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Professor Sarah Whatmore of Oxford University's School of Geography and the Environment works with Defra to improve the role of social science research in policy and practice.

Image credit: Sunset moolevard by thornypup via Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

What is the role of expert knowledge and evidence in the management of environmental resources and risks, including those relating to water, food and biodiversity?  During her HEIF-funded KE Fellowship, Sarah Whatmore, Professor of Environment and Public Policy at Oxford’s School of Geography and the Environment will examine these questions.

In January 2016, Professor Whatmore spent a day a week for 3 months with a senior policy-making team at the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra).  During this time she met with key Defra officials and participated in decision forums to strengthen the impact of social science research on Defra’s evidence strategy and practice. 

Two senior policy professionals from Defra also visited the University of Oxford’s School of Geography and the Environment to learn more about the wealth of academic research and expertise available to them and to develop an effective awareness of social sciences at the University of Oxford.

Professor Whatmore and Defra will organise two strategic conferences to bring the wider policy community with whom Defra social scientists work (including the Office of the Government Chief Scientist, the Cabinet Office, the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS) and the Department of Health) together with key social science researchers from Oxford, their collaborators in other universities, and key figures from relevant learned societies (eg British Academy, AcSS, RGS) and funding bodies (eg ESRC, Leverhulme Trust). These conferences will identify ways to improve the impact of social science research in Whitehall and to build research partnerships in the post CSR funding landscape.  

This project was funded through the University of Oxford's Higher Education Innovation Fund (HEIF 5) allocation.

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