Research on Rural Resource Management
and the Rural Economy: Addressing the
Local and Regional Dimension
Royal Society of Edinburgh
16 May 2007
Rural Economy and Land Use Programme
Promoting interdisciplinary research to advance
understanding of the social , economic, environmental and
technological challenges that the countryside faces today
What’s new about RELU?
It’s where the social and natural sciences
speak the same language
RELU brings together 65 projects, 360 researchers and over 40
The Economic and Social Research Council, Biotechnology
and Biological Sciences Research Council and Natural
Environment Research Council plus Defra and SEERAD have
collaborated to provide a £25 million budget, 2004-2010
RELU is building interdisciplinary research capacity for the
Why do we need RELU?
This is a time of radical change for rural areas.
Key public challenges include:
Restoring trust in food chains
Tackling animal disease in a socially acceptable manner
Sustaining agriculture in a liberalised economy
Promoting robust rural economies
Mitigating threats from climate change and invasive species
Reducing stress on water catchments
What is the countryside for?
There are new and emerging demands on land
The public function of agriculture and land management
Urban pressures on the countryside are growing
Climate change cannot be ignored
Strategic Land Use – the Challenges
There seems a need to rethink our approach to land use planning and policy.
National land use faces the following challenges:
adjusting to, and where possible mitigating, climate change and its
complex consequences and threats (drought, flooding, invasive
accommodating population growth and new housing
facilitating strong and nationally balanced economic growth
promotion of patterns of sustainable living for households, communities
protecting critical natural resources and ecological capacities.
To meet these challenges requires that land use planning is both flexible, to
allow people and businesses to adjust to perhaps major and short-term
environmental change, and strategic, to ensure that the long-term public good
Strategic Land Use – the Opportunities
Significant opportunities present themselves in responding to these challenges.
a change in the zeitgeist relating to global environmental change, including a
widespread willingness to change outlooks and personal behaviour, and
support for strategic action
positive indications of environmental improvement in certain sectors e.g.
CAP reform which is releasing (human, financial and land) resources from
intensive agriculture, and making them available for other uses
the potential (the as yet to be realised promise) of Defra and SEERAD to
combine different instruments and means (designated areas, agri-
environment payments, catchment management, national park plans,
biodiversity action plans, regional rural delivery framework, the Scottish
Rural Development Plan, Natural England, Environment Agency), including
their sponsorship of the land management sector, for strategic
Strategic Land Use – Critical Needs
Land use policy within Defra seems to suffer from the inverse problem of other
fields where strategies are drawn up but too often resources fail to flow. Here
there are many resources but an absence of a coherent national strategy.
Critical needs include:
a long term strategic vision for land use (particularly for undeveloped land)
developing environmental planning as a counterpart to the strong tradition of
means to orchestrate the management of rural land use to achieve public
goods (particularly informed by research on ecosystem services)
good strategic research
How does RELU research relate to policy?
Environmentally Friendly Farming
Healthy Food/Public Protection
Water Quality/ Pollution
Local Food Supply Chains
Countryside Access/ Disadvantage
Soil Conservations/ Carbon Sequestration
Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Removable Energy Generation/Recycling
0 5 10 15 20 25
No. of Projects
Science isn’t just for scientists
What kind of science do we need today?
Socially accountable science
How does RELU fulfil this need?
It cuts across disciplinary boundaries to tackle challenges
It involves stakeholders at every stage
What do we want to achieve today?
To bring RELU research to you – the rural policy,
planning and research staff in local and regional
government and public agencies and practitioners in the
private and voluntary sectors
To explore the implications of the research for your work
at local and regional level
To invite you to take part in the RELU Visiting
Why sign up to be a Visiting Fellow?
It’s a unique opportunity to visit a RELU research team or
cluster of teams
You will find out more about the implications of the research for
You will have the opportunity to influence the research and
make it more relevant to you and your colleagues
You may want to arrange a return match – the RELU Work
Shadowing Scheme enables researchers to visit the contexts
where their research will be used
Both schemes aim to produce dissemination activities and
materials tailored to your specific needs