understanding of the social, economic, environmental and technological challenges faced by rural areas and the relationship between them.

Capacity Building Objective
To enhance and expand capabilities for integrative, interdisciplinary research on rural issues.

Knowledge Transfer Objective
To enhance the impact of research on rural policy and practice by involving stakeholders in all stages of Relu, including programme development, research activities and communication of outcomes.

The aim of Relu is therefore to provide a body of evidence, supported by underpinning inter-disciplinary research integrating the social and natural sciences that can be used to inform policy and practice in this area. The programme has considerable relevance for policy and practice, and not only for rural and land use policy. Relu has also been a radical experiment in project and programme management and capacity building for interdisciplinarity and knowledge exchange, involving three research councils, 85 projects (each involving social and natural scientists), 50 research institutions, 500 researchers, 40 disciplines and over 4000 stakeholders engaged extensively in the framing, conduct and dissemination of the research.

External interest in the programme has always been strong, but as it reaches its climax, demand for its research findings and interest in learning lessons from the programme continue to run high.

The Relu Programme Management Group have invited a proposal for an extension to the Director's Office contract. The applicants have undertaken the Director's Office function of the Relu programme since December 2003 and the current proposal represents a one year extension to undertake a number of specific functions to realise the impact of the research on policy and practice and to inform research and knowledge exchange policy and emerging Research Council programmes (such as Living with Environmental Change and Global Food Security) in relation to approaches to interdisciplinarity and knowledge exchange. A range of communication activities are planned, including synthesised publications extracting the policy and practice implications of Relu research.

Planned Impact

There are four main audiences for the extension:

The scientific community interested in Relu - This group encompasses the biological, environmental and social scientists with an interest in research on rural economy and land use. It includes those individuals, organisations and institutions with a specific interest in the direction of Relu and the outputs it will produce, including the research communities within successor programmes such as LWEC and Global Food Security.

The Research Councils - This group includes the ESRC, BBSRC and NERC as the three sponsoring research councils, as well as the umbrella Research Councils UK.

Stakeholders - These are organisations in the public, private or voluntary sectors that have an interest in the Relu programme and particularly those that contribute to forming future policy and practice.

General public - This includes the broader public beyond the scientific and stakeholder communities, but with an interest in the societal issues surrounding rural economy and land use.

Plans for engaging with these audiences are outlined in the case for support and impact plan. This will primarily include:

1. Production of a quarterly electronic newsletter to be distributed to the Relu mail base of 2000 interested stakeholders and researchers and through contact networks and websites of successor programmes;
2. Networking of the Programme with non-academic sectors including Government Departments, Devolved Administrations, regional and local government, other public bodies, and the private and voluntary sectors;
3. Orchestration of programme responses to key stakeholder and policy consultations;
4. Preparation and dissemination to stakeholders of Policy and Practice Notes presenting key findings of projects as part of the established Relu publication series;
5. Maintaining Relu's high quality website, showcasing Relu research findings and knowledge transfer;
6. Production of a briefing paper on the Relu programme's key achievements;
7. Advice to successor multi-partner research programmes on knowledge exchange and interdisciplinarity, including joint meetings between Directors' Offices;
8. Facilitation of a high level seminar with Research Council leaders to identify messages from Relu for research council policy;
9. Preparation of specialist articles for technical and professional magazines to disseminate research findings;
10. Generation of press releases on newsworthy events and research findings.
Description Our objective, which has been fully achieved, was to support the linkage of activities of the Living with Environmental Change (LWEC) Partnership into contemporary issues of land management and land use policy and practice through the design, production and dissemination of a high profile series of Policy and Practice Notes (PPNs) drawing on research from across the LWEC partnership. In all 36 notes have been produced, relating to over 30 LWEC projects and programmes, spanning themes from ensuring the supply of critical metals for low carbon technologies to taking account of the heritage value of public parks, and have been disseminated to key audiences.

