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Science and Evidence Strategy

Introduction / Background

Scientific understanding, based on organisation and analysis of high-quality evidence, is central to JNCC’s purpose and role. JNCC is a science-centred organisation and our underpinning science and evidence strategy will help to guide how we will fulfil our mission. Science is embedded in all our activities. 

Our strategy is built around several main pillars: Skills, Innovation (with Evaluation), Partnerships and Communication. Our over-arching principles include a commitment to equality, diversity, and inclusion, embedding this at all levels and in all that we do. We have a strong demonstrable commitment to research integrity – the use of honest and verifiable methods in proposing, performing, and evaluating research – primarily through our robust Evidence Quality Assurance processes

  • Skills: JNCC’s human capital – skilled, motivated scientists, analysts and support staff – is our main resource. Our strategy is to grow this talent, seeking to increase skills at all levels; fill critical skills gaps, support individuals in career development, promote continuing professional development, and support interdisciplinary and independent thinking. We are now enhancing existing JNCC skills and strengths with additional expertise in economics, social sciences and international ecosystems and biodiversity. We benefit greatly from the expertise and experience of our Joint Committee members, who contribute to our capability and ensure that we have access to the right skills, now and for the future.
  • Innovation: JNCC’s scientists have a strong track record in innovation: our strategy is directed to the future, exploring new methods and new digital and technological approaches in collaboration with academia and agencies. We continually innovate in the use of new technologies and approaches, demonstrating how they can be used to solve real-world problems. Rapidly changing fields of particular interest to us include remote sensing (earth observations from satellites as well as remote underwater sensing by new autonomous vehicles), artificial intelligence, quantum sensing, big data, and environmental DNA applications.
  • Evaluation: Successful science requires successful project management: we are committed to best practice. An essential element of this is a culture of evaluation, rigorously evaluating the results of our work, learning by doing, and continuously improving. This applies particularly to innovation, refining what works and moving on from less successful approaches.
  • Partnerships: JNCC exists for and through its partnerships. We are committed to strengthening our science through new and existing academic partnerships with research institutes and universities, nationally and internationally. To maintain our critical mass of skills in evidence analysis, it is essential to build strategic academic partnerships. Our position at the science–policy interface ensures the policy relevance of partnership research and the value of natural environment research investments, delivering on the impact agenda. Global cooperation and collaboration enhance the quality of research and innovation. We actively promote secondments and internships in relevant research. Our unique skills allow us to apply this research to the provision of policy-relevant tools and advice for governments.
  • Communication and publication: Communication and reporting of our work via traditional and innovative channels connect us to the right audience in the right way. Both are essential to maintain our scientific impact, for scientists’ personal career development as well as the organisation’s scientific credibility, although some advisory work is sensitive and must remain limited in circulation. We will continue to balance a small and select set of mainstream peer-reviewed publications with an output of shorter items of wider interest (e.g. via social media), allowing us to have an impact in the conservation field more generally. 

We will continue to raise our profile in reporting at conferences and in other venues. We will also hone our specialist skills in convening virtual meetings, building on experience in consensus-building nationally and internationally. We are committed to open data and open access publications. We agree that publicly funded research should be widely and freely accessible to all in line with international commitments under conditions that allow maximum re-use.


Science and evidence work plan outline

Our Science and Evidence Strategy sets out the principles underpinning our work. Our plans for the future are tied closely to the key nature conservation goals for the UK and more widely. They will link to the new post-2020 targets arising from the 15th Conference of the Parties (COP15 of the Convention on Biological Diversity) in late 2022. 

JNCC operates at the interface between policy and science: understanding the goals of the nature conservation policies of our key governmental stakeholders, and how they relate to the ecosystem services that benefit society and the economy, is key to this. We benefit from working on scientific questions at a UK scale. Our unique role allows synergies in providing the evidence to meet the congruent but distinct policy goals of the UK, devolved administrations, the Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories. Our scientific work will provide evidence to support policy priorities in line with governmental commitments on climate change and biodiversity loss. 

