AGILE: Providing rapid evidence-based solutions to the needs of environmental policy-makers.

Lead Research Organisation: University of Oxford
Department Name: Oxford Martin School

Abstract

The Stern and Dasgupta reviews on the economics of climate change and biodiversity respectively make clear, wealth creation, ecosystem health, and quality of life are inextricably linked. The UK government is committed to showing global leadership in climate change and biodiversity (and in their intersection) building on commitment that will be made in 2021 for climate change at Glasgow (COP26) and biodiversity at Kunming (COP15). Furthermore, the UK government's 25-Year Environment Plan includes the pledge to leave the environment in a better state than it is in now, while the Environment Bill currently going through parliament commits the government to set legally enforceable targets for different areas including climate, air quality, water quality, land management and biodiversity. Within these broad areas, there are numerous decisions requiring scientific input that have to be made in short timeframes (6-12 months). However, Universities are adept at doing excellent research within the typical three to five years projects, and UKRI is highly skilled at selecting the most promising of these projects. This presents the problem of delivering interdisciplinary research (IDR) with stakeholders to address challenges and provide tangible outcomes and environmental solutions within much shorter public and private sector policy cycles. The challenge we identify for this call is urgency and rapid delivery of IDR to provide a clear path from discovery to translation and impact.

Our approach within AGILE is to build capacity within Oxford University to rapidly bring together IDR, and identify evidence-based solutions to major social and environmental challenges. AGILE is composed three overarching goals.

First is delivering a collection of Sprint projects, characterized by policy pull for their socio-economic importance, timeliness for policy and practice, co-creation with stakeholders, and researchers with the capability to communicate effectively across boundaries to adopt a whole systems approach. Goal 1 will deliver five central objectives: 1) Demand-led Sprint formulation through engagement with stakeholders, 2) Convene Sprint teams to set tangible outcomes and robust action plans, 3) Monitor and evaluate progress to accelerate projects ensuring optimal deployment of resources, 4) Creation of a body of knowledge on effective approaches to IDR and the capability of IDR researchers, to be embedded in the university culture and shared with UKRI, and crucially 5) Uptake partnerships and reformulation to ensure implementable solutions.

Second is to create a critical mass of IDR researchers, through 1) capturing lessons learned from these Sprints and translating them into training opportunities for the wider research community, 2) building a community of IDR researchers through shared learning and ongoing engagement with the programme and policy-makers, and 3) and enabling rapid development of AGILE teams creating capability and supporting career development.

Third is the AGILE legacy, of creating a culture shift in the way universities evaluate IDR and work towards ensuring the outputs of IDR are recognised as of equal value in recruitment and retention policies. This will ensure increased opportunities for funding and delivering excellent interdisciplinary research, with users, providing the evidence base for effective policy and practice, in a more realistic policy-cycle timeframe.

AGILE will enable transformational change in the way high-quality interdisciplinary research informs decision-making on how we manage the natural environment in a rapidly warming world.

People

ORCID iD

Patrick Grant (Principal Investigator)
Michael Clark (Co-Investigator)
Heather Viles (Co-Investigator) orcid http://orcid.org/0000-0002-2444-1295
Mark Hirons (Co-Investigator)
Michael Obersteiner (Co-Investigator)
Eleanor Milner-Gulland (Co-Investigator)
Peter Smith (Co-Investigator)
Rene Banares-Alcantara (Co-Investigator) orcid http://orcid.org/0000-0002-7859-6102
Hugh Charles Jonathan Godfray (Co-Investigator)
Michael Kendall (Co-Investigator)
Heather Bouman (Co-Investigator)
Alison Smith (Co-Investigator)
Ian Thompson (Co-Investigator)
Cameron Hepburn (Co-Investigator)
Aidong Yang (Co-Investigator)
Joss Wright (Co-Investigator)
Joe Cartwright (Co-Investigator)
Jim Hall (Co-Investigator) orcid http://orcid.org/0000-0002-2024-9191
Owen Lewis (Co-Investigator) orcid http://orcid.org/0000-0001-7935-6111
Michelle Jackson (Co-Investigator)
Nathalie Seddon (Co-Investigator)
Steve Smith (Co-Investigator)
Robert Smith (Co-Investigator)
Yadvinder Malhi (Co-Investigator)
Kok Siew Ng (Co-Investigator)
Rosalind Emily Mayors Rickaby (Co-Investigator)
Matthew Ives (Co-Investigator)
Benjamin Surridge (Co-Investigator)
Myles Allen (Co-Investigator)
Monika Zurek (Co-Investigator)
Joseph William Bull (Co-Investigator)
John Ingram (Co-Investigator)
Tim Coulson (Co-Investigator) orcid http://orcid.org/0000-0001-9371-9003
Richard Grenyer (Co-Investigator)
Tom Kettlety (Researcher) orcid http://orcid.org/0000-0002-4412-5265
Sophus Zu Ermgassen (Researcher) orcid http://orcid.org/0000-0001-6044-3389
Nicholas Salmon (Researcher)
Jasper Verschuur (Researcher) orcid http://orcid.org/0000-0002-5277-4353
Fabrizio Albanito (Researcher)
Zachary Cesaro (Researcher)
Cecilia Larrosa (Researcher)

