DARD RESEARCH AND EDUCATION ADVISORY PANEL
7 MARCH 2006
BOARDROOM, LOUGHRY COLLEGE
Dr Alan Lennon (from 11.25), Mrs Janet Wilson, Dr John Sherlock, Mr Colin
Coffey, Prof Bert Rima, Prof Rod Blackshaw (from 10.05), Mr Lewis
Cunningham, Dr Sally Shortall (from 10.30), Mr Bernard McKay.
Apologies: Prof John Hooker, Mr John Gilliland
Secretariat: Elaine McCrory, Katrina Skuce
In attendance: William Webb
Speakers: Dr Iain Williams, Science Quality and Priorities Team, Defra
Dr Joan Moss, Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute
1 Dr Sherlock chaired the first 1½ hours of the meeting as the Chair had
been detained by personal business.
2 Elaine McCrory introduced William Webb who is scheduled to join the
REAP secretariat on 3 April 2006. The panel welcomed him.
Research Quality Assurance
3 Dr Sherlock welcomed Dr Iain Williams who provided a presentation on
the research quality assurance (RQA) system in place in Defra from
August 2003 (see attached PowerPoint presentation Peer Review and
Science Quality.ppt 4.23mb).
4 In response to queries from members Dr Williams clarified the following
Peer review is primarily to assess quality but Value For Money is
also a factor. It is not a substitute for stakeholder review or vice
versa. Two to three reviewers are involved in each project, one
of which is a statistician. The “other” category of reviewer refers
to overseas reviewers.
Duplication is covered in the initial review of a research
proposal. Where a proposal seeks to repeat research carried out
elsewhere, it must clearly identify the difference in local
conditions which warrants the duplication. Peer reviewers
consider such proposals on a case by case basis.
The cost of the RQA system (0.07% of the Defra Science budget) is
based on full economic cost of all research projects.
The Joint Code of Practice has raised the profile of research quality
assurance and, in fact, a leading university is now offering a course
on the subject. However, it will not be possible to assess fully the
success of the Code and the degree of compliance until
organisations have been audited.
The RQA team has worked closely with the United Kingdom
Accreditation Service (UKAS) to get the right approach to audit and
ensure it is not overly intrusive. The process is not the same as
assessing ISO compliance, only a sample of projects is tested and
the process is seen as helpful.
The team did not go down the route of seeking to apply traditional
quality standards such as ISO9001 because it was considered too
expensive for universities to apply across the whole organisation. It
was also questionable whether ISO 9001 fits scientific
The proportion of social science projects funded by Defra is small
but increasing (currently around 1% of the total science budget). Dr
Williams acknowledged that social science is a bit different from
mainstream research - it is particularly difficult to identify the
scientific requirements - but it nevertheless requires some form of
The Defra Science Advisory Council tends not to get involved in the
peer review process. Its role is confined to high level policy issues.
Peer review could be used by the intelligent policy customer in
deciding to commission research projects.
The Defra science budget is currently split 50/50 between research
and surveillance/testing work.
5 The acting Chair thanked Dr Williams for his useful and informative
Impact of Trade Liberalisation in Northern Ireland
6 The acting Chair then introduced Dr Joan Moss, who provided a
presentation on an analysis of the Impact of Trade Liberalisation in
Northern Ireland using the FAPRI modelling system (see attached
PowerPoint presentation WTO Final NI. ppt 344kb and associated
7 Dr Moss provided a short introductory explanation of the background to
the modelling system. Originally DARD was approached by the
University of Missouri to work in partnership. The FAPRI-UK research
is now also funded by Defra, the Welsh and Scottish Executives, as
well as DARD. Teagasc is involved in a similar project (the FAPRI EU-
GOLD model). Once per year the baseline scenario is established for
key agricultural products, applying the existing policy regime. The
baseline runs from 2005 to 2015. The next baseline assessment is
due in April 2006. The modelling system is then run with different
assumptions and a comparison made with the baseline.
8 The modelling system is not a forecasting tool as there are too many
other contributory factors involved – it can predict the position only 2-3
quarters ahead. The modelling system assists in policy formulation by
predicting the likely impact of various policies, rather than advising on
what the policy should be. Policy must take account of a lot more than
9 The models are complex, rather than sophisticated. They take account
inter alia of the breeding cycles of animals and demand/supply across
the globe for products.
10 In constructing the models and establishing the baseline, the research
team talks to key industry informants.
11 The researchers do not claim 100% accuracy. Nevertheless, the
system provides a good feel for vulnerabilities within NI sectors.
12 Dr Moss made the following key points:
The amount of goods available for export will reduce as a result of
Tariffs can reduce considerably without any major impact on
The system tests the susceptibility of NI agricultural sectors (beef
sheep dairy and crops) to increased imports.
Costs data are obtained from the DARD Farm Business Survey and
Defra cost indices. Next year’s baseline will include rising energy
In response to a query from a member, Dr Moss clarified that the
system takes account of differing models of decoupling and the
impact of the nitrates directive.
Market penetration of imports is the greatest threat to the NI
agricultural sectors. The Latin American countries stand to be the
greatest beneficiary of trade liberalisation as, with their extensive
farms, cutting edge technology, cheap land and labour, they enjoy
the greatest comparative advantage.
