Statistics, environmental management, policy and regulation: developing the evidence base

Lead Research Organisation: University of Glasgow
Department Name: Statistics


Describing changes in the natural environment is essential, but in addition the challenge facing regulators and policy makers lies in understanding the links between policy, EU directives and regulation and the actual environmental effects . In 2001, the European Environment Agency reported on 'how much or how little we know about the links between environmental policy measures and their actual impact in the environment' and observed that 'much of the information gathered is of limited use in assessing the impact of environmental measures' (Nigel Haigh, foreword of Environmental Issues, Report 25/EC). Quantifying change, whether as a result of policy and regulation or through climate related change is 'complex and requires multi-disciplinary efforts, including assessment of changes in environmental quality that have been observed'. Some of the most high-profile environmental science issues of today are framed around the analysis of long (and short) observational records, measured over a network of locations and recognising patterns requires statistical modelling, to account for variation in the natural system, incomplete observations and uncertainty. Additionally, policy makers and regulators are being asked to consider planning and regulation under the scenario of climate change (eg frequency of flood events, effect on water quality) thus risk assessment becomes a key driver of regulation, with resources directed according to the risks involved and the scale of outcomes to be achieved. Environment agencies and other NGO's regularly publish 'State of the environment reports' which by their nature allow investigation of change in the environment over time. Scientific and public debates on these issues need to be informed by presentation of existing data along with suitable interpretations drawn from statistical modelling explicitly accounting for variation and uncertainty. Many factors, including climate change, interact to produce a complex environmental signal making the effect of the policy and the magnitude of trend difficult to disentangle. The proposal brings together environmental regulators, managers, civil servants and scientists to develop the skills necessary to ensure that our environment receives the best possible management for future generations.


10 25 50
Description as a result of this work, and through new funded opportunities, we are now developing decision support tools to assist in environmental management
Exploitation Route we are developing new visualisation tools to help explore environmental; data
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Environment,Government, Democracy and Justice

Description some software developed subsequently is now being used within the environment agency (namely a statistical emulator), and further we have provided software and visualisation apps to explore air quality indicators
First Year Of Impact 2016
Sector Environment
Impact Types Societal,Policy & public services

Description advice on air quality modelling
Geographic Reach Local/Municipal/Regional 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
Impact our advice is being used in the creation of environmental indicators and the creation of low emission zones
Description Training funds
Amount £16,000 (GBP)
Organisation Scottish Environment Protection Agency 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United Kingdom
Start 05/2013 
End 03/2015
Description training funds
Amount £10,000 (GBP)
Organisation Scottish Environment Protection Agency 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United Kingdom
Start 04/2015 
End 03/2016
Description RECOVER 
Organisation University of Exeter
Department Department of Mathematics
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution RECOVER is an EPSRC funded network and I have been invited to join the advisory board
Collaborator Contribution none
Impact we have supported a workshop to be held in February 2016.
Start Year 2015
Description Parliamentary conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact I attended and presented at Brexit: an academic conference and was able to showcase the work being done in WEFWEBs and other projects to parliamentarians, as a result there will be an outreach event held in Glasgow in March 2017.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016