YESI part of New ESRC Centre on Evidence & Policy in the Energy - Water - Environment - Food 'Nexus'

News | Posted on Friday 29 January 2016

YESI has successfully secured funding for York as part of the ESRC's new centre to measure the effectiveness of UK energy, water, environment and food policies. The Centre for the Evaluation of Complexity Across the Nexus (CECAN)is led by Professor Nigel Gilbert from the University of Surrey with YESI Director, Professor Sue Hartley as one of the Centres Co-Investigators.

CECAN Centre picture
CECAN Centre picture

This new national research hub, initiated by a consortium of leading UK bodies, will be developing new ways to measure the effectiveness of domestic policies on energy, water, environment and food (the ‘nexus’), and how they affect wider society.

The focus of the Centre will be to pioneer, test and promote evaluation approaches and methods across the energy, environment and food nexus where complexity presents a challenge to policy interventions, and so contribute to more effective policymaking. Launching on 1 March 2016 - prior to a launch event in the summer - CECAN has been backed by £2.45 million of funding provided by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) in collaboration with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra); the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC); the Environment Agency (EA); and the Food Standards Agency (FSA).

“We’re delighted with the opening of CECAN which, with the use of innovative evaluation methodologies, will show how public policies can be designed to keep up with dynamic issues that cross boundaries and sectors,” Andy Gibbs, Head of Economic Performance and Environment at the ESRC, said.

“Policy planning and evaluation are especially challenging when social and environmental problems are intertwined. For example, designing and evaluating a policy to increase agricultural output without using more land, water, and chemicals, and without causing loss of biodiversity needs close liaison with farmers, experts, businesses and citizens - and the policy needs to be both flexible and robust across these areas.

“Complex problems require new solutions with special kinds of methods and approaches to study them – this is exactly what this centre will provide.”

The centre will foster an 'open research' culture of knowledge exchange founded on a growing network of policymakers, practitioners and researchers – whilst at its core will be a strong group of academic and non-academic experts with many years' experience.

The centre is uniquely positioned to address some of the big policy challenges:

  • Each member of the core CECAN team is a world-leading researcher in their particular research area, has worked with or for policymakers or in policy-relevant areas, and is a methodological pioneer who in his or her own way has contributed to and created cutting-edge methodological approaches to understand these complex problems
  • Supplementing the core centre team, a network of academic and non-academic Fellows and Associates will join the centre. They will offer expert advice on areas that need specialist input for particular policy initiatives and innovations.

Work at CECAN will include developing and enhancing methods for the evaluation of policies in complex settings; piloting these methods on a range of evaluation projects; organising educational programmes for practitioners, academics and policymakers; and publishing guides and toolkits for evaluators, those commissioning evaluations, and policy audiences.

Researchers from the Stockholm Environment Institute at York (SEI-Y), the Department of Biology and York Centre for Complex Systems Analysis (YCCSA) already form part of the CECAN network.

Notes to editors:

  • The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) is the UK’s largest funder of research on the social and economic questions facing us today. It supports the development and training of the UK’s future social scientists and also funds major studies that provide the infrastructure for research. ESRC-funded research informs policymakers and practitioners and helps make businesses, voluntary bodies and other organisations more effective. The ESRC also works collaboratively with six other UK research councils and Innovate UK to fund cross-disciplinary research and innovation addressing major societal challenges. The ESRC is an independent organisation, established by Royal Charter in 1965, and funded mainly by the Government.
  • Led by Director Nigel Gilbert at University of Surrey and Deputy Director, Ben Shaw, at University of Westminster, the centre will involve UK-based co-investigators from University of Surrey, Cranfield University, Durham University, Newcastle University, University of Warwick, University of Westminster, University of York and Risk Solutions. Additional international co-investigators will be from the European Academy of Technology and Innovation Assessment and Arizona State University.