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description Agreement to co-locate a Policy Liaison Officer in at DfT
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
 
Description Biodiversity Net Gain - open letter to Ministers and the Chair of Natural England
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Implementation circular/rapid advice/letter to e.g. Ministry of Health
URL https://www.oxfordmartin.ox.ac.uk/downloads/academic/BNG-Open-Letter_020322.pdf
 
Description Brazil's Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) to nature based solutions (Nbs)
Geographic Reach South America 
Policy Influence Type Implementation circular/rapid advice/letter to e.g. Ministry of Health
 
Description Nature-based Solutions in the Levelling Up Agenda
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Contribution to a national consultation/review
URL https://www.agile-initiative.ox.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/2023/03/Short_LevelUp_Policy_Brief_v5.pdf
 
Description Revocation and Reform Bill call for evidence
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Implementation circular/rapid advice/letter to e.g. Ministry of Health
 
Description Statement for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee call for evidence on how to improve soil health in the UK.
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Implementation circular/rapid advice/letter to e.g. Ministry of Health
URL https://www.agile-initiative.ox.ac.uk/news/agile-researchers-submit-evidence-for-parliamentary-inqui...
 
Description Technical consultation of Biodiversity Metric V3.1
Geographic Reach Local/Municipal/Regional 
Policy Influence Type Implementation circular/rapid advice/letter to e.g. Ministry of Health
 
Title Agile Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning Results Framework and Risks with KPIs 
Description ABased on the programme-level theory of change with indicators for impacts, outcomes, programme goals and programme performance to gather learning and evidence at the programme level. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2022 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact None yet - work in progress! 
 
Title Preliminary Material flow analysis (MFA) for three sub-systems generated 
Description Preliminary modelling/optimisation framework for nutrient recovery. Conference article submitted to 33rd European Symposium on Computer Aided Process Engineering (ESCAPE33) 
Type Of Material Data analysis technique 
Year Produced 2023 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact Preliminary business opportunity mapping for innovative nutrient recovery strategies. 
 
Description Collaboration agreement with DTU 
Organisation Technical University of Denmark
Department Department of Environmental Engineering
Country Denmark 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Collaboration agreement with DTU. With Marie Munster, Section for Sustainability, Society & Economics, DTU Management Engineering, Denmark.
Collaborator Contribution We have been hosting a PhD Visiting student, Mr Sebastian Franz, from 1st Feb to 31st March.
Impact TBC
Start Year 2022
 
Description Agile Initiative website 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Agile Initiative website with blogs, news items and registration of interest
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022,2023
URL https://www.agile-initiative.ox.ac.uk
 
Description Agile Interdisciplinary researchers' lunchtime learning peer community group sessions 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact 6 December 2022 - Interdisciplinarity in the Agile Initiative model and lunchtime series design: 9 Agile researchers attended 17 January 2023 - How to make interdisciplinary research work in practice: 12 Agile researchers attended (1 of whom presented) 9 March 2023 - Navigating interdisciplinary and engaged research; insights, reflections, and lessons learned: 6 Agile researchers attended (1 of whom presented)
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022,2023
 
Description Biodiversity Net Gain Sprint Partner Engagement activities 
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 project inception meeting took place on 28th April 2022, with four further workshops held on 30th, 20th September 2022, 12th Dec 2022 and 28th Feb 2023. The workshops all included our main partners from Mott Macdonald and BBOWT. The 20th of September workshop also included collaborators from the Treasury and Defra. A field trip to a local BBOWT site, and a stakeholder engagement workshop and networking event, was hold on 13th December. These events are important for bringing together the work package teams, as well as key partners.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022,2023
 