We have utilised and built upon the existing stakeholder and researcher constituencies and recognised communication channels of the Rural Economy and Land Use programme which had established a community of several thousand researchers and stakeholders engaged in land use research or decision making. Communication channels were evolved into mechanisms to promote LWEC and its constituent programmes to these stakeholders. This included adapting a well-established quarterly newsletter (and associated soft media and website) as a mechanism through which to raise the profile of research council activities. Nineteen e-newsletters for example have been produced featuring LWEC activities (April 12, July 12, Oct 12, Jan 13, April 13, July 13, Oct 13, Jan 14, April 14, July 14, Oct 14, Jan 15, April 15, July 15, Oct 15, January 16, April 16, July 16, October 16). They served to strengthen the identity of research, activities and expertise throughout UK land use stakeholders and served as an additional tool for promoting the PPNs. All appropriate PPNs have also been featured in the RuSource news bulletin which is distributed to c1200 subscribers and also the AgriBulletin which reaches c 3000 members of the Royal Agricultural Society of England. Web versions of all PPNs are available on the NERC LWEC web page and also in the resources section of the Landbridge site and tweets were sent out with links to these following the publication of each new note.
Exploitation Route The PPNs aim is to draw out implications, conclusions and recommendations from LWEC research and present key findings in non-technical language for public, private and third sector audiences. PPNs are designed to meet the need for accessible information that can engage and inform policy and practice stakeholders. Some notes were designed to reach a broad and diverse audience across LWEC's various stakeholder communities, while others were more tightly focused on the needs of specific key groups. Some notes are specific to individual research programmes, others are cross-cutting, drawing on several activities relevant to the policy / practice theme. For LWEC the intention was to establish a mechanism for reinforcing an overall package of communications, strengthening its profile and identity. For participating programmes and activities it has added impact generation potential.

Identification of topics and scoping of notes required an ongoing process of dialogue, exploration of opportunities, encouragement and relationship building with potential contributing programmes and stakeholders. Opportunities have been seized to use the PPN series as a mechanism to maximise impact as programmes have published key findings or held synthesis events that would translate into a PPN. The process for refreshing the list of ideas for PPNs was undertaken via networks to which we belong, via LWEC Task Forces, via LWEC Fellows, via LWEC partners, and via stakeholders and practitioners. Most of the notes, and their strategic orientation in relation to policy and practice, are based on results of programmes and activities that have involved active knowledge exchange with stakeholders. Events and discussions were held with and feedback sought from stakeholders on potential themes for PPNs and to shape content. In the final stages of writing and editing texts further stakeholder comments have been sought for each note to ensure that they are written in an appropriate style and covering all the issues required by potential readers.

Each note has been distributed to target audiences and networks. Additionally they were targeted through influential partner dissemination networks including via the Relu/Landbridge newsletter and contact system (comprising over 2000 high level stakeholder contacts in the UK). All appropriate topics were distributed via RuSource (1200 land based professionals and policy makers), AgriBulletin (c3000 members of the RASE) and through the Farming Futures website e-news circulation (1600 members and 10,000 followers on Twitter). All were promoted actively through soft media and appear on the LWEC and Landbridge websites. Appropriate PPNs are also featured on the OpenFields web portal.

The LWEC series has involved funding from ESRC and, for a dedicated subseries, funding partners of the Insect Pollinator Initiative (Wellcome, Defra, Scottish Government and NERC). It drew on experience of devising and running the well regarded Policy and Practice Note series of the Relu Programme. The LWEC notes were therefore modelled on the Relu series but widened the remit to cover LWEC's research portfolio.

Production of the notes has presented a learning opportunity for future initiatives of this kind.

1. Assigning a senior lead author: Each note has required a lead author who takes responsibility for drafting the text and works with the editor to shape this into the final version. This can be challenging as it is sometimes seen as an additional burden by the PI and/or team members and even as an imposition. It is important, given it is not always the case, for knowledge exchange to be built into projects and programmes in terms of time, funding and evaluation, so this is not seen as additional or given lower priority. It is helpful to avoid situations where, even when a PI is willing to produce a note, responsibility may be passed around the team, or a junior and inexperienced academics may be allocated the task.

2. Allocating sufficient time and priority: Because PPNs are not always seen as a high priority, editing work on the text can sometimes drag on for several months with a lot of time spent on chasing lead authors. Although ESRC staff did attempt to prompt teams in several instances in regard to the LWEC notes, there were few carrots or sticks available, and there was a need for a more active and consistent promotion of the series at the partnership level.

