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Research impact

The School is engaged in applied research, which is both policy relevant and has impact on policy and practice in public, private and third-sector organisations at different scales and across diverse geographies. Members of staff are regularly engaged in outreach and knowledge exchange activities beyond the University, including disseminating their research within the mainstream and trade press.

In the last Research Excellence Framework exercise (REF 2014), the School was ranked 1st in the UK for impact case studies by the Panel for Geography, Environmental Studies and Archaeology. You can read the School’s submitted case studies on the REF 2014 website:

Case studies

Impact case studies in Geography and Sustainable Development

Migration and constitutional change in Scotland

Dr David McCollum

The run up to the 2014 referendum on Scottish independence, and the subsequent deliberations of the Smith Commission, resulted in much debate in Scotland. This research, mostly carried out as part of the ESRC’s Future of the UK and Scotland Programme, explored issues of immigration and migration policy in the context of constitutional change. 

The lessons from this research (that Scotland merits an immigration policy that better suits its distinct demographic and economic needs) were disseminated through a suite of knowledge exchange activities engaging with the public, practitioners and policy makers in Scotland, and more widely. 

The research findings and knowledge-exchanged activities informed the policy position of officials and practitioners and illustrated to the general public that Scotland is in many ways distinct to the rest of the UK in terms of migration. The research’s success in this respect led to the ESRC extending the project’s funding and commissioning a new Secondary Data Analysis Initiative project on the issue of migration in Scotland. 


What to do about forest pests and diseases?

Professor Nick Hanley

The UK is being affected by an increasing number of forest pests and diseases. Well-known examples include ash die-back and Dutch elm disease. Less well-known examples include Dothistroma, which kills pine trees (including Scots pine), and Phytophthora ramorum, which has currently affected many areas of larch trees in Scotland.  

There are a number of management options which can be deployed to minimise damages, but they can be expensive. Therefore, there is a trade-off between the costs of such options and the potential losses due to a disease outbreak. Furthermore, the complex nature of the forest ecosystem means that the damages may go beyond just timber damage, and also have consequences for forest recreation and biodiversity.

The BBSRC-funded Foremod (PDF)  project uses mathematical models to investigate the ways in which different management options can increase the resilience of forests against tree disease outbreaks. These results will be used to provide insight on the impact of different management options on protecting forests against future tree disease outbreaks.

This research is also investigating the preferences of the UK general public towards the use of different disease risk management strategies, and the preferences of woodland owners and managers.