Scientific advice for a sustainable agri-food system: post-Brexit challenges for evidence-informed policymaking

Lead Supervisor: Prof James Wilsdon, Department of Politics
Co-supervisor: Prof Peter Horton FRS, Department of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology; Dr Ruth Little, Department of Geography

Deadline: Monday 26th March 2018

Project Description
This project will map and assess the implications of Brexit for scientific evidence and advice to UK policymakers on policy agendas relating to sustainable agri-food. It will examine what institutional, technical and scientific capacity may be required following any EU-UK transfer of competencies and regulatory responsibilities, and will identify practical opportunities to strengthen UK scientific and expert advisory systems after Brexit.

Scientific advice has never been in greater demand nor more fiercely contested. Claims that we “have had enough of experts” coexist with moves to strengthen institutions for scientific advice and evidence-informed policymaking. Much scientific advice is in support of regulatory frameworks or technical standards, which have been harmonised at a European level over recent decades. Brexit may restrict the UK’s access to these, so weakening the evidence-policy interface.

Within this landscape, the focus of this study is the agri-food system. Arguably there is no sector of the UK economy whose regulation is so embedded within EU procedures – the Common Agricultural Policy has long determined the structure of UK agriculture, from land use and agronomic practice, through to product quality controls and trade.

The burning question then becomes, what kind of UK agri-food system will emerge post-Brexit? If Brexit allows the UK to consider afresh how best to organise expert advice and evidence to support policymaking, will this opportunity be taken, or will budget constraints and vested interests intervene?

This PhD will address these questions through four phases of research: 1. Assessment of the current scientific advice landscape in the UK related to agri-food policies, and how this is changing – or likely to – as a consequence of Brexit. 2. In-depth case study research – including one on fertiliser use within the UK farming sector. 3. Semi-structured interviews with UK policymakers and stakeholders. 4. Developing a framework for strengthening UK scientific advice on agri-food systems, that is able to meet the sustainability challenge.

Subject areas: Agricultural systems; Food sciences/nutrition; Geography; Political Science & International Studies; Environmental Science

Funding notes
This four-year studentship will be fully funded at Home/EU or international rates. Support for travel and consumables (RTSG) will also be made available at standard rate of £2,627 per annum, with an additional one-off allowance of £1,000 for a computer in the first year.  Students will receive an annual stipend of £17,336.  Applications should be received and complete by Monday 26th March 2018.

What to include in the application
Your application for this studentship should be accompanied by a CV and a 200 word supporting statement. Your statement should outline your aspirations and motivation for studying in the Grantham Centre for Sustainable Futures. You should also outline any relevant experience and interests that you have in sustainability issues.

Please select ‘Standard PhD’ and the department of this project’s lead supervisor. Fill in the title of your desired project and the name(s) of the supervisors. The starting date of the PhD will be the start of the next academic year – 1 Oct 2018. The ‘Funding stage’ on the form will be ‘project studentship’.