3. Engaging stakeholders/funders: It is important to obtain input from both stakeholders and funders of the notes but this can bring its own challenges. Anyone asked to comment must understand the parameters for this. If a PPN has reached final draft stage then major additions cannot be incorporated and shifts of perspective may be inappropriate. Academic independence must take precedence and there should be an understanding from the outset that this is the case.

4. Involving professional science writing: A constant theme in the positive feedback on the notes has been about the accessible style which makes them user friendly but useful in a practical context. This is not always easy for academics, who have been trained to write in a very specific way, to achieve. Professional science writing input has been key.

5. Developing a strong format and identity: This was achieved successfully in the series but required some negotiation and discussion at the outset. Building on the Relu format was a great advantage as there was already high recognition among key stakeholder groups.

6. Being responsive and opportunistic: A variety of leads were followed, some provided by research council contacts and some from our own existing contacts or from LWEC expert and industry boards. Some notes drew on events relating to relevant topics. Inevitably more leads were investigated than eventually came to fruition and some required a considerable amount of partnership building to realise the eventual product but this approach did ensure a wide spread of research topics and some bringing together of information across different projects and programmes to provide useful information for specific audiences. One note (No 29 Gardening sustainably for the future) arose from a specific suggestion made by a member of LWEC's Business Advisory Board and we would have welcomed more examples of this kind of opportunity.

7. Building series momentum: Production of the first few numbers of any series is always difficult and becomes easier once there are printed examples to show to prospective authors. The LWEC series did have the advantage of building on its Relu predecessor to which several authors had already contributed. Stakeholders were also familiar with the format. Achieving momentum was therefore not as difficult as it might have been.

8. Utilising and building dissemination networks and intermediaries: Again, the LWEC series was able to draw upon the experience and networks of the Relu series. We already had the Relu newsletter which carried brief stories and links to each PPN as it was published and had an established relationship with the editor of the RuSource bulletin who featured all the appropriate land use PPNs. Landbridge provided another useful network to a range of land based professional advisers and the notes were all posted on the Landbridge website and featured on the news page. Where appropriate specialist publications (eg for local government, health, chartered surveyors etc) were targeted with information and carried stories in print or on line.

9. Targeted distribution and reach: Between 500 and 1500 copies of individual notes have been sent to targeted audiences. In some instances the editor has compiled distribution lists specifically for a note or researched important audiences where the lists were not already available (eg local authority key contacts, Directors of Public Health, horticulture module leads in FE colleges, mining companies etc). In several cases events organised by the research teams have been used for further distribution and the editor has identified further external events that would provide this opportunity and arranged to supply copies. Opportunities for publicity have also been identified (eg articles in NHS, local authority and land professional publications). This was done on an opportunistic basis.

10. Locating the series in wider communications and knowledge exchange activity: Establishing and running the series in the context of a large and evolving partnership has presented its own set of demands. The greatest impact is generated when notes are located within a wider active package of communication and knowledge exchange activities where a PPN series can be effective in adding value and integrating communication activities.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Communities and Social Services/Policy,Construction,Energy,Environment,Healthcare,Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism,Government, Democracy and Justice,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

