Associate feature: The role of science is more important than ever

Written by Colin Campbell on 3 November 2017 in Comment

Colin Campbell, chair of SEFARI, on the need for science to tackle the challenges of the future

We hear regularly of new evidence on big challenges – climate change, the obesity crisis, food security, biodiversity loss, rural economy resilience. The planet’s population continues to rise, but we must live within environmental limits. Increasingly these issues must be considered within a shifting political and economic environment.

The role of science, and the use of the knowledge which science generates, is more important than ever – but this has to be demonstrated more effectively. We must deliver for those with short-term needs - a farmer making a land use decision, a business deciding how to invest, an individual making food choices, or a policymaker looking for a new way of working. Alongside, we must continue investment in longer term, strategic research which allows us to understand, for example, how the quality of our important peatlands, soil and water has changed over time, and how policy and land use decisions have contributed.

There are many organisations and individuals whose mission is to seek solutions. In Scotland we have access to such expertise on our doorstep.  SEFARI - Scottish Environment, Food and Agriculture Research Institutes – is a new collective comprising: Biomathematics and Statistics Scotland (BioSS); The James Hutton Institute; The Moredun Research Institute; The Rowett Institute (University of Aberdeen); Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE); and Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC).

SEFARI is delivering “Leading Ideas for Better Lives” by working across Plant and Animal Health; Rural Economy; Agriculture; Land and Communities; Climate and the Environment; Food and Drink Innovation; Healthier Food and Science Education. The SEFARI Gateway has been developed to ensure the research we produce is available in the right format, for the right people, at the right time – whether in the policy, business or public arenas.

Check us out online at, on Twitter @SEFARIscot or contact at

Colin Campbell is chair of SEFARI


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