In response to a query from a member, Dr Moss clarified that there
was not one single strategy for improving the profitability of NI farm
businesses. Much was dependent on the business’ resource
endowment. The price of land is a key factor and unless this falls it
will be very difficult for NI farms to be competitive.
13 The acting Chair thanked Dr Moss for her presentation and her offer to
take any further queries from the Panel.
14 The Panel broke for lunch at 12.30 and returned at 13.15.
Minutes of last meeting
15 To be signed off at the next meeting following a further check for
Matters Arising /Action Points from last meeting
16 The new member of the secretariat takes up his post on 3 April. His
contact details will be circulated at that time.
17 The Chair and secretariat will work up the appointments documentation
for an economist member, for the approval of the DARD Minister.
18 The secretariat has produced a revised Code of Practice incorporating
the ”rules of engagement”, as discussed at an earlier meeting.
Members are to consider the revised Code and provide comments at
the next meeting.
19 The Chair advised that he had met with the Chief Scientific
Officer/AFBI Chief Executive Officer Designate and the Head of the
CEO’s office on 15 February. On foot of that meeting, a revised and
updated summary of research projects had been provided to the Panel.
The CSO had acknowledged that, at the moment, management
information systems were somewhat ad hoc. AFBI is keen to engage
with REAP in the future.
20 The Chair advised that he had met with Bill Yarr and associates from
AgriSearch on 13 February. AgriSearch is a levy-funded organisation
which commissions research, at times in association with DARD. Its
work will need to be taken into consideration in formulating advice to
21 There were no new entries to record on the Register of Interests and
no additional changes to the contacts list other than William Webb’s.
22 Dr John Sherlock is the nominated Deputy Chair for the Panel.
23 The Chair provided an update on his involvement in the CAFRE
Review. His work on the latter to date had highlighted major issues
around education at a strategic and operational level, which he felt
would be of use to REAP in its work. He advised that he was
scheduled to attend a further meeting of the review team on 8 March at
which the issues identified would be clearly segmented into those for
CAFRE management to address and those for REAP to address.
24 In response to a member’s query on the current extent of educational
reviews, Elaine McCrory advised that a separate review was currently
underway on the Rural College.
Discussion on Draft Paper
25 A member talked the group through the REAP draft paper on the
DARD R&D Strategy. He explained that paragraphs 3 to 5 dealt with
systems required by DARD to have confidence in its research
programmes. Paragraph 6 onwards outlines research priorities for
DARD, based on the DARD Strategic Plan.
26 The draft paper was then discussed by members and the following
The economic outlook needs to be built into the document;
REAP should invite DARD to propose how it will address horizon-
scanning and then comment on DARD’s proposals;
The Sustainable Development Strategy will be launched on 9 May
The type of funding to be provided by DARD should be added to the
overarching principles section of the paper;
A possible starting point for the paper is that there is a major
disconnect between the DARD Strategic Plan and current research
There is a need to identify the scientific requirements flowing from
the 4 goals in the DARD Strategic Plan;
A shift in focus is needed from efficiency to niche marketing;
There is currently a lack of prioritisation in research effort;
Research is needed to underpin policy development as well as
Knowledge transfer needs to be included;
Intervention/investment by DARD should lead to profit generated by
Current information systems are not as good as they could be; and
CAFRE work is a nearer market version of AFBI research. It is
proactive rather than reactive and driven by the available
technology rather than the product/market.
27 Following the Panel’s discussion, it was agreed that, using this
document as the spine, the Chair and the secretariat would pull
together the comments of Panel members to produce a further draft.
Specific and general comments on this draft will be sought from Panel
members with a view to having a document ready to critique at the next
28 In response to a member’s query about the relationship between this
document and the Department’s R&D Strategy, Elaine McCrory
explained that it was important for REAP to be seen to provide
independent advice to DARD on the content of its Strategy, specifically
in relation to what type of research DARD should fund. REAP might
also offer a view on processes and linkages. DARD will develop its own
Strategy based on the advice of REAP but also taking account of the
views of policy divisions, the wider strategic context, resources etc.
29 A member undertook to review the revised information provided by the
Science Service/AFBI. The secretariat was asked to obtain additional
costing information for the CAFRE work on knowledge transfer.
30 The Panel felt that the new DARD Departmental Scientific Advisor
(DSA) would play a key role in establishing the required science
information and quality assurance systems. The Chair undertook to
speak to the DARD Permanent Secretary about expediting
appointment of the DSA.
31 The secretariat reminded the Chair about the invitation for him to
attend the FSIP conference on 24 March and the request for a
presentation to the Panel on the Food Foresight’s Group’s emerging
findings. A member suggested that it would also be useful for the
Panel to gain an insight into the impact of agri-environment schemes. It
was therefore agreed that presentations on the findings of the FSIP
Food Foresight Group and agri-environment schemes should be added
to the agenda for the Panel’s next meeting.
32 The dates for the next two meetings were agreed as 4 May and 1 June
33 It was agreed that the secretariat would try to book accommodation at
Greenmount, the Boardroom in Dundonald House or Newforge for
34 The meeting ended at 16.00.
Chairman’s Signature: _________________________________________