Project Steering Group.  From the left - Steve Albon (NEA Chair) Dan Osborn (NERC) Dr Robert Fish (Project leader) Simon Maxwell (Defra) and Daniel Start (Sciencewise)

Rural researchers to take the temperature of public opinion on UK environmental change

Social scientists in the University’s Centre for Rural Policy Research (CRPR)  are working with environmental policy makers to explore public views on the future management of UK ecosystems.  

The £325,000 project will run throughout 2014 and has been funded by Sciencewise, the UK's national centre for public dialogue in policy making involving science and technology issues.  The process will involve members of the public deliberating on the findings of the National Ecosystem Assessment (NEA) the first analysis of the UK’s natural environment in terms of the benefits it provides to society and continuing economic prosperity. 

Speaking at the launch of the dialogue the project leader, Dr Robert Fish explained.

“The NEA drew together a wealth of scientific evidence on the character, causes and consequences of ecosystem change in the UK. Yet  government  knows  very  little  about  how  this  work  reflects  wider  public aspirations and concerns about the natural environment, and how it is valued and managed. Our purpose in this broad ranging dialogue project is therefore to put this ground breaking science under the microscope of public opinion so we may augment its impact on policy and decision making.”

The project is building on the wider contribution of CRPR researchers to the NEA, which has already had a major impact on the government priorities for the natural environment under the Natural Environment White Paper. The aim is to further inform implementation of White Paper commitments as well as influence the development of Research Council programmes on environmental issues of public concern.

Commenting on the grant success, Professor Michael Winter, co-director of CRPR said that:

'The Centre for Rural Policy Research has been deeply involved in the National Ecosystem Assessment. Both Rob and I contributed to the first report of the NEA and, along with Duncan Russel and Cheryl Willis, we have been deeply involved in research for NEA Phase 2 as well. This grant success is great news for Rob and reinforces the leading role in ecosystem social science played by Exeter.'

Further details about the public dialogue project can be found on the sciencewise website  or by contacting the project researcher Dr Eirini Saratsi.


Date: 10 July 2013