URL http://www.nerc.ac.uk/research/partnerships/lwec/products/ppn/
Description Feedback has been noted throughout the project as to the value and uptake of the PPNs and their findings. This has been in the main unprompted and the tone is very favourable from both stakeholders and project/programme leaders. Several MPs showed interest in the notes at an early stage in the production of the series and received relevant numbers as they were published. In a recent thank you letter for example Anne Marie Trevelyan MP observed "They are always fascinating and informative for my work in helping the Northumbrian economy and its residents, and speaking on these in the House." James Wallace at IAR AGri took the opportunity to use PPN no 12 "Strengthening links between the UK strategy for agricultural technologies and farm advisory professions" when speaking to his MP and let us know about this: "I have already used it at a meeting with our local MP Nick Boles to seek his support for a closer involvement of government with the industry and to make the Agri-Tech strategy a success." North East MEP Paul Brannen, who has the agriculture brief, particularly appreciated receiving the PPNs. A message from his office was received soon after we began sending them copies following a meeting he had requested: "Thank you for the policy and practice notes which were received in this office earlier today. I've been in touch with my colleague in Brussels to provide him with the link to the series so he is able to access these as part of his research for Paul's brief on agriculture. Would you please pass on our thanks to your colleagues for drawing our attention to these publications." Science professionals working for a range of organisations also expressed their appreciation, for example Dr Ian Bainbridge Head of Science at Scottish Natural Heritage said "Many thanks for the notes; they have been booth interesting and useful", a sentiment echoed by David Cooper Defra, Sustainable Farming and Food Science: "This is a valuable contribution which I will share with colleagues, I have always found them interesting and useful". Stakeholders working in environmental third sector organisations provided some of the most enthusiastic responses. "These are extremely useful reports and feeding into some of our thinking around AONB activity in future years," writes Jenny Carey-Wood, Manager North Devon Coast AONB. Individual notes have also elicited particularly appreciative comments. On receipt of PPN 11 on "Taking account of shared and cultural values of ecosystem services", Chichester Harbour AONB manager Richard Austin emailed to say "It was a very interesting read and I have passed it around the team here to also learn from." PPN 8 on "Catchment partnerships - better planning for our rivers and landscapes" received an accolade from Carol Flux NATURAL ENTERPRISE economic and environmental partnership who emailed: "Received this through the post and it is the best explanation of Catchment Partnerships I have read - I have struggled to explain it to many people. Please could I have an electronic version? Many, many thanks!" Our targeting of local government and health providers with relevant notes seems to have been successful, with some very positive feedback. For example, Health and Social Care Practice Manager Greg Slay at West Sussex County Council provided a detailed account of the impact PPN 6 "Ensuring resilience in care for older people" was having within his organisation when he wrote: "Margaret Enstone, Senior Advisor in our Sustainability Team here at WSCC, has alerted me to its publication. At more or less the same time Judith Wright, our local Director of Public Health, has sent me a hard copy as well. I am going to update the Adults' Services QR guide on climate changes and older people and will reference this LWEC publication there - it's too good an opportunity to miss. I have notified Alan Jones, our Head of Resilience and Emergency Management, so that he can share with Resilience colleagues as appropriate." We were also able to ensure coverage of No 7 "Avoiding summer overheating while saving energy in hospitals" in the NHS Estates Journal which reaches a key target group which was an endorsement of its relevance. Colleagues involved in knowledge exchange appreciate the clarity and brevity of the notes. Alan Spedding, editor of RuSource expressed this: "I like them because they are factual, cover fairly wide subjects and are not promotional." Sir John Marsh appreciated the effort to convey complex concepts in PPN 5 "Climate impacts: taking action in the face of uncertainty" and said: "It is good to have such clear, concise and penetrating exposition of uncertainty relating to climate change." Nine of the LWEC notes formed a subseries for the Insect Pollinators Initiative and CEH's Adam Vanbergen who was Science Coordinator for IPI found them particularly helpful as an element of their knowledge exchange activity. He said: "The notes have been really useful to pass onto ministers, civil servants and statutory agency staff with whom I work with in trying to influence decision making. It has also been useful to pass onto CEH Director/Science area leads so they have the pertinent information in a nutshell." Kay Jenkinson from UKCIP gave feedback regarding PPN 14 "Moving the climate debate forward: Rethinking rights, risk and responsibilities": "I hope you'll be pleased to know that story about the LWEC paper was one of the more popular items in UKICP's December enews, and was shared by our readers with their own networks." The PPN series is also being emulated by a range of national research programmes and projects. For example Global Agri-Food Resilience consulted with us on the development of their own series and this function was incorporated in the brief for the Programme Coordinator. We have also been closely involved in the development of the ESRC et al. CECAN (Centre for Evaluation of Complexity Across the Nexus) series of Evaluation Policy and Practice Notes and Anne Liddon now edits these. The notes are used as an illustration of good practice in Professor Mark Reed's "Research Impact Handbook" published 2016 and was promoted within LWEC's own knowledge exchange good practice guidelines.
First Year Of Impact 2013
Sector Agriculture, Food and Drink,Energy,Environment,Government, Democracy and Justice
Impact Types Economic,Policy & public services