The department 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 (2014) we were ranked 1st in the UK for the excellence of our impact case studies by the Panel for Geography, Environmental Studies and Archaeology. You can read our submitted case studies on the REF 2014 website:
For more information about the department’s impact activities please contact our impact officer Dr Kim McKee
We are also currently progressing new impact case studies within the department:
What to do about Forest Pests and Diseases?
Summary of the impact
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 mean that the damages may go beyond just timber damage, and also have consequences for forest recreation and biodiversity. The BBSRC funded ForeMod (PDF, 1,852 KB) 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 again future tree disease outbreaks. We are 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.
Key contact: Professor Nick Hanley
Migration and constitutional change in Scotland
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. Our research findings and KE 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. Our success in this respect led to the ESRC extending our funding, and commissioning a new Secondary Data Analysis Initiative project on the issue of migration in Scotland.
Key contact: Dr David McCollum
Rethinking Housing Aspirations in Hard Times
Aspirations are a key aspect of housing need, which local and central governments have responsibilities to meet through new housing supply. Past research has studied aspirations as individual subjective preferences – regarding households as rational actors. By contrast, this programme of research proposes a fundamentally different approach. It emphasises the links between subjective preferences and objective conditions (like economic conditions, available housing) – highlighting how aspirations are shaped and come to be – as well as how they vary across generations and geographical locations. This robust evidence base seeks to influence housing policy and practice, and has already been cited as evidence in housing organisation’s lobbying activities with the Scottish Government. Supported by a range of knowledge exchange activities the research has played a key role in informing debates about ‘generational’ gulfs in housing opportunities, including ongoing reforms to private sector tenancies to afford tenants greater rights.
Key contact: Dr Kim McKee