Brexit is raising many challenges, and environmental research is no exception. EU frameworks and directives have underpinned much of our environmental policy and legislation – from agriculture and fisheries to biodiversity, from carbon emissions and air quality to protected areas, from terrestrial water quality to waste management.

The Environmental Evidence for the Future (EEF) initiative is a programme to define, prioritise and address longer-term knowledge gaps in the environmental science evidence base. Against this backdrop ClimateXChange joined a Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) event on developing environmental research over the next 25 years.

The EEF is in consultation mode at the moment, running a series of ‘challenge setting’ regional workshops around the UK. ClimateXChange took part in the Scottish workshop on 24 August. A further three are being held covering Wales, England and overseas territories, and Northern Ireland. As NERC put it, the aim of the workshops is “to identify, describe and prioritise future environmental policy challenges and opportunities in the context of the UK exit from EU Environmental Frameworks”.

Outputs from these workshops will be used to inform:

  • Broad consultation (October – November 2017) to identify themes, perceived gaps in or barriers to knowledge under the challenges.
  • Mapping exercise commissioned in parallel as validation of the outputs of the consultation and to provide detailed evidence to support the prioritisation exercise.
  • Programme development (January/February 2018 – possibly a stakeholder workshop) to shape any future programme of activity (translation/new research funding calls from March 2018). The scale of the programme and additional NERC funding will be subject to co-funding.

NERC has appointed a Programme Executive Team to govern the EEF initiative, with responsibility for strategic direction and management. A Programme Co-ordination Group, led by the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH), oversees the day-to day management of the programme. And a Programme Advisory Group, which comprises individuals recruited via an open competition, will provide impartial advice to the executive team on the development and direction of the programme.

The EEF team will be tracking the conclusions that come through from the regional workshops. ClimateXChange will be keeping in touch with the initiative and is of course particularly keenly awaiting outputs from the Scottish part of the consultation. We will report back once we have a sense of how EEF is shaping up and what that means for research and evidence-based policy making in the Scottish context.