NERC announces first tranche of highlight topics

17 November 2014

NERC has revealed the first tranche of highlight topics that will tackle some of the biggest environmental challenges facing us today.

Flooded town

NERC's Strategic Programme Advisory Group (SPAG) carefully considered 150 ideas submitted by the environmental science community during summer 2014 and developed several areas of research, called highlight topics. After reviewing the topics, NERC's Science & Innovation Strategy Board (SISB) has decided to pursue five:

  • Understanding and predicting anomalous trends in surface temperature and implications for long-term climate response.
  • Environmental pathways and impacts of nanomaterials.
  • Dynamics of freshwater ecosystems within an integrated landscape system.
  • Integrated dynamics of natural capital systems: bringing the natural environment into economic decision making.
  • eDNA, a key new tool for 21st century ecology.

These highlight topics will make sure NERC is funding research to tackle the societal challenges identified in its ambitious strategy 'The Business of the Environment'.

NERC recently reshaped its funding streams for strategic research as it wants the environmental science community to play a greater role in setting priorities for research funding, and to make its funding processes more streamlined and efficient. Highlight topics are one of these funding streams; the others are strategic programme areas and joint strategic response.

In line with the introduction of this new process and commitments set out in its strategy, NERC has increased strategic research funding to encourage and enable greater community opportunity for shaping and delivering strategic science.

NERC chief executive, Professor Duncan Wingham, said:

"I'm pleased that this first round of highlight topics resulting from our new SPAG process contribute so clearly to the environmental challenges we've highlighted in our strategy 'The Business of the Environment'. It demonstrates that the community is well-placed to help shape NERC strategic research to respond to these challenges."

SISB chairman, Professor Philip England, said:

"The launch of this first set of highlight topics demonstrates that NERC has successfully re-shaped its strategic research funding streams to respond effectively to priorities expressed by its stakeholder communities. I am grateful to the members of SISB, SPAG, and of NERC, who have put in an immense amount of work to bring about these important changes."

SPAG chairman, Professor Michael Ellis, said:

"The environmental science research community needs to hear loud and clear that NERC's new process of generating ideas for strategic research that tackles the science at the heart of societally relevant problems is off to an excellent start. SPAG worked carefully and diligently through the community's ideas to generate what I think are an exciting first tranche of highlight topics."

NERC will now develop these highlight topics into an announcement of opportunity.

As previously announced, there are more highlight topics than funding is available for, so that all highlight topics will not, necessarily, result in funded grants, so as to ensure that only the very best research is funded.


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