Description Careers Service lunchtime session for Agile Initiative researchers 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact Careers Service lunchtime session for Agile Initiative researchers 22 February 2023: 5 Agile researchers attended
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2023
 
Description Crossing Boundaries 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Half-day communication for interdisciplinary research training workshop 26 September 2022 am): 8 Agile researchers attended
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
 
Description Engaging with Policy Makers workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact Half-day training workshop on how to identify, engage and communicate with a range decision and policy makers for engaged research 26 September 2022 pm): 8 Agile researchers attended
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022,2023
 
Description Future of Ecological Research in the UK - expert panel member 
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 Through this project the British Ecological Society has examined what is needed to take our science forward in the UK. The report sets out a unified community vision of the grand challenges for ecology and how they can best be met. When published, the report will provide funders with a clear understanding of future research needs.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2023
URL https://www.britishecologicalsociety.org/policy/future-of-ecological-research-in-the-uk/expert-panel...
 
Description People's Assembly for Nature - academic co-lead 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact I was academic co-lead of the UK's first citizen's assembly for nature over four weekends, presenting on nature's definition and value, on call for provided expert advice when needed by assembly members as they produced the first People's Plan for Nature - launched 23rd March
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022,2023
URL https://peoplesplanfornature.org/peoples-assembly-nature
 
Description Sprint 2 Stakeholder engagement workshop (in-person) 5th july 2022 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Stakeholder engagement workshop to discuss the policy drivers for the Sprint research, the data and evidence base that can be collected and how uptake can be achieved.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
 
Description Sprint 6 International Engagement 
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 Engagement with COPPE/UFRJ, MapBiomas and SEEG as co-presenters/panellists during 26th September webinar. Post-webinar direct engagement with Izabella Teixeira, providing her scenarios for updating Brazil's NDC ambition and aligning short-term targets with the country's net zero pledge. She is also advisor to the COP27 presidency.

Scenarios were shared and discussed in a 26th September webinar that outlined the current weak environmental governance in Brazil to show the risk of climate inaction, the mismatch of Brazil's Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) short- and long-term targets, and the mitigation potential relating to nature-based solutions and key sector activities that bridge the gap to Net Zero.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
URL https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f4DbF-Y6UWo.
 
Description Sprint 6 Stakeholder Engagement 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Meetings with Defra (13th June hybrid meeting, 75 Defra attendees; 12th September online meeting, 11 Defra attendees; plus ad-hoc meetings with FCDO/Defra staff in Brazil) to share the research and get a steer on what they would want as end-users (a policy brief) and advice on how this output could be targeted to COP27 negotiations effectively (Defra have facilitated introductions to colleagues in BEIS and Cabinet Office for this purpose).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
 
Description The Oxford Nature Recovery Symposium 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact In this symposium, we bring together researchers working on the science that could underpin planning for nature recovery with decision-makers and practitioners working within government, industry and civil society, to discuss how science could best be deployed to support decisions for nature recovery. Our aims are to:

Highlight the work being done by researchers to understand the potential impacts of land use decisions on biodiversity, people, and landscape integrity, both empirical and conceptual and using a range of methodological approaches - in the UK and overseas.
Explore synergies and gaps in the science currently being carried out by research groups across the country to inform nature recovery in the UK, including Biodiversity Net Gain and the implementation of the Environment Act.
Understand different perspectives on the main questions which still need to be addressed in order to support effective land use planning in the UK.
Our symposium is small and highly interactive, based around discussion groups rather than speeches. Our aim is to promote collaboration and to support the generation of new ideas. The insights generated will feed directly into the Natural England Conference on Nature Recovery, to be held at the Royal Geographical Society directly afterwards, on 30th and 31st March 2023.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2023
URL https://www.agile-initiative.ox.ac.uk/events/event/oxford-nature-recovery-symposium/
 
Description Tom Atkins: presentation to the HERO network providing a project overview 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Tom Atkins: presentation to the HERO network providing an overview of the Sprint, July 2022. Attendees included members of Oxford University, Oxfordshire-based NGOs (such as BBOWT, Wild Oxfordshire, Trust for Oxfordshire's Environment), members of local political parties, and council members from each local council. The presentation can be viewed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gJTyAIj8Grc
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022