Better Thames Knowledge Exchange Network

Lead Research Organisation: University of Westminster
Department Name: Faculty of Science and Technology


The Water Framework Directive (WFD) is an important piece of legislation for the management and protection of natural water resources. Its implementation is at river basin level with a requirement to achieve 'good status' for water bodies by 2015. Published River Basin Management Plans e.g. for the Thames, describe the catchment, the pressures that affect it, the risks these pose to achieving 'good status', and the measures needed to achieve the environmental objectives. Just 26% of water bodies in the Thames are predicted to meet good status by 2015. The reason for a failure of good ecological status is often uncertain or unknown. The potential for scientists to improve this understanding is high. However, academics have been identified by the Environment Agency (EA) as not having been engaged in the development of the Thames Plan. The EA has identified specific knowledge gaps regarding implementation of the Plan, which are directly relevant to NERC and the wider scientific community. The Better Thames Network will provide a knowledge exchange mechanism between stakeholders e.g. the EA and the Thames River Basin District Liaison Panel, and scientists to help address the knowledge gaps. Network working groups will focus on specific issues in the Plan which, if addressed show the greatest promise to improve the prognosis for the Thames. It will act as a point of contact advisory service for stakeholders to help refine, and attempt to answer specific questions and for scientists to identify stakeholder needs in order to frame research programmes. The Network will provide access to expertise and act as a conduit for knowledge transfer between scientists in institutions in and around the Thames river basin, and through them to contacts with appropriate expertise beyond the river basin. In addition the Network will provide advice and expertise to stakeholders relevant to local delivery of the plan. The Network will not focus on national policy, but on implementation of WFD within the Thames district. It will connect NERC scientists local to the river basin with local stakeholders tasked with operational delivery of the basin plan. The objectives for the Network are to: (1) define knowledge gaps in the Thames Plan where knowledge exchange can make a contribution; (2) map the research community with relevant expertise in the Thames region; (3) run workshops with stakeholders and scientists focused on key knowledge gaps; (4) facilitate multidisciplinary collaboration within the workshops to refine questions, highlight relevant data and literature, and when necessary identify what new research is needed; (5) provide a mechanism for stakeholder access to academics to address specific local questions relevant to the implementation of the Plan, and allow academics access to stakeholders in order to frame research activities; (6) use the workshops and research community mapping to develop a web based portal and database that provides access for stakeholders to expertise. Specific outputs will include a database containing outcomes from the mapping of academic expertise within (and as necessary beyond) the Thames region held on an open access web portal. The web portal will also provide access to a bibliography focused on identified knowledge gaps; links to other information portals for the EA and stakeholders; and information on the Thames Basin Management Plan and linked data from the EA. Outputs from the workshops will be a tailored briefing document for the EA and Thames Liaison Panel focused on either filling the identified knowledge gap or framing research questions to address the knowledge gap, as well as articles in a peer reviewed journal. The ultimate measure of success of the Network will be achieving improved implementation of the Thames Plan i.e. above the 26% predicted good status by 2015. Equally important outcomes include facilitating engagement between the EA, stakeholders and the NERC scientific community.


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Description A process of engagement between the Environment Agency and relevant MSc degree leaders established as part of the Better Thames Network has continued with MSc research outcomes providing an improved knowledge base on specified problems or areas.
First Year Of Impact 2012
Sector Environment
Impact Types Policy & public services

Description Environment Agency MSc project support 
Organisation Environment Agency
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution The final workshop in the Better Thames series provided a link between the leaders of MSc courses, with relevance to the Water Framework Directive (WFD), and the Environment Agency (EA). The intention was for EA staff to suggest WFD based projects and help supervise selected MSc students. The EA benefits from small pieces of research being undertaken, the outcomes of which are made available to them in reports, posters, and presentations. MSc students gain experience of working with EA staff and being embedded in the Agency through placements if appropriate. There are currently 6 MSc project students working with the EA from Cranfield University, Royal Holloway University of London, King's College London, University of Herefordshire and the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology. The projects being undertaken include for example: 'How modelled flow estimates based on climate change predictions would alter current WFD classifications'; Impact of weir lowering and creation of nature like bypass channels on the ecology at Arborfield with reference to wider management'; 'Relative merits and efficiency of different types of aeration'; and ' Exploring flow compliance under the Water Framework Directive in the ephemeral Chalk streams of the Chiltern Hills and the Berkshire Downs. The intention the link between MSc project students and the EA to be continued into the future.
Start Year 2013