Over the next two years, our science and evidence activities will continue to support a range of top level strategic cross-government goals (details of underpinning legislation are provided on the supplementary information webpage), including: 

  • Net Zero: supporting strategic land use change including the assessment of the value of natural habitats in reducing carbon budgets, measuring change, and integrating biodiversity within policy and decision making. Contributing to a globally sustainable natural environment and doing so through innovation and green growth. Exploring the possibilities for green/blue finance, using JNCC’s expertise in development of metric indicators.
  • Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework: supporting the Defra team negotiating the adoption by the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity of an ambitious and measurable set of targets to achieve the transformational change necessary to ‘bend the curve’ of biodiversity loss. This includes 30x30 – support for the implementation of 30x30 domestically and with policy-relevant global partners as part of a broader sustainability agenda. JNCC will support the implementation of the Global Biodiversity Framework by the four countries of the UK, principally through the development on their behalf of an Implementation Plan, setting out priority actions at a UK level. Access to UK-wide evidence brings benefits from economies of scales and common principles and supports UK-level reporting.
  • Sustainable international development: supporting better integration of the natural environment and the benefits it provides into UK Official Development Assistance spend abroad. Developing robust evidence and metrics to help the four UK countries assess the potential global impacts of consumption will also contribute to achieving sustainable development goals. Sustainability of trade – to cover the science behind wildlife trade (CITES) and also our dependency on land outside UK for food and the impacts/ sustainability of this remote production (global impacts).
  • The Environment Act 2021: evidence to inform and assess outcomes (using metrics) for statutory targets as well as commitments in the Environmental Improvement Plan particularly those relating to marine and international, including the Overseas Territories. 
  • New Land Management Schemes: JNCC’s modelling and analytical capability can inform decision-making and policy options under new land management schemes and support land use decision-making being developed in each country, contributing to nature recovery, climate change mitigation and improvements in water and air quality.
  • The Environment Strategy for Scotland 'Vision and Outcomes': support for the environmental strategies and plans that underpin Scotland’s six outcomes including the Initial Monitoring Framework (2021) to assess and report on progress.  The draft of the new Scottish Biodiversity Strategy (December 2022) for a restored and thriving environment that is supportive of communities. JNCC’s evidence could support land use decision-making, helping Scotland to develop its targets for biodiversity gain and low-carbon approaches.  JNCC’s research and evidence will also continue to support the Blue Economy Vision for Scotland and the delivery of Scotland’s National Marine Plan, supporting its vision for clean, healthy, productive and diverse seas.
  • The Environment (Wales) Act 2016 and The Wellbeing of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 in Wales and its sustainable development goals: JNCC’s science and evidence can support Wales State of Natural Resources Report (SoNaRR) which will influence the Natural Resources Policy for Wales (due to be updated following SoNaRR2020) and set out the priorities for Area Statements in Wales. JNCC will support Wales in delivering the recommendations from its Biodiversity Deep Dive, the Nature Recovery Action Plan: Our Strategy for Nature (updated 2020-2021), the Welsh Government programme for government 2021 (which aims to embed the climate change and nature emergencies across government and support the 2021 Net Zero Plan)
  • Northern Ireland’s (draft) Environment Strategy (due to be Northern Ireland’s first Environmental Improvement Plan), and the development of the post-2020 biodiversity strategy for Northern Ireland: JNCC can also provide evidence for land use decision-making to support the NI Future Agricultural Policy Framework. JNCC has expertise in marine monitoring, assessment and management advice, and can support the NI draft Marine Plan, particularly in facilitating the sustainable development of the marine area.
  • International commitments from OSPAR: JNCC has expertise on regional coordination and collaboration, working with international partners to agree common actions for the evaluation, protection and improvements of the marine environment.

Our work for these priorities in UK terrestrial systems will continue to be underpinned by JNCC’s partnerships with volunteer networks that have provided long-term monitoring datasets used to provide indicators based on analyses of biodiversity and environmental changes and their causes, and for reporting on national and international targets. Monitoring programmes will draw on types of evidence new to the statutory sector, such as environmental DNA, by working with academic and commercial partners. JNCC will continue exploring new and more powerful methods of analysing biological data in partnership with non-governmental organisations (NGOs) such as the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) and with the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology's (UKCEH) Biological Records Centre.

In the marine environment, we will continue to support governmental priorities, including partnering with governments and major research institutes. In the UK, we will also strengthen our relationships with marine volunteer networks, particularly in partnership with BTO and marine mammal NGOs. 

JNCC already has close academic links and partnerships with research institutes. As a Public Sector Research Establishment (PSRE), JNCC will have more opportunities to participate in this research rather than commissioning it. The changing funding landscape will allow greater access to research funding. Currently our strategy is fundamentally aligned with the relevant strategic priorities of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), which includes the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), currently in the areas of Environmental Solutions, Digital, and Productive, Healthy and Resilient Environments. As UKRI develops more funding schemes suitable for policy-aligned research, frequently aimed at a cross-UK scope, we will be increasingly well positioned to participate competitively.

Interim Science and Evidence Strategy, published November 2022

Updated March 2023

